The Coronavirus epidemic has only worsened the region’s problems

Including severe drought and the devastation caused by two deadly tropical storms, the Covid-19 pandemic has only added to the problems of Central America.

As many as 500,000 individuals in El Salvador are facing severe food shortages. The country’s GDP shrank by 8 percent in 2020, while poverty climbed by 4.6 percentage points during the same period.

From 2020 to 2024, the United States has committed $28 million in direct COVID-19 development assistance to El Salvador through USAID. However, the pandemic is not only affecting people’s livelihoods; it is also impacting their health and wellbeing. Here are five examples of how the US government is working to address COVID-19’s challenges

1. Lifesaving Vaccines and Equipment: The United States government, via USAID, has donated 3.2 million COVID-19 vaccines as well as supported the purchase of laboratory and hospital equipment and personal protective supplies, as well as training health workers who provide essential care, prevent the spread of COVID-19, and give vaccines.

2. Last year, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) helped El Salvador establish a National COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center. Now, they are working with the government to convert the center into a whole-of-government institution that not just tracks infections but other major epidemics as well.

3. To prevent vaccine wastage, the United States government sponsored a project in El Salvador to utilize a remote temperature sensing technology for the national COVID-19 immunization cold chain system. This clever device can notify the ministry of health when vaccines are being transferred from headquarters to rural regions, indicating any decreases in temperature. This is the first time a country’s immunization system has been completely redesigned in this part of the world. USAID assisted in the installation of this technology at headquarters and is now being implemented in 5 basic vaccine depots before expanding to 162 vaccination centers across the nation.

4. To share lessons learned from COVID-19 activities, USAID has encouraged regional cooperation in Northern Central America and beyond, including a virtual international gathering hosted by the Hospital El Salvador’s Ministry of Health. In late July, technical conversations with COVID teams from the Northern Triangle will be held in El Salvador, to be followed by Guatemala and Honduras.

5. Training: USAID helped to set up a national network of remote telemedicine training for 6,000 COVID-19 vaccination teams. This was crucial in preventing COVID-19 from spreading when face-to-face options were impossible. The Hospital El Salvador Telemedicine Center is getting technical assistance from USAID to replicate the training in other areas via partnerships with healthcare facilities. In addition, as part of its nationwide back-to-classroom initiative, USAID collaborators have assisted in the training of the Ministry of Education’s central staff.

In addition to these life-saving COVID-19 activities, the USAID Economic Competitiveness Project aids small and medium-sized businesses in recovering from the COVID-19 recession, creating jobs, and increasing economic prospects at home. In 2020 and 2021, $137 million in new sales and exports were generated as a result of this assistance for these according to the World Bank.