El Salvador -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Children stand in the doorway of their family's substandard house.
Habitat homeowner and family in Santa Ana, El Salvador.
Habitat for Humanity El Salvador began in 1992 in the Santa Ana department, where the first 29 houses were built.
Since 1998, program renovation and organizational growth have taken place. As a result, the organization has provided a better response to families who lost their homes to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Mitch and earthquakes in 2001.
Currently, the organization’s work is performed through a central national office and six branches in Santa Ana, Sonsonate, San Salvador, San Vicente, Usulután and La Paz, from where the country's 14 Departments are attended.
The earthquake-resistant houses are made of concrete blocks and structural steel reinforcement. The roofs are made of fiber-cement sheeting, and the floors of cement brick. They have two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and a latrine or toilet. Windows are shutter type, protected by steel bars in order to provide adequate lighting, ventilation and security. They have an area of approximately 42m2.
Of the total cost of each house, 85 to 90 percent covers direct costs (material, labor, transportation and legal expenses), and the rest goes to indirect costs (office staff, rent and other administrative expenses). Financing must be repaid in a 10-year period, which means families pay a monthly average of US$35.
For poorer families there is another housing option, the progressive model. Depending on the family’s future resources, these houses may be extended and improved. This model is available in two sizes: a 40m2 construction area (US$ 2,750) or a 30m2 construction area (US $ 2,100).
El Salvador has been struck by two natural disasters that have increased housing needs, both in urban and rural areas. Hurricane Mitch specifically affected the Usulután and La Paz departments, and the 2001 earthquakes caused extensive damage in the Usulután, La Paz, La Libertad, Cuscatlán, San Vicente and Sonsonate departments. Of the total number of houses affected, 60 percent correspond to homes with an income of up to two minimum wages ($288 monthly) and the remaining 40 percent of homes with incomes greater than two minimum wages.
El Salvador is still in the process of rebuilding. The country’s current qualitative and quantitative deficit is 630,000 houses, or 51 percent of the total population, according to data provided by the Vice Ministry of Housing.
Until now, local governments, state institutions, non-governmental organizations and international organizations have made great efforts to answer the housing demands of affected families. Support from these institutions has concentrated on the most affected counties, bypassing the less damaged areas and those communities that already had housing needs before the disasters.
Through the work performed by its affiliate branches, HFH El Salvador has reached both sectors, concentrating its efforts on providing support to those families in need of a decent house, without any distinctions whatsoever.
Habitat for Humanity El Salvador serves families with very low incomes, mainly of two minimum wages (US$288 monthly). On average, these families consist of five members who inhabit structures built of adobe without any treatment, bahareque (interwoven cane and mud), tin sheets, cardboard, wood and plastic. To make matters worse, these houses do not meet minimum security, hygiene and basic sanitation requirements.
These facts make having a decent house a priority, as well as an important issue for family development and community strengthening. However for many families, owning a decent house is a dream, since they cannot apply for loans through the banking system.
Therefore, HFH El Salvador not only represents an opportunity for making this dream come true but also one of the few options for improving these families’ futures.
Location: Central America
Economy: primary industry is coffee production
Religion: predominantly Christian
Literacy: 73 percent
Language: Spanish, Nahua