- El Salvador
“My mother and father taught us about fairness. They wanted us to understand that having a roof over our heads and food to eat and access to education was a privilege that many people are excluded from. They taught us to share what we had. My father was very committed to social justice. When I was ten, we watched a death squad take him away. We never saw him again.”
El Salvador’s 12-year civil war is seared into the memories of the people who lived through it—survivors like Karen Ramírez.
20 years ago, as a graduate student in chemistry-pharmacology, studying water quality in western El Salvador, a dire injustice came to Karen’s attention. While people with power and money had access to all the water they wanted and more, too often those who lived in poor communities had to invest hours each day getting the minimum they needed for survival. The injustice of it moved and angered her.
“In rural areas in El Salvador, many communities have poor access to potable water. In some cases, there isn’t enough; in some cases, it’s contaminated, which means families need to buy water. But these are families that have no money to spare. An emergency like drought or flooding intensifies their struggle for clean drinking water.”
From the capital city to the far-flung rural communities, Karen is now known for her work on water—from installing wells designed to resist contamination, to improving access to water in emergencies, to advocating for community access to water and safe sanitation.
Photo: James Rodriguez/Oxfam
Right now less than 2 percent of annual humanitarian assistance is used to support local humanitarian organizations in emergencies. It’s time to put more aid resources and decision-making where they should be: in the hands of local humanitarians in countries affected by disaster, conflict, or other crisis. Sign Oxfam America’s petition to empower communities in emergencies.