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El Salvador

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El Salvador is one of the smallest, poorest and most densely populated nations in Central America. Unlike its neighboring countries, it does not border the Caribbean Sea, and it has no new frontiers into which people may move. Coffee production dominates El Salvador’s economy and provides the majority of the country’s jobs.

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Further expansion of agriculture is difficult because of the limited land available for farming. Those who farm simply to survive, subsistence farmers, make up 40 percent of the population and have no empty lands available to them.

With 644 people per square mile, El Salvador’s population is three and a half times denser than Guatemala’s and up to 10 times denser than that of other Central American nations. The large population stretches natural resources to their breaking points and contributes to housing shortages caused by lack of available land. El Salvador’s educational system is compulsory. However, 30 percent of all children do not attend primary school. Adult literacy in cities approaches 80 percent but only about half of the people living in rural areas can read and write.

Food For The Poor has been actively working in El Salvador since 1996. There are several projects geared toward the production of protein-rich foods ― chickens, hens, goats, and Pelibuey sheep. These high-protein food sources are important in a population where malnutrition is a common threat. Other key projects:

  • Building of 445 housing units
  • Construction of more than 15 water projects
  • Supporting cultural and art centers
  • Development of vocational and training programs

Learn more about our projects in El Salvador


El Salvador Map El Salvadorn Country Flag

El Salvador achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and from the Central American Federation in 1839. A 12-year civil war, which cost about 75,000 lives, was brought to a close in 1992 when the government and leftist rebels signed a treaty that provided for military and political reforms.

Fast Facts

  • Area ― 21,041 square kilometers (slightly smaller than Massachusetts)
  • Population ― 7,185,218 (July 2010 est.)
  • Capital ― San Salvador
  • Independence Day ― Sept. 15 (1821)
  • Languages ― Spanish, Nahua (among some Amerindians)
  • Religion ― Roman Catholic 57.1%, Protestant 21.2%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.9%, Mormon 0.7%, other religions 2.3%, none 16.8% (2003 est.)
  • Currency ― The U.S. dollar became El Salvador’s currency in 2001
  • Unemployment ― 7.2% (2009 est.)
  • Literacy rate ― Total population: 81.1% |  Male: 82.8% | Female: 79.6% (Defined: Those age 10 and older who can read and write) (2007 census)


By Age: (2010 est.)

0-14 years: 35.4% (male 1,299,608/female 1,245,617)
15-64 years: 59.3% (male 2,033,423/female 2,225,810)
65 years and over: 5.3% (male 166,224/female 214,536)

Median Age: (2010 est.)

Total: 23.9 years
Male: 22.5 years
Female: 25.3 years

Infant Mortality: (2010 est.)

Total: 21.52 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 24.38 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 18.52 deaths/1,000 live births

Life Expectancy: (2010 est.)

Total: 72.33 years
Male: 68.72 years
Female: 76.11 years

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