Hurricane Ida left behind a trail of destruction when it slammed into El Salvador last November. In the town of Monte San Juan, women's groups are spearheading the reconstruction effort with the help of a programme that keeps their families fed. The project has helped women like Carmen Perez become community leaders. MONTE SAN JUAN � Like many small farmers in Monte San Juan, Carmen Perez lost almost everything when Hurricane Ida tore through El Salvador in November. "My home was completely buried under the mud, and my corn and bean crops were both ruined," she says. After the storm, she and her four children survived on emergency food rations supplied by WFP. Months later, she's still receiving corn and bean rations, but now as a form of compensation for her efforts to rebuild her community. The Food for Work programme is keeping Carmen and her neighbours fed while they clear the roads, build new houses, repair the sewage lines and purify water wells. "Our community is safer. We've repaired the streets and even widened some that were too narrow before. We've also done a lot of work to protect our towns from landslides."
Women in charge
Since the hurricane struck, women's groups like the one to which Carmen belongs have taken the reins of the reconstruction effort. Over 90 percent of the participants are women, who have organized committees that oversee every aspect of the work, from project management right down to worker attendance. They've also been a major source of feedback, both for the government's reconstruction effort and for NGOs and aid agencies like WFP. A key figure in her committee, Carmen points out that their efforts have already paid off. Central America was lashed again in May by Tropical Storm Agatha, which killed over 200 people � 13 of them in El Salvador � making it the deadliest tropical depression to hit Latin America in over a decade. But thanks to the new flood works, damage in Monte San Juan was minimal and no one was hurt.
Food and support
"This project has empowered our community and brought us all together to rebuild it," said Douglas Morales," a community liaison with the Monte San Juan city hall. "Working with WFP has been a big part of our success." Food for Work projects are helping to feed 79 families in Monte San Juan, an area prone to high levels ofmalnutrition even before the 2009 hurricane. The project is among initiatives funded by a donation of USD $375,680 from the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission (ECHO), which have provided assistance to over 55,000 people in El Salvador who lost their homes and livelihoods to the storm. "We thank all those help us succeed. Our community has worked harder than ever to grow and develop," Carmen said.