Natural Hazard Risk
El Salvador is exposed to a variety of natural hazards and is located in one of the most seismically active regions. The annual average loss from earthquakes is nearly $176 million or 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP). Other major hazards include floods, landslides, tropical storms, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and droughts––particularly in El Niño seasons.
Economic damages and losses caused by Tropical Storm Irene, estimated at over $902 million, were nearly three times the impact of Tropical Storm Ida two years earlier. From 2000 to 2010, losses caused by extreme climate events amounted to nearly 6 percent of El Salvador’s 2011 GDP. Anticipated climate change impacts include increased temperatures, storm intensities, and sea-level rise, which cause more damaging flood conditions.
Land degradation and soil erosion, exacerbated by recurrent flood and drought, adversely impact agricultural production, further affecting the livelihoods of the rural poor. In addition, the relative lack of risk-informed territorial planning and weak enforcement of building codes has resulted in unsafe construction in high-risk areas.
The government has taken steps to integrate disaster risk management (DRM) into a comprehensive development strategy that strengthens the National Civil Protection System, improves response capacity to natural and human-induced hazards, and develops a more extensive hazard monitoring network. The National Development Plan (2014-2019) also identifies natural disasters, in combination with other factors like environmental degradation, as one of the greatest threats to human development, with a disproportionate impact on the poor.
Further, the government signed the Central American Policy for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management legal agreement in 2010. The 2014 National Policy for School Infrastructure aims to improve school structures nationwide.
The government has prioritized the following DRM actions in its National Development Plan (2014–2019):
- Strengthening the institutions and financing sources of climate change adaptation and risk management investments
- Developing multi-sectoral climate change adaptation plans, particularly in the agriculture, education, energy, health, housing, public works, tourism, and water resources sectors;
- Designing and implementing investment programs to reduce the socio-economic impact of climate change and natural disasters;
- Strengthening community-level resilience; and,
- Strengthening DRM guidelines and mechanisms, with consideration of different vulnerable groups.
In 2008, GFDRR’s engagement with El Salvador began through regional dialogue documenting prevention and mitigation activities undertaken across the region since Hurricane Mitch (1998). Since then, GFDRR has supported El Salvador in assessing disaster impacts, developing a comprehensive risk assessment platform, and improving the resilience of education infrastructure.
Following Tropical Storm Ida in 2009, GFDRR supported a post-disaster needs assessment (PDNA), which was jointly implemented by the government in partnership with the World Bank, the European Commission, the UN, and other development partners. This PDNA informed a $50 million World Bank-financed Development Policy Loan with a Catastrophe Deferred Draw-Down Option (CAT DDO), a disaster risk finance mechanism designed to increase El Salvador's fiscal resilience in the aftermath of a disaster and promote the implementation of DRM policies.
In 2012, GFDRR supported risk assessment trainings with relevant line ministries and stakeholders using the Central American Probabilistic Risk Assessment (CAPRA) platform to strengthen El Salvador’s ability to generate risk information and to provide decision-makers with information on potential earthquake consequences. This work led to a World Bank- and GFDRR-supported probabilistic analysis of seismic risk of 257 institutions, of which 68 percent were related to education.
Currently, GFDRR is supporting the Ministry of Education to develop a seismic vulnerability reduction program, to define urgent actions for buildings in high-risk conditions, and to establish a long-term strategy to improve the structural and functional characteristics of existing and new buildings.
GFDRR anticipates on-going demand in the following areas:
- Developing a financial protection strategy that can help shield the government from the economic impact of disasters, specifically supporting the government's expressed intention to join the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF SPC)
- Supporting the government to take necessary policy and administrative measures to improve land-use planning and zoning, and to introduce risk and climate-resilience criteria to protect critical infrastructure; and,
- Providing support to implement the National Climate Change Strategy and to increase climate resilience in public works.