The smallest country in Central America, El Salvador has a culture of violence and has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America.
El Salvador's turbulent past and history of natural disasters has had a huge impact on the shaping of what it is today. The 1980 civil war, a war caused by the growing disparity between the richer and poorer left the country in ruins worsening poverty and its hazardous levels of violence. The road to recovery for El Salvador was then hit by a series of devastating natural disasters spelling further trouble and unrest. For the people daily life is still a constant struggle against the backdrop of poverty, instability and overwhelming levels of violence.
El Salvador - Facts and Figures
- Capital: San Salvador
- Population: 6,090,646 (World Fact Book, 2012)
- Population living below the poverty line: 36.5% (World Fact Book, 2010)
- Area: 21,041 sq km (8,124 sq miles)
- Major language: Spanish
- Life expectancy: 73.69 (World Fact Book, 2012)
- Monetary unit: US dollar & Salvadorian colon
- Main exports: Offshore assembly exports, coffee, sugar, shrimp, textiles, chemicals, electricity
- External debt: $12.95 billion (World Fact Book, 2011)
- Environmental issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution; contamination of soils from disposal of toxic wastes, hurricanes and earthquakes
- At least 4 out of every 10 people live in conditions of poverty, and about half of all children and adolescents are poor. This has a significant impact in terms of access to adequate nutrition, water and sanitation. (UNICEF)
- About 1.8 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are engaged in child labour. (Children of the Streets)
- 70% of the children aged 16 and 17 do not have access to secondary education. (COTS)
- El Salvador has been classified as "the most violent country in Latin America" and has the highest murder rate in the region.
- In 2009 UNICEF reported that around 241 children were killed during the first semester of 2009, mostly from 13 to 17 years of age.
- In a survey carried out by UNICEF in 2005, 2007 and 2008, 7 out of 10 children reported having been abused in their homes - that's 70%.
- About 44% of the estimated 2,300 prostitutes in three major red light districts of San Salvador are between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. (COTS)
- In Salvadoran homes, 79 out of every 100 children are mistreated. This leads to high school drop-out rates, which in turn leads to street children and disenfranchised youth joining one of the many maras (youth gangs). (Global Child Outreach)
- 95% of boys and 96% of girls attend primary school but secondary school enrolment is only 54% for boys and 56% for girls, as there is not universal public education. (Unicef, 2005-2010)
- Violence in the country is inducing much emigration, exerting a major impact on the family, particularly as it shifts the responsibility of households on to women. (Unicef)
Issues for El Salvadorian street children:
The streets in El Salvador are no home for the vulnerable children. Their everyday search for basic needs can often bring them into contact with negative influences that they would avoid if away from the streets. It can lead them into a life of danger, exploitation, violence and crime which reduces their chance of a bright future.
More than 28% of Salvadorian street children report being abused by authorities
with 51% of the injuries reported being beatings, and 20% cuts. Even with these injuries and threats, 78% of these children reported feeling safer on the streets than in their own homes
Gangs are a big problem in El Salvador, nearly 7,000 gang members are currently behind bars in El Salvador, this is a third of the national prison population.
Even though the El Salvadorian government put in place important political reforms after the civil war and progress has been made, children still suffer from extreme poverty. Many children they die from preventable diseases that are caused by polluted drinking water. A large number have to work for a living.
More than 12,000 Salvadorian children aged 0-5 die each year from polluted drinking water and gastrointestinal diseases
. (Children of the Street, COTS)
A report from UNICEF indicates that about 1.8 million children
between the ages of 5 and 17 actively participate in the Salvadorian labour market.
(US Dept of State, Human Rights Report, 1999)
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) 80% of Salvadorian children suffer from cruelty.
El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839 . In the 1980s El Salvador was ravaged by a bitter civil war, which lasted 12 years. The war was stoked by the huge inequalities in the country; whilst most of the population were desperately poor, the wealthy elite dominated the government and the economy. In 1992 a United Nations peace agreement ended the war. However, the war resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people and caused great financial damage to the country. It also continues to leave a mark on El Salvador's society, which is among the most crime-ridden in the Americas. El Salvador also has one of the world's highest murder rates .