Hurricane Mitch at peak intensity on October 26, 1998. It was the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, causing 11,000 fatalities in Central America. NASA photo.

Lutheran World Relief helps communities in El Salvador to prepare for disaster

  • John Rivera
  • Nov 19, 2018

BALTIMORE, November 19, 2018—Lutheran World Relief has launched a three-year initiative to help communities in eastern El Salvador better prepare for and respond to emergencies, including efforts to engage youth promoters to help lead the effort.

The SOS project — Strengthening of Community-Based Structures (SOS) for Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation — will reach an estimated 25,000 direct and indirect participants, including municipal government employees, women and youth volunteers and other community leaders and members in 50 communities across 10 municipalities in the departments of Usulután and Morazán. The SOS project is funded by a grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

El Salvador is one of the most disaster-vulnerable countries in the world, with 95 percent of its population residing in areas at risk for flood, earthquakes, volcanic eruption, hurricanes and landslides. The country is the 14th most exposed to climate change worldwide. Yet disaster preparedness and response planning to make disasters less costly and enable rapid recovery of rural livelihoods is a significant challenge with increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, including drought every year since 2011.

The project will help local communities to elect inclusive and representative Community Civil Protection Commissions that by law are the principal local bodies responsible for preparing for and responding to disasters. Lutheran World Relief will strengthen and support these local commissions by delivering leadership training and building the capacities of communities to interact with municipal and national governments.  Updating and implementing disaster preparedness plans and ensuring that immediate needs are met in times of recovery are key objectives of the project. Lutheran World Relief will document best practices throughout the project to influence future programs seeking to build local leadership for disaster-ready communities.

The participation of youth promoters will be critical to ensuring the effectiveness of the community civil protection commissions by acting as technical liaisons and trainers in accessing and interpreting online data, such as meteorological or seismic monitoring information.

Each youth promoter will also receive training in how to organize, promote, and facilitate inclusive events and discussions, as well as in the dissemination of basic guidance on disaster preparedness and mitigation for the community. The promoters will work with the community to support creative and innovative educational projects, including murals and socio-dramas.

Youth in El Salvador, which has one of the highest rates of violence in the world, face daily dangers of violent gang activity and intense pressures to migrate due to lack of access to education and high unemployment, especially in rural areas.  Increased youth membership and leadership in the SOS project will offer opportunities for youth empowerment in their home communities, while building skills that may be useful for future employment.

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About Lutheran World Relief: Lutheran World Relief is an international NGO with nearly 75 years of demonstrated expertise that works in partnership with local communities to build their capabilities and collaborate on long-term solutions to reduce extreme poverty. In times of emergency, LWR is also a trusted partner to distribute aid and ensure people are prepared to withstand the next unexpected challenge. For more information, visit

John Rivera, Nov 19, 2018 email