The Sensunapan River near Acajutla. Photo: Luis Galdámez/Oxfam
With climate change, flooding is both more intense and more widespread.

Along the coast of El Salvador, families cope with climate change

At the back of a brick building in a poor neighborhood of Acajutla—El Salvador’s largest and oldest port-- you can just make out the foundation of Marlene Canjura’s former home. It was a small, metal-walled shack with a dirt floor and no toilet. During floods, water would rise as high as her thighs, stagnating inside her home for three days, soaking the already-rotted frame that barely held the house together.

The house is gone now, and Canjura (30 years old), her husband, and their four boys have moved to a new cinder block house with a tile floor and a composting latrine built by an aid group. Canjura, having lived all her life in this mangrove swamp area, explains the impact climate change is having on the community: “When we have these temporales—the storms that rain for several days—the water rises. But with climate change, we’re seeing more intense flooding and we’re also seeing it in areas that didn’t flood before,” she says.

Coping with flooding

One solution, says Canjura, is the construction of a levee system on the Sensunapan River that would protect the densely populated community along one of its banks. But the price tag is steep, and no one has agreed to fund it.

This is why Canjura, with the help of Oxfam and a consortium of aid groups, is now rallying with other local activists to bring their problems to the attention of the Salvadoran government and push for help.

Getting funds to adapt

“We’re trying to organize community councils so we can put together project proposals and seek support,” says Canjura. The recent construction of a seawall in La Playa designed to stop the high tides from spilling onto the coastal road and into the homes of people along it was built with help from Caritas and Oxfam, the mayor’s office, and plenty of manual labor provided by the community.  “All of us felt very proud to have achieved that,” says Canjura.

Oxfam is calling on rich country governments to give money to an adaptation fund for developing countries like El Salvador to deal with the impact of climate change.

Read other stories of how communities are coping with climate change:

 

Zambia’s extended flooding season

 

 

‘I want more rain’: the human impact of climate change in China