El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated state on the mainland of the Americas, and the most industrialized in Central America. However, poverty, civil war, natural disasters and their consequent dislocations define much of contemporary El Salvador, which is among the most violent and crime-ridden countries in the Americas.
Hospitals and health facilities are not enough to meet demand and are lacking in the basic medicines, equipment and trained staff that they require. In rural areas up to 90 per cent of people do not have access to clean drinking water and 70 per cent to any form of sanitation. Severe malnutrition is also common. Despite the provision of free education, 20 per cent of the population is illiterate. The few schools available are poorly equipped. Many children cannot attend school because it is too far away, or because they are needed by their parents to help with farm work in order to maintain the family income
The charity began working in El Salvador in 1972. Today there are four SOS Children's Villages with ancillary social welfare and medical facilities providing support and care for the wider community.
The charity built its first community in the small town of Sonsonate, about 60 km west of El Salvador. It is now used exclusively as a community where SOS youngsters can take their first guided steps towards independence whilst completing their education or vocational training, whilst in 1990 a new SOS Children's community was built just outside Sonsonate. The SOS Children Sonsonate has twelve family houses, a kindergarten for both the SOS and local children and an SOS Social Centre which provides day care for local children and medical care and dentistry. Children from the village attend local schools in nearby Sonzacate.
SOS Children Santa Tecla opened in 1982 in the city of Santa Tecla, about 25 km west of El Salvador. Built on a former coffee plantation, it has twelve family houses, a youth house for the older children and a kindergarten, as well as fruit and vegetable gardens supplying the village's needs. Around 150 children and teenagers live in the village, attending the local schools.
The charity built a community in 1985 on the outskirts of Santa Ana, the country's second largest city. The village has thirteen family houses and a youth house, as well as a kindergarten. Vocational training opportunities are provided in various workshops and the village's own coffee plantation and farm. Schools and medical facilities are available nearby.