altThe combined effect of Tropical Storm Ida and a low pressure system off the Pacific coast resulted in heavy rains in El Salvador, between 7 and 8 November 2009, causing severe flooding and landslides in seven of the 14 departments. In just four hours, 355 mm of rainfall were recorded in the most affected areas, not far from where 400 mm was recorded during the four days of Hurricane Mitch (1998). The amount of rain was about five times the average expected precipitation for the month of November.

In addition, the heavy rain caused floods, erosion and landslides on steep slopes. The mixture of water, mud and sediment-material carried by the current-saturated riverbeds which were already overwhelmed by the rainy season that had just ended. It caused widespread flooding in the plains that affected settlements, towns and urban areas. The floods damaged urban and rural infrastructure and the communications sector.

Fifty-two municipalities were affected, 20% of the total in the country. One hundred ninety-nine people died, thousands of people needed to go to shelters due to the loss of their homes, and received health care and mental health support and were given access to water supply and basic sanitation. Also, recovery activities were conducted in health units in the affected areas.

The work of the Pan American Health Organization was conducted in coordination with the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare, the governing body responsible for protecting the health of all people, especially in emergency situations and disasters. The priority was to save lives and assist in the urgent needs of the population directly affected, with the help of countries that immediately responded to the emergency.

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Recovery and Rehabilitation

As the emergency response phase gradually transitions into recovery and rehabilitation and as emergency lifesaving activities slowly wind down, other areas of public health emerge as important concerns:

altSafe Hospitals: an important opportunity is at hand to rebuild these critical facilities, incorporating disaster mitigation measures to reduce their vulnerability to the avoidable consequences of disasters. Read more.


altMental Health: Given the many pressing public health concerns in the aftermath of disasters, mental health care for disaster victims can be overlooked early on. Read more about mental health services and stress management.


altInternational Aid: The arrival of aid from outside an affected area can pose a serious challenge, particularly if it has not been requested, is inappropriate for the situation or diverts personnel from other more pressing tasks. Read more


alt pdf Food Safety in Natural Disasters another serious public health problem in the aftermath of disasters. pdf Consult the guidelines produced by WHO and FAO on this topic and learn about links to other WHO publications that help reduce the threat to public health of inadequate food safety measures.