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At a glance: El Salvador

Thousands of families remain displaced by torrential rains in El Salvador

By Armando Carballido and July Mejia

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, 26 October 2011 – Following two weeks of floods and school closures, students are finally returning to class in Usulután Province.

UNICEF correspondent Anja Baron reports on UNICEF delivering emergency supplies to flood-affected areas in El Salvador.  Watch in RealPlayer


Torrential rains in mid-October caused the Lempa River to overflow, destroying homes, killing livestock and ruining crops. Hundreds of schools were repurposed as shelters for members of the community.

Now, as schools begin to re-open, many students are resuming their educations and returning to normal life. But for many others, this is not yet an option.

A state of limbo

For two weeks, 13-year-old Victor Antonio has been living in a school in San Marcos Lempa, alongside some 400 other children. He is anxious to return home and pick up the pieces. "I want to see what has happened at my house. We had a television, shoes, everything,” he said.

© UNICEF/2011/El Salvador
A mother and son in a shelter in San Marcos Lempa.

But surrounding lands are still underwater, leaving Victor and the others in an anxious state of limbo.

‘This is much worse’

Salvadorans are no strangers to natural disaster. But with three times the rainfall of a typical rainy season, this year’s deluge caught many off guard.

Officials have reported 35 fatalities, and some 58,800 people are living in over 600 emergency shelters across the country.

Jose Antonio Amaya was forced to evacuate his home in Lower Lempa because of the rains. "What we have quadrupled the damage of Mitch and Stan," he said, referring to Hurricane Mitch of 1998 and Hurricane Stan of 2005. “This is much worse.”

© UNICEF/2011/El Salvador
Schools have become makeshift shelters in El Salvador.

UNICEF at work

UNICEF is supporting the affected communities with health kits, and is planning additional assistance in the days to come.

But much more is required. Clean water, food, medicines and clothing are needed, as is  financial support to repair over 260 damaged schools.

And with stagnant and contaminated water everywhere, officials are concerned about the spread of disease. "The most frequent illnesses are skin problems due to excess of moisture, and also respiratory" illnesses, said Diógenes José Guzmán, a physician at the shelter in San Marcos Lempa.

Shelter residents are thankful the rains have finally stopped. But they know the hard work is only beginning.



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