Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, COVID 19, Disasters, Environment, Food Security, Fundraising Campaign, News Highlights, Water/Agua

Moving Forward from the Devastation of Tropical Storms Amanda and Cristóbal

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103097652_3051445654944141_4313488328019419403_oIn the midst of the most critical part of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a little more than 3,000 people infected and more than fifty registered Coronavirus related deaths, El Salvador suffered another strong blow: the severe impacts of two consecutive tropical storms. Storms Amanda and Cristóbal have claimed 30 lives, destroyed hundreds of houses, affected bridges, obstructed streets due to landslides, and led to the evacuation of thousands of families.

The situation is especially hard since the recommendation to avoid COVID-19 is to stay at home, but for families who have lost their homes or are close to losing everything, effective distancing is almost impossible in crowded shelters where obtaining adequate food and clean water is priority.

The post-pandemic food crisis will now be more intense, since the storms caused the ruin of thousands of hectares used to cultivate corn, beans, vegetables and fruit, in addition to hundreds of lost cattle and livestock. The Minister of Agriculture and Livestock has reported 29,527 acres of affected crops and a harvest loss of 284,411 quintals of basic grains, affecting 22,476 producers.

As always, one of the most heavily affected areas is the coastal region, because the geography of the terrain favors the accumulation of water flooding the land. In the Bajo Lempa, communities Octavio Ortiz and Amando López have lost entire family farms, as well as their corn, vegetable and plantain crops and two substantial community fish production projects.

Thankfully, the sun is now shining over most parts of the country and the storm systems have moved north. According to the Ministry of Environment (MARN), El Salvador will experience a gradual return to typical rainy season conditions: scattered storms in the afternoons and evenings. Despite the reduction in rains, communities that live on the banks of the river Lempa continue to closely monitor it’s behavior, and they have also equipped temporary shelters for any emergency that may arise throughout the winter.

Voices on the Border maintains a state of alert as well in order to support these vulnerable communities take selected preventive measures or enact immediate live saving actions. At this time, we are working with the Amando López and Octavio Ortiz communities in their efforts to restore their massive crop and livestock loss.

If you would like to express your solidarity with these families, please consider making a donation to our 2020 El Salvador Storm Season Relief Fund and in doing so create some hope, in the midst of two crises.

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Superando la Devastación de las Tormentas Tropicales Amanda y Cristóbal

En medio de la parte más crítica de la pandemia de COVID-19, con un poco más de 3.000 personas infectadas y más de cincuenta muertes relacionadas con COVID-19, El Salvador sufrió otro fuerte golpe, los graves impactos de dos tormentas tropicales consecutivas. Las tormentas Amanda y Cristóbal se cobraron 30 vidas, destruyeron cientos de casas, afectaron puentes, obstruyeron calles debido a deslizamientos de tierra y llevaron a la evacuación de miles de familias.

La situación es conmovedora, en momentos donde la recomendación para evitar el COVID-19 es quedarse en casa, las familias que han perdido la suya o están cerca de perderla; el distanciamiento físico tampoco funciona, la gente se aglomera para conseguir un poco de comida o agua limpia y en los saturados albergues resulta casi imposible hacer efectivo dicho distanciamiento.

La crisis alimentaria que se advierte pos pandemia, ahora se presentará con mayor intensidad, puesto que las tormentas causaron la ruina de millas de hectáreas cultivadas con maíz, frijol, hortalizas y frutales además de cientos de cabezas de ganado perdidas. El Ministro de Agricultura y Ganadería ha reportado 17,369 manzanas de cultivos afectados y una pérdida de cosecha de 284,411 quintales de granos básicos, afectando a 22,476 productores.

Como siempre una de las regiones fuertemente afectadas por la pérdida de cultivos es la zona costera, debido a que la geografía del terreno favorece la acumulación de agua inundando los terrenos. En el Bajo Lempa, las comunidades Octavio Ortiz y Amando López han perdido granjas familiares enteras, así como sus cultivos de maíz, vegetales y plátanos y dos importantes proyectos comunitarios de producción pesquera.

Afortunadamente, el sol ahora brilla sobre la mayor parte del país y los sistemas de tormentas se han movido hacia el norte. Según el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente (MARN), El Salvador experimentará un retorno gradual a las condiciones típicas de la temporada de lluvias: tormentas dispersas por las tardes y noches. A pesar de la reducción de las lluvias, las comunidades que viven en las orillas del río Lempa continúan monitoreando de cerca su comportamiento, y también han equipado refugios temporales para cualquier emergencia que pueda surgir durante el invierno.

Voces en la Frontera también mantiene un estado de alerta para ayudar a estas comunidades vulnerables a tomar medidas preventivas seleccionadas o promulgar acciones inmediatas para salvar vidas. En este momento, estamos trabajando con las comunidades de Amando López y Octavio Ortiz en sus esfuerzos por restaurar su pérdida masiva de cultivos y ganado.

Si desea expresar su solidaridad con estas familias, considere hacer una donación a nuestro Fondo de Ayuda de Emergencia para la Temporada de Tormentas 2020 y, al hacerlo, cree alguna esperanza para ellas, en medio de dos crisis.

2020-06-08 TS Amanda Cristobal Snapshot (ESP)

Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, COVID 19, Disasters, News Highlights

Tropical Storm Amanda Ravages El Salvador

d4922581873ab499e55e7720a3ae7895On Sunday May 31st, the country of El Salvador issued a State of Emergency and Red Alert, after nearly two days of the constant terrential winds and rains carried by Tropical Storm Amanda. The storm touched down in various parts of the country and is leaving mild to large-scale devastation in it’s path.

The hardest hit departments are San Salvador, Sonosonate, La Libertad, and San Vicente.


Over 2,200 families have been evacuated, 44 government-run shelters have been set up, 34 major landslides have been reported, 26 entire sectors are underwater, hundreds of trees, electrical posts and street lights are down, many of the country’s tunnels have flodded, and entire coastal communities have been swept away.

At the time of this writing, 11 people have lost their their lives, including a young child.

“At the national level, in 48 hours we had up to 400 millimeters of water in some areas of the country, which is more than 10% of what falls in a year in the territory,” explained the Minister of the Environment, Fernando López.”

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Unfortunately, our communities are also being hit hard by the storm. In the Bajo Lempa, entire crops have been lost and communities are on high alert for the possibility of flooding of the Lempa River.

The President of ACUDESBAL, by 3 p.m. 1,000 cubic meters of rain per second had fallen and by 5 p.m., they expect 1,500 cubic meters per second of rain to fall. Communities are being told to keep a close eye on the river and constantly verify its level and to work with local civil protection teams that are being assisted by the Army.

Communities Amando Lopez and Octavio Ortiz have also begun to clean and adecaute their casa comunals in the event families need to be evacuated.

In Morazán, the affects of the storm vary depending on the location. In Segundo Montes, things are relatively calm with no major damages reported except for downed trees.

However, places like San Carlos, San Francisco Gotera and Jocoatique are facing flooding and have had to evacuate various communities. Rio Torola is also being closely monitored and communities are preparing to evacuate if necessary.

tormenta-amandaAccording to the Ministry of Environment (MARN) the storm is supposed to lessen over the next 12 hours before eventually making it’s way towards northern Guatemala. MARN also projects that by the storm’s end, nine rivers, including the Jiquilisco Bay will overflow.

Our team remains in direct contact with our communities and groups in order to render whatever aid necessary, and we’ll continue to keep you all informed about the storm’s progression.

In the meantime, we ask that you keep El Salvador in your hearts and your prayers as it deals with yet another natural catastrophe during a most inopportune time.


We Need Levees!

Every year, communities throughout El Salvador suffer the consequences of preventable disasters such as flooding. But when community leaders and citizens approach their local or national government with proposals to mitigate the risks of such disasters, they are often met with the same refrain: “It’s not in the budget.”

Communities in the coastal areas of four of El Salvador’s major rivers (Rio Lempa, Rio Grande, Rio Jiboa, and Rio Paz) are taking a more proactive approach by getting involved in the budget-making process. Earlier this year, leaders and representatives from these flood-prone regions are leading a campaign to ensure that government officials make sure the funds for levees and other infrastructure projects ARE in the budget. Their timing is pretty good – with local and national elections just months away, politicians are in the mood to pander.

At an open meeting in July, representatives from communities in the four river basins compared their levee systems and what their communities need to minimize the risk of flooding. They reported the following:

Rio Grande (Usulutan):

In 1935, the Salvadoran government built 9 km (5.6 mi) of levee, all of which is currently in a state of serious deterioration.

In 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cattle (MAG) built only 1 km of levee; divided between the two shores.

Rio Lempa (San Vicente and Usulutan)

Tecoluca, San Vicente (Western shore)

In 1998, MAG built 27 km (16.7 mi) of levee, which have all deteriorated.

In 2006, MAG repaired 150 meters (492 feet) of levee washed out after Tropical Storm Stan in 2005.

In 2008 MAG repaired another kilometer near the mouth of the river, but failed to rehabilitate several drains as had been planned.

Jiquilisco, Usulutan (Eastern shore)

In 1998, the government built 27.5 km (17 mi) of levee, which has deteriorated. The contractor was also to construct another 9.9 km (6.6 miles) in the central area of the levee system, but never did. MAG successfully sued the contractor for breach of contract, but they have not reported whether they have recovered the lost funding, and they have yet to allocate funds to complete the undone work.

In 2006, MAG reconstructed approximately 150 meters of the levee washed away by Tropical Storm Stan.

In 2008, MAG reconstructed 1 km of deteriorated levee and constructed another km of levee of the 9.9 km section in the Namcuchiname forest that was left incomplete in 1998. The ministry also rehabilitated several drains.

Rio Jiboa (Usulutan)

In 2008, MAG built 5.7 km (3.5 mi) of levee.

In June 2008, Mayor Carlos Ramos filed suit against a private contractor for illegally hauling sand and rock from the riverbed and shores of Rio Jiboa, making the area more prone to flooding. Un-regulated excavation has caused much destruction and instability for several years despite community efforts to prevent it.

Rio Paz (Auachapan)

In 2005, Tropical Storm Stan caused great damage to the levees.

In 2008, MAG rebuilt 1 km of the levee, but did not repair or rebuild any other sections.

Local communities will be at a much higher risk of flooding if proposed hydroelectric dams along the tributaries are constructed.

These accounts highlight how little the government has done over the years to address the very basic but necessary infrastructure needs of these marginalized and vulnerable communities. The government’s actions to date have been limited and done little to mitigate the risks of disaster. If their inaction was not enough, government officials have permitted the construction of hydroelectric dams that often collect and release water in a manner that causes unnecessary flooding in downstream communities. The government has also failed to enforce environmental laws against private companies such as Cessa – the largest cement producer in Central America – that excavate sand and rock from riverbanks, taking away the first line of defense against flooding.

Past advocacy efforts have proven successful. The communities of the Lower region of the Lower Lempa have been consistent in their demands that the government complete their system of levees. Their efforts have paid off; communities in the Lower Lempa have benefited from more infrastructure projects than any of the other regions now in the coalition. Among their efforts, communities organized the March for Life in 2003, in which citizens marched 70 miles from the Lower Lempa to San Salvador in five days to draw attention to the government’s failure to complete their levees and drainage ditches. The March for Life drew international attention and was successful in pressuring the MAG to continue its work on the levees.

The coalition is organizing another march for November 2008. This time they are marching not on behalf of one region, but for all four river basins vulnerable to flooding in El Salvador. The march will be a national call to action, serving notice to government officials that they must serve all Salvadorans or risk losing their office in the upcoming elections.