Partnering to defeat COVID-19 in El Salvador

Person in protective gear giving vaccine shot to woman (U.S. Embassy El Salvador/Juan Carlos Quintero)
The United States is providing COVID-19 vaccine doses, medical equipment and training to help El Salvador save lives and recover from COVID-19. (U.S. Embassy El Salvador/Juan Carlos Quintero)

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened existing challenges in Central America, a region that also suffers from drought and tropical storms.

In El Salvador, as many as 500,000 people now experience acute food insecurity. In 2020, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 8%, after the country’s poverty rate rose 4.6% between 2019 and 2020.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided El Salvador more than $28 million in direct COVID-19 development support since 2020 and has taken numerous other steps to help the country recover.

Here are five ways USAID is providing solutions to help El Salvador overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and improve lives.

1. Providing lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines and equipment: The U.S. government has donated 3.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to El Salvador, part of more than 550 million doses the United States has donated to more than 115 countries. Working with international partners, the U.S. also has provided vaccine doses to other Central American countries, including more than 4.2 million doses to  Honduras and over 8.5 million doses to Guatemala.

U.S. assistance for El Salvador, through USAID, also supported the purchase of laboratory and hospital equipment and the training of health care workers who treat patients and administer vaccines. As of March, 66% of El Salvador’s people were fully vaccinated.

Hand holding vial of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine (U.S. Embassy El Salvador/Juan Carlos Quintero)
The U.S. government has delivered over 3.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to help save lives in El Salvador. (U.S. Embassy El Salvador/Juan Carlos Quintero)

2. Tracking infectious diseases: In 2021, USAID helped El Salvador establish a National COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center. El Salvador’s government is now expanding the center using a USAID-supported monitoring system to track other infectious diseases, including cases and immunizations to better prepare for and respond to disease threats and prevent future pandemics.

3. Preserving valuable COVID-19 vaccines: USAID strengthened El Salvador’s national cold-chain immunization system with remote temperature-sensing technology to ensure COVID-19 vaccines stay cold until they can be administered. The technology informs El Salvador’s Ministry of Health of temperature changes during vaccine transport. It is now being rolled out in five regions and will expand to 162 vaccination centers nationwide.

4. Sharing lessons learned: USAID convenes teams from throughout northern Central America and beyond to share lessons learned from COVID-19 interventions. Technical exchanges will occur in El Salvador in July and in Guatemala and Honduras after that.

Man holding microphone talking to several people as woman lies on bed (USAID/Enrique Alarcon)
USAID trains health workers in critical care and COVID-19 prevention. (USAID/Enrique Alarcon)

5. Training vaccination teams: USAID supported remote telemedicine training for 6,000 COVID-19 vaccination teams from across El Salvador. With USAID’s technical assistance, the Hospital El Salvador Telemedicine Center will replicate the training for regional medical facilities. USAID partners are also helping to train staff at the Ministry of Education as it rolls out a national back-to-classroom strategy.

Meanwhile, USAID’s Economic Competitiveness Project is helping El Salvador’s micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises create jobs and spur economic recovery from COVID-19. USAID assistance to these businesses generated $137 million in new sales and exports in 2020 and 2021. El Salvador’s GDP rebounded in 2021 and is expected to grow 2.9% this year, according to the World Bank.

A version of this story appeared on Medium.