El Salvador: Continuing post-Mitch rehabilitation

  • International staff: 5
  • National staff: 20 MSF has been assisting vulnerable people in El Salvador ever since Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in late 1998. When the first phase of emergency relief work came to an end in early 1999, MSF began longer-term initiatives for improving sanitation and access to clean water. The western departments of Ahuachapán, Sonsonate, La Paz and San Vicente are susceptible to floods. MSF has started a program to reduce waterborne diseases, improve understanding of health issues and increase emergency preparedness at the community level. In addition to providing materials for constructing water and sanitation facilities, MSF trains communities in how to use the facilities (poster above) and - very important in this flood-prone area - how to use them in case of flooding. Health education focuses on water treatment, hygiene and preparing for floods. This program will finish in April 2001. Another key area of activity is cholera preparedness. In the wake of a post-hurricane cholera outbreak in early 1999, MSF set up special cholera wards in three hospitals in the capital San Salvador. These facilities can be easily used again in the event of another major outbreak. Because clean, potable water is scarce, particularly in rural areas, MSF helped install equipment for producing chlorine solution used to purify water. Teams also trained Ministry of Health staff in water quality control. MSF is considering launching a program to work on preventing mother-to-child HIV/AIDS transmission. Médecins Sans Frontières first intervened in El Salvador in the early 1980s, during the height of the country's armed conflict.