Crisis in Central America: food security and decent housing among the critical unmet needs of the population, reports IRC – El Salvador


New York, NY, September 5, 2022 — Thousands of Central Americans are experiencing a humanitarian crisis, including food insecurity, violence and shift. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that covering the most basic needs of populations remains a challenge and calls on the international community to allocate funds to provide a global response.

The IRC analyzed data collected through an emergency cash assistance program implemented in the first half of 2022, which reached more than 3,000 people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Based on the information shared by participants, the IRC found that for them the main challenges were:

  • Being unable to pay for basic needs such as food. Before receiving the emergency cash assistance, 97% said they did not have the resources to fully pay for goods, utilities or essential services to ensure their long-term survival and a minimum standard of living. Basic needs include, but are not limited to, adequate food, clean water, healthcare, or education.

  • Being forced into negative coping strategies. Lack of sufficient income meant that to meet their immediate food security needs, 50% of people adopted coping strategies that reduced their future productivity. A relevant percentage of respondents (40%) reported resorting to “crisis” coping strategies, meaning being forced to sell any productive assets they might have, while 10% reported “emergency” actions, which are difficult to reverse, such as selling their land.

  • Suffering from hunger and insufficient intake of nutrients. On average, 44% of families reported eating two or fewer meals a day before receiving economic support. Based on the Food Consumption Score, it was determined that 1 in 4 families had poor food consumption, which means that people in the household were unable to eat at least basic foods (such as corn, rice or plantains) and vegetables daily.

  • Lack of safe or decent housing. Despite emergency assistance, 29% of families said they lived in places where they could not feel safe and peaceful. In fact, 40% said they did not have adequate space, considering factors such as heat, fresh air, and protection from extreme weather conditions.

Meg Galas, director for North Central America at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said:

“People in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras continue to face challenges such as poor economic conditions that make it difficult to meet their most basic needs. During humanitarian crises like these, certain groups are more at risk and face more barriers to living safely, including women, children, Indigenous peoples and the LGBTQ+ community. For example, 1 in 4 families surveyed who needed emergency financial assistance identified themselves as part of an Indigenous group.

“When we talk about humanitarian emergencies and countries in Central America, we have to remember that the crisis originated thousands of miles from the US-Mexico border. There are hundreds of thousands of people in these countries who urgently need help with food and shelter. In collaboration with all sectors—and with the support of the international community—we must all design and implement an expanded response that helps people survive, recover and rebuild their lives in their homes.

The data was obtained after analyzing information provided by people before and after participating in an emergency cash assistance program implemented by the IRC and funded by the Office of Humanitarian Aid (BHA) of USAID. Through this program, the IRC provided support so that families living in crisis contexts in northern Central America could cover immediate needs such as food, shelter or medicine.

IRC’s response in northern Central America

Today, the IRC serves individuals and families at heightened risk of violence and displacement, including internally displaced persons, returnees, women, girls, youth and members from the LGBTQ+ community who have survived gender-based violence. IRC programming in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras includes multipurpose cash transfers to cover basic needs; creating safe spaces for women, youth and the LGBTQ+ community; case management and psychosocial support; and CuentaNosan information platform.


Everardo Esquivel
International Rescue Committee
[email protected]

Kelly Ryan
International Rescue Committee
[email protected]

IRC Global Communications
+1 646 761 0307
[email protected]


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