The name of this post should perhaps be edited "what it means to live in a high risk country."
The UN decided to send it its specialized disaster team, UNDAC, to evaluate the situation in El Salvador. This is what they found.
88.7% of the physical territory is at risk
95.4% of the people are at risk
96.4% of the GDP is at risk to a natural disaster.
El Salvador has earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, droughts, floods, and dengue. Unfortunatley, San Salvador, the capital, was built underneath the largest volcano en central america. Urbanization due to CAFTA, Natural Disaster, GMO corn, and other reasons that make survival in the country side next to impossible is making this problem even more complicated. UNDP reports indicate that 58% of the poor is now URBAN! (See urban povery maps of social exclusion, FLASCO-UNDP 2010).
These stats means that its pretty darn difficult to escape disaster in El Salvador. NGOs have been building houses for people pos-Ida in OTHER vulnerable places. Take people out of landslide danger, and put them near the San Vicente Volcano. Solution? Waste of Money? Best choice given the options?
This scenario got twisted in a funky way for joya grande. I did some statistical analysis myself (if you want the whole report, email me. its pretty long) and made these graphs to make a point.
I know they are pixalated funny but bear with me. Graph 1 shows two communities and WHY they moved to Santiago Texacuangos. Note that less than 3% of people were actually born there. Second, if you notice war migration patterns (the red line), it starts in the late 70s and tapers off in the early 90s. Perfect timing. Peace accords signed in 1992.
Final piece of data. years of landslides in Santiago Texacuangos.
2007, 2008, 2009 (source, Desinventar-8, an amazing disaster database). It is SO OBVIOUS that war migration has made El Salvador so vulnerable. Large concentrations of people living where they should not be living. The land in Santiago Texacuangos is suitable for coffee, NOT FOR MILPAS. but war refugees will eat and feed their families. as they should. but its not like they WANT to live there. about 50% of the 113 families we surveyed said they want to get the HECK OUT OF SANTIAGO. but they can't. just yet.
In a conversation with the Ministerio de Vivienda, we discovered that the mayor never turned in housing relocation requests to the national government. so guess how much Santiago get os the $1.5 million in housing projects? $0! pretty unlikely for those war refugees to migrate there huh?
I am working on fixing this- Wednesday we are doing a housing census with local community leaders. to make a priority list and i will hand deliver it to my new government friends with fingers crossed.
I have little hope. considering the government has spent a total of only 5% of the $150 dollars that was supposed to be spent on Ida 6 months after the storm. is a direct and sad testament to the disfunctionality of this governement. Apparantly, according to my Ministry of Housing friend, there are 27 steps to take to purchase something in the Salvadoran Government. SHEESH. sometimes i wonder if i would be contributing more to the country doing buracracy audit reports than disater relief. sigh. another GREAT reason to NEVER give money direct to governments in disasters if you actually want to help disaster victims.
Anyways, people should not live in Joya Grande. But they are. and most of the country is "at risk" anyways. and the next storm is not gonna wait until the government MAYBE relocates 350 families in joya grande (which even if it did, would leave 29 other high risk communities still at risk).
Colectivo CEIBA is trying to get USAID $$ to make a project in integrated disaster risk management, with a gender and youth focus. What the heck does that mean?? Early warning systems, moniters in rivers, bridage to watch rivers and others to prepare shelter. and everyone get a rain jacket and a radio. Thats our new plan. If people are not leaving, we are committed to teaching them how to survive where life has decided they will be living.
Pray for Guatemala (which Agatha hit much worse), for El Salvador, cuz its a pretty risky place, and for Joya Grande, that they get houses or we get them disaster alert systems via USAID.
I hope you are well. Thanks for your AMAZING support during this time. Once again, it gives us the courage to keep dreaming bigger. and of course, getting vital supplies to people at vital times. Joya Grande STILL has no water, so we are paying other communities to bring it to them. One HUGE achievement was Joya Grande contacting the radio and denoucning their local government for not bringing them water! Empowerment is being planted and started to sprout all over the place. You should really come visit, its quite neat to see. Until next time...keep reading!