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In wake of landslides, Salvadoreans face serious public health crisis

In wake of landslides, Salvadoreans face serious public health crisis

May 10, 2010

"One of the most serious problems that we are facing, and which will become more serious soon, is the lack of drinking water," said Jeannette Urquilla, Executive Director of ORMUSA, a San Salvador-based women’s organization and Oxfam Canada partner that has been responding to the disaster.

‘In many places, the systems collapsed, and, in many cases, people do not have access to natural streams and springs in part because urbanization and the 2001 earthquakes dried them up. We are trying to come up with things we can do as part of a second wave of emergency relief.

The damage caused by Hurricane Ida is expected to near the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch

Losses in agriculture: Mitch approx. $4 million, Ida approx. $40 million

Homeless: Stan 18,000, Ida 15,000

Rainfall: Mitch 614 mm over 5 days, Stan 250mm over 3 days, Ida 355mm over 1 day.

Deaths: Mitch 225, Stan 74, Ida 194 (plus 80 still unaccounted for)

Rainfall has destroyed 50 per cent of El Salvador’s bean crop and 25 per cent of its corn production. These crops are both a major source of income and a staple of the Salvadorian diet. This raises worrisome short-term perspectives for the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers and agricultural workers, and may compromise the country’s food security.

ORMUSA has been buying and distributing food, toiletries, medicine, clothes, and mattresses, as well as providing medicines and offering their space as a temporary shelter for women with infants. Salvadoreans, however, need temporary water tanks in order to store and distribute clean drinking water.

‘As days go by and damages are being fully reported, it is apparent that the tragedy is much larger in scope than initially thought, said Roxanne Murrell, Oxfam Canada’s regional representative for Central America. ‘Salvadoreans are in desperate need of more help to weather the after-effects of this storm.

So far, USAID has provided $280,000 to relief efforts, theEuropean Union Humanitarian Office (ECHO) is about to approve 1 million euro (split between El Salvador and Nicaragua) and the Spanish equivalent of CIDA (AECID) has spent about 250,000 euro.

For more information or to arrange interviews in English or Spanish, please contact Karen Palmer, 613-240-3047.

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