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El Salvador: Additional Support for Flooding Victims and Recovery Efforts

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  • $50 million have been disbursed to support El Salvador's emergency response to flooding

  • The funding will immediately help flooding victims and avoid gap in basic services

  • Long-term Bank support will help El Salvador manage disaster risks more efficiently

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SAN SALVADOR, November 8, 2011- Gloria Campos, 19, was a week shy of becoming a high school graduate –a considerable feat in Salvador’s impoverished Mejicanos municipality, where graduation rates are among the lowest in the country. A wall weakened by the recent torrential rains collapsed on Gloria and her little sister while the pair were asleep at home, crushing her life and dreams --the tragic result of the worst floods in decades that have claimed the lives of hundreds of Central Americans and left thousands without a home.

El Salvador’s unusual high share of natural disasters over the years -hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides-,has had a significant toll on development both in terms of loss of life and missed contributions to the economy by people killed in their prime like Gloria. It is estimated that since 1972, natural disasters in El Salvador have claimed the lives of more than 6,500 people and caused more than US$16 billion in damages, with the poor taking the brunt of this toll.

Aiming to put a lid on such drain on the region's assets, government leaders have taken significant steps to mitigate their countries’ vulnerability to disasters. One such attempt includes mobilizing lines of credit specifically designed to address disaster risk management in the region. The World Bank has disbursed US$50 million from those funds to El Salvador, as part of the Disaster Risk Management Policy Development Loan Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (Cat DDO), approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors earlier this year.

Following a state of emergency declared by President Mauricio Funes, the monies support his government ongoing efforts to cover the most urgent needs of flooding victims and to avoid gaps in the provision of public services. It also represents an immediate source of liquidity as Salvadorans respond to the emergency.

Such comprehensive approach to disasters and their risks seems to be the best way forward, experts say.

That’s the reason why the Bank has focused on developing comprehensive risk management programs for the region, says expert Armando Guzman. “The Bank has supported countries in enhancing their capacity for risk reduction, their understanding of disaster risks and their strategies for risk financing,” said Guzman, a World Bank senior disaster risk management specialist.

Making a Difference

This multi-pronged, proactive, approach to disaster risk management activities is already making a difference in Central America. In Honduras, the Natural Disaster Mitigation Project helped the country reduce disaster vulnerability in 81 municipalities. When tropical storm Agatha hit the country in 2010, early warning systems and new evacuation procedures were credited with saving thousands of lives. Newly available financial tools such as the Cat DDO have proved to be effective in Costa Rica, Guatemala and most recently El Salvador after natural disasters. In October, the World Bank’s Executive Broad also approved a Cat DDO operation for Panama.

Financial and technical risk reduction support has been boosted by partnerships and technology access in the shape of the Central America Probabilistic Risk Assessment (CAPRA), an open-source information platform to enhance decision-making in risk management. The CAPRA initiative is led by the Central American Coordination Centre for Disaster Prevention (CEPREDENAC), and partners include the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the United Nations’ International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the Inter-American Development Bank. Another indication of the region’s commitment to a further reducing the risk of disaster is a planned policy announcement at the upcoming Central American presidential summit, when leaders hope to confirm the advancement of the Central American Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Policy.

“The countries will continue to advance in the implementation of this policy, but it will require more technical support, financial resources and scientific knowledge”, said Guzman. Climate change threatens to further exacerbate the disaster burden for Central American and increase the poor’s vulnerability. But the shift from rehabilitation and recovery to risk mitigation and planning is an important step towards maintaining a path to sustainable development in Central America.

While no one knows when and where the next natural disaster will strike, better disaster risk management can help countries to map out areas most likely to be affected, incorporate disaster preparedness across all sectors and, above all, save lives.

“Adverse natural events hit low income people with more severity and have a negative impact on production activities and the country’s development. Our solidarity at this moment is with the people of El Salvador,” said Fabrizio Zarcone, World Bank Resident Representative in El Salvador.

The Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan is one of the operations established in the World Bank’s 2010-2012 Country Partnership Strategy, focusing on: strengthening the basis for an economic recovery by addressing macroeconomic and institutional vulnerabilities (including the vulnerability to natural disasters); and improving the provision of social services among vulnerable groups, and c) expanding economic opportunities, especially among the poor.

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