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Sunday, October 23, 2016
El Salvador - the situation is bleak, say aid workers
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¬†Aid workers just back from El Salvador say they were 'deeply shocked' at the level of destruction in the country after the recent earthquakes. Sarah Smith Pearse, CAFOD's programme officer for El Salvador and Jo Wells from the emergencies team spent ten days visiting partners engaged in emergency response work in the worst affected areas of the country. They believe that this disaster must be used as an opportunity to re-build poor communities in a way which will withstand future earthquakes. Sarah said: "The earthquakes in El Salvador have acted like an x-ray of the massive gap between rich and poor. Rich areas show virtually no signs of damage, whereas poor areas have been completely decimated. Re-constructing the country to pre-emergency conditions is not good enough - poor people did not have adequate housing before. The real challenge is to get enough aid to El Salvador to build houses and an infrastructure that can withstand future natural disasters." Sarah and Jo were deeply shocked by the extent of damage caused by the series of earthquakes and aftershocks that have hit the country since January. During their visit there was another small earthquake and three after-shocks. Jo said: "The Salvadoreans are unable to take stock of the real impact of the earthquake as this is a living emergency. Three months of quakes and tremors have taken their psychological toll and people are living on tender hooks, traumatised by their experiences. Whilst many are living in devastated or unsafe houses, many others are insisting on sleeping outside as they do not feel secure. Consultations with psychologists have risen by 50%. There is also a shortage of water and an estimated 32,000 rural businesses have been destroyed." In a population of six million people, over one million have lost their homes. Many have been provided with temporary accommodation with help from CAFOD and other aid agencies, but few have moved into better quality permanent housing in safe areas. The CAFOD staff warned that the rains expected in May could bring fresh disaster as many people continue to live perilously in fragile housing on de-forested hill-sides where soil has been loosened by the quakes. If there are landslides even more people look set to lose their homes. CAFOD has raised over £400,000 from supporters in response to the emergency. Much of this money has been spent by partners on providing temporary accommodation, food aid and water provision.
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