Guadalupe, El Salvador. November 13, 2009
On the night of November 7th, a massive landslide tumbled down the side of Volcano Chichantepec, covering the municipality of Verapaz, El Salvador. At least 19 people lost their lives, numerous homes were destroyed and the health center was seriously affected.
Only a few meters away in the neighboring town of Guadalupe, Dr. Lorena Castro was working in the health unit: “I remember a horrible noise and the earth shaking when huge rocks began to fall. Fortunately, nothing happened to our health unit, but we were lucky,” said Dr. Castro.
The town of Guadalupe is located in the Department of San Vicente, in the central region of El Salvador. Various evaluations and risk maps have demonstrated that Guadalupe is located in a high risk zone, as is the municipality of Verapaz. Now, the health center in Verapaz has irreparable damage and around 6,900 people are left without health services.
PAHO/WHO, along with the Ministry of Health of El Salvador and other institutions, works to guarantee access to health care to the affected population supports the rehabilitation of health centers, the distribution of clean water, and the reestablishment of water systems in the communities affected by the emergency.
We don’t know where to go
In Guadalupe, two temporary shelters are housing approximately 350 people that lost their homes and belongings. PAHO/WHO helps manage humanitarian support that arrives to El Salvador through a tool called LSS/SUMA. “We have water to drink, food and a few mats for sleeping. We receive care from doctors and nurses. What we don’t know is how long we can stay here and where we are going after because we have lost everything and we can’t return to our homes,” says one lady in the shelters.
Everything indicates that the municipality of Verapaz, its inhabitants and also its health center will be relocated to a more secure and safe area. It is expected that the same thing will happen with Guadeloupe and with its health care facility but, to date, this unit continues to remain open and provide services.
Additionally, the emotional recovery of the people affected by the emergency is also a priority for PAHO/WHO, and support is being provided for the implementation of the National Plan of Protection of Mental Health, in coordination with the Ministry of Health.
* The name of the Doctor has been changed.