El Salvador is a middle-income country with 6.21 million inhabitants (52.3% women, 47.7% men) located in the Pacific coast of Central America. El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country of this region, with an average of 295 habitants per square kilometer. The country has an unequal distribution of wealth, displaying a GINI coefficient of 0.44, meaning that the richest 10% of the population receives incomes 44 times higher than the poorest 10% (EHPM, 2011). At national level, 40.6% of the households are poor and 12.2% of these families live in extreme poverty (EHPM, 2011). The 2011 EHPM National Survey showed that rural poverty was 50.2% and urban 35.4%. The increasing external debt of US$12.95 billion (51.7% of GDP) make it challenging for the government to sustain its budgetary commitments to social programmes.
The country is highly dependent on imports and remittances (17% of GDP) making the poor highly vulnerable to external shocks. El Salvador is very vulnerable to natural disasters, ranking ten out of 173 countries in the 2011 World Risk Report and 23 out of 182 countries in the 2012 Global Climate Risk Index. More than 88% of the national territory is at risk, containing 95.4% of the total population.
Recurrent food and nutrition insecurity is due to increased environmental vulnerability, which impacts food availability, food access and food consumption during and after a disaster. The lack of systems to ensure emergency preparedness among those most vulnerable also increases their recurrent food and nutrition insecurity. In the past ten years, the country has suffered eight major disasters which resulted in the death of 1,984 people and economic losses of US$3.2 billion. According to the regional summary of the impact of Tropical Depression 12E, prepared by ECLAC/World Bank/IDB/UNDP/GFDRR in November 2011, 12E affected more than 1.4 million people with damages worth more than US$300 million.
The nutritional health of the population shows that national food and nutrition security have been at risk for some time. The FESAL Health Survey of 2008 indicates that 19% of children between 3 and 59 months of age have low height for their age. Approximately 19.2% of children under 5 year are chronically undernourished; 40% of children from 6 to 11 months have anemia (the main micronutrient deficiency) and 17.2% of pregnant women suffer anemia at the end of their pregnancy.
WFP’s 2012-2016 Country Strategy in El Salvador contributes to the Millennium Development Goals and El Salvador’s 2010-2014 National Development Plan by supporting the government to ensure the food and nutritional security of the population. The strategy gives priority attention to vulnerable people and seeks to contribute in three areas: 1) Improving Social Protection schemes through food and nutrition based interventions; 2) Strengthening Disaster Risk Mitigation and Emergency Response; 3) Strengthening Small Holder Agriculture and Associated Marked Development. New projects in formulation include a Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture project aimed at enhancing the food security and nutrition of small agricultural producers in El Salvador’s dry corridor, and a National Food Reserve to assist food insecure families against food price increases.