About El Salvador

Nicknamed the “Land of Volcanoes,” the Republic of El Salvador is bordered by Honduras, Guatemala, and the Pacific Ocean. It is the smallest country in Central America. The population of 6.5 million is overwhelmingly ethnically Mestizo. Languages spoken include Spanish, the official language, and Nawat. About half the population is Roman Catholic, while the rest is Protestant. The country is densely populated throughout, with many people living in and around San Salvador, the capital. Overall, nearly 75 percent of the population lives in urban areas. About 20 percent of Salvadorans live abroad due to a combination of poor economic conditions, civil war, natural disasters, and violence. The geography of El Salvador is unique, with dozens of volcanoes—many of them active—throughout the landscapes.

El Salvador is a former colony of Spain; it achieved independence in 1821, and then again from the Central American Federation in 1839. A civil war ended in 1992, which led to political reforms, but the country has struggled with stability ever since. El Salvador suffers from low economic growth rates and persistent poverty, inequality, and violent gang-related crime. It is afflicted with some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Because so much of the population lives outside El Salvador, remittances account for a large portion of the Salvadoran economy—they make up nearly 20 percent of the GDP led only by exports.

El Salvador faces many challenges when it comes to health. Many of the country's doctors work only in urban areas, resulting in unequal access to healthcare services. Moreover, malnutrition is prevalent throughout the country, while communicable diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, and cholera have re-emerged. Interpersonal violence decreased slightly between 2009 and 2019, but it still continues to be a leading cause of mortality in El Salvador. Other leading causes of death include ischemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, lower respiratory infections, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cirrhosis, road injuries, and COPD. The risk factors that contribute most to deaths and disabilities include high fasting plasma glucose, high body-mass index, high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, dietary risks, malnutrition, air pollution, high LDL, alcohol and tobacco use, and unsafe sex.

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