INFORM measures El Salvador's risk of humanitarian crisis and disaster to be medium, at 3.5/10. Lack of coping capacity is of particular concern, at 4.7/10.?

The country is recovering from drought since 2015, and was categorised as No Severity in the Global Emergency Overview since mid-December. The crisis analysis is no longer updated, but ACAPS continues to monitor El Salvador on a weekly basis, due to its gang violence and underlying vulnerability.


Information Gaps and needs

  • Limited information from humanitarian actors on WASH, education, and food security. Updates on the drought situation in the eastern ‘dry corridor’ are rare.  
  • Limited information on the number of displaced, their location and their needs. In 2015, 324,000 people were displaced because of violence.? It is unclear whether these people migrated or displaced internally. Numbers of people fleeing El Salvador are not available: they are grouped into the population fleeing the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala).

Lessons learned

El Salvador is earthquake prone. Two large earthquakes happened in 2001 and 2005. The government was more prepared for an earthquake in 2005. However, while some larger cities have incorporated disaster plans, poor communities that live in more earthquake-prone areas have not. Both earthquakes affected the poorest people. In 2001 and 2005, the international community provided most response, rather than national or regional initiatives.? 

 Mano Dura (‘iron fist’) policies are used by the government to reduce crime and combat gang violence. These policies can include deploying more special response teams to combat crime, heavy sentencing, and being tough on crime overall. However, Mano Dura policies have not been proven effective.? While gangs are responsible for violence in El Salvador, crimes from law enforcement against alleged gang members increase protection concerns.? Protection concerns are also raised for children, who are recruited into gangs at a young age, and are also targeted by the government through Mano Dura policies.?

Key documents

Martínez, Lemus, Martínez, & Sontag


Killers on a shoestring: Inside the gangs of El Salvador

Amnesty International


Home sweet home? Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador's role in a deepening crisis



Humanitarian Needs Overview Central America

Congressional Research Service


Gangs in Central America



Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing the International Protections Needs of Asylum-Seekers from El Salvador

Council on Foreign Relations


Central America's Violent Northern Triangle