El Salvador: Access to DRR information and tools strengthens community cohesion

In La Union, El Salvador, the government has relocated displaced populations from other municipalities and from illegal settlements. Yet the relocation presents new disaster risk. This recipe, contributed by GNDR partner Funsalprodese through MDS support, combines community cohesion, working with government authorities and promoting disaster risk reduction information and tools to concoct an early warning system.

  • Foster community cohesion among displaced people
  • Partner on service and programme delivery
  • Co-develop a civic engagement platform with government authorities and displaced people
  • Promote access to displacement risk reduction information and tools

Following the relocation of multiple communities, a number of risks and new vulnerabilities may appear relating to social cohesion, access to services, infrastructure and general disaster risk. In this example, the relocation areas are exposed to climatic and seismic risks. Streams and ravines and the poor condition of drains and gutters rendered the area vulnerable to floods, and in the dry season, the area experiences drought. The displaced population in three relocation sites lack permanent housing, drinking water, home electricity and access to healthcare and education.

Funsalprodese ensured the communities had access to early warning systems and evacuation preparedness infrastructure. To address flood risk in three communities, they supported the installation of lighting and signage along the evacuation route, as well as loudspeakers for early warning. More than 70 solar lamps were distributed among the three communities, improving the community’s safety as well as preparedness for evacuation. The two communication systems installed comprised nine-metre sound towers with two loudspeakers, two microphones and amplifier equipment. The communities also received training to maintain the equipment, in addition to training on first aid, water and sanitation, shelter management and displacement risk.

Community gardens were established. Communities were supported by Funsalprodese to create an agricultural committee and establish rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation to improve soil fertility and moisture retention. The community gardens were able to address multiple objectives including access to food and livelihoods, and enhancing community cohesion.

“The early warning system has worked well for the community; we communicate about any type of emergency and send out warnings. For example, with the recent rains, we sent out information about what time the hurricane was going to hit. So we were watching and sending out warnings to the families because most of the houses here are made of corrugated metal sheets. We were able to be aware of what was coming. Because what we were hearing from up North was scaring us. That it was going to destroy our houses. So we were telling the community what time the hurricane was going to come so they could be prepared. So that’s very helpful for us because we can keep the whole community informed; we can be ready and aware of any warning.”

Anabel Ventura, Committee of the Nuevo Amanecer Community, Intipucá, La Unión, FUNSALPRODESE project, El Salvador

Having shared information with the community concerning their rights of participation, each community developed its own advocacy strategy to government authorities. Each community proposed improvements to local officials and claimed their right to participation in the preparation of the budget and annual participatory investment plan. The relationship with government authorities improved with continuous communication facilitated by the agro-environmental committees. As a result, the government has asked for the formalisation of the committees as associations to provide government support.

“The street lighting project and also the early warning system and the Red Cross training were really very beneficial for each of us because we learned how to administer first aid. The street lighting [has] been a huge help [and] because it’s solar, we don’t have to pay money now. We feel more safe now than we did before when everything was very dark. Now we can go out in the early morning; the children can play in the afternoon and evening. We use the early warning system a lot – anytime we need to communicate something to the community. We don’t have to go house to house anymore, or wait for everyone to arrive somewhere. Now we can send out a message and the whole community is aware of what’s happening.”

Saraí, living in Santa Lucía el Aceituno, Intipucá, La Unión, FUNSALPRODESE project, El Salvador.

Fundación Salvadoreña para la Promoción Social y el Desarrollo Económico (FUNSALPRODESE) began as a social movement initiated by ten organisations and was legally constituted in 1998. Its purpose is to coordinate training, and defend freedom of expression and the right to organisation, and to protect displaced victims of the armed conflict.

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This case study was produced as part of our Making Displacement Safer Cookbook – a resource on addressing DRR challenges faced by displaced communities in urban areas.

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Project funded by

United States Agency for International Development

Our Making Displacement Safer project is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Content related to this project on our website was made possible by the support of the USAID. All content is the sole responsibility of GNDR and does not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID.

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