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Our work in
El Salvador

The challenges

Limited learning opportunities

Learning poverty is prevalent in El Salvador, with only 34% of high school graduates reading and understanding a simple text. During the Covid 19 pandemic, 1.3 million children were affected by containment measures which resulted in a 13-month closure of schools, further exacerbating the country’s existing learning crisis. The latest assessment by the Ministry of Education highlighted that address changes, migration, job searches, gang threats and adolescent pregnancies are the leading causes for school dropout. The rate of school dropout rises particularly from age 11, which coincides with the age range in at which human rights violations increase. As children reach puberty, gangs are more likely to want to recruit or abuse them.


In the decades since its civil war, El Salvador has experienced high rates of community violence, mainly due to gang activities and organised crime, which disproportionately victimise children and young people. Salvadoran gangs are known to forcibly recruit children, putting them at risk of falling into a lifetime of crime. High rates of violence also significantly threaten the well-being and safety of Salvadoran children.

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In March 2021, El Salvador’s President embarked on a crackdown on gang violence, declaring a ‘state of exception’. The emergency measures introduced, suspended certain constitutional rights. In total, eight reforms were pushed through the congress at this time, including the ability to sentence minors aged between 12 and 16 for up to 10 years in prison for gang-related crimes. In reality, it is likely that many innocent young people will have been wrongfully arrested due to the government's tough approach, with children and young people on the streets becoming even more vulnerable to being wrongfully caught up in the government's crackdown on crime.

Violence and abuse

In El Salvador, both boys and girls experience unacceptably high rates of sexual and physical violence. Findings from the latest national survey on Violence Against Children conducted by the Ministry of Justice in 2017 highlighted that one in five males and one in three females experienced any type of violence, representing a substantial portion of Salvadorian youth. Physical violence was the most common type of violence experienced in childhood, affecting about 20% of females and males. In addition, shortfalls in specialised services for children and young people pose barriers to their protection and community reintegration. Among girls who have experienced sexual violence, less than 15% of girls and 0% boys received help.

Birth registration

Approximately 670,000 children are not registered in El Salvador. Children who are not registered in El Salvador can enrol into school however they cannot sit or pass exams, move from grade to grade, or progress from primary to secondary school. Without a birth certificate, young people upon turning 18 cannot register for an identity card which means fewer opportunities to access legal employment, exclusion from opening a bank account and issues when applying for housing.

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In El Salvador, there are two processes for retrospectively registering a child – late settlements (90 days to 7 years) and subsidiary at birth (age 7 and older). The late settlement process takes from one to four months to complete. But for those over 7 years of age, the process becomes a lot more complicated and can take anywhere from six months to more than a year to complete. The costs can also be between $800 and $1,500, which are prohibitive for many families.

Our work in El Salvador

Our work in El Salvador


  • Children have the opportunity to attend homework clubs where they receive extracurricular support with their studies, to help them perform better in school and reach the level appropriate to their age. Children receive support to strengthen their basic educational competences in language communication, reading, writing, maths and English. The sessions also cover topics such as, child rights and emotional intelligence and promote child well- being through creative activities.
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  • Children at the project attend workshops focused on their safety and protection. The activities also help to create alternative social networks for children, away from the dangers of the streets and the lure of gang culture.

  • Children are supported in learning a range of soft skills, to contribute towards their overall academic performance. Topics include strengthening self-esteem, managing emotions, effective communication, teamwork and conflict resolution.

  • Counselling sessions are delivered to give children the opportunity to express their feelings through art and play.

  • Birth registration awareness-raising campaigns inform and encourage parents and caregivers to ensure their children are registered and have their birth certificates and an identity card appropriate for their age.

  • Counselling and individual support is given to the children and their families on registration and obtaining identification documents.

  • Unregistered children are supported by project staff in the process of obtaining their birth certificates.

  • The project delivers training for officials in relevant institutions and government departments responsible for registration, focused on optimising the processes for retrospectively registering children who were not registered at birth.


  • Parents have the opportunity to learn positive parenting techniques and news ways to interact with their children to enhance family relationships and strengthen their skills in caring for their children.

  • Family activities are run regularly, focussing on strengthening family bonds.


Our work in El Salvador has changed lives


Birth Registration • El Salvador • 2022

Alma was born on the streets of El Salvador. When she was three years old, her grandmother took custody of her, hoping to give her a better life. Now, although the area where she lives is incredibly dangerous, Alma is off the streets and in school hoping, one day, to travel and have a legal job to earn money.

Read Alma's story


Birth Registration • El Salvador • 2022

In El Salvador, a birth certificate is a vital document. Unfortunately, Samuel’s dad died before he was registered, meaning that for years, he couldn’t go to school. Although his mum tried her best, it wasn’t until she had support from Viva that Samuel finally got his birth certificate. Now he’s excited to start his life and follow his dreams.

Read Samuel's story


Street Outreach • El Salvador • 2022

Monica attends a project in one of San Salvador’s largest markets. Like many children in the market, she helps out at her family’s stall, but this has sometimes hindered her education. Thankfully, she’s been attending education activities for over seven years – also giving her the opportunity to develop her love for art.

Read Monica's story

Eva & Lina

Birth Registration • El Salvador • 2022

Before December 2021, neither Eva nor Lina officially existed. Growing up, they spent their days working on the streets with the rest of their family, selling sweets and cleaning car windscreens. Neither of them knew their birthdays until they met Viva and were supported through all the processes to get their birth certificates. Finally, they both officially exist.

Read Eva & Lina's story


Birth Registration • El Salvador • 2022

Growing up in San Salvador can be tough. For 17-year-old Marta, it was more difficult still after her mum abandoned her, without registering her birth. Although her grandmother brought her up, Marta could never access her rights and when she had her own daughter, she feared the same for her. Thankfully, she met our partner in El Salvador and now she and her daughter both officially exist.

Read Marta's story