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Vulnerable families’ livelihoods in the region are facing critical conditions, combined with the impact of COVID-19

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua
  • April 2020
Vulnerable families’ livelihoods in the region are facing critical conditions, combined with the impact of COVID-19

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
      • For this agricultural season, forecasts indicate that the rainy season will set in in mid-April and will follow average ranges during the period until September. This will benefit sowing and the good phenological development of the Primera season of basic grains.
    • The isolation and social-distancing measures adopted in Honduras and El Salvador to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have led to increased unemployment and reduced salaries, affecting vulnerable rural and urban families. Nicaragua has not implemented any measures to date.

    • To address the effects of income shortages due to unemployment and restrictions on movement, the governments of the region have adopted food assistance and financial transfer plans; Honduras will provide 800,000 families with mitigation food rations during May and possibly June; and El Salvador will transfer USD 300 each to approximately 1.5 million families. At the same time, governments are promoting actions to ensure the supply and price stabilization of basic consumer goods.

    • The poorest households, who lost their harvest last year and who earn their income from selling firewood, extracting sand or stone for construction, and through urban migration, are currently unable to travel to cities in search of employment in informal commerce, construction or as security staff.

    • The depletion of food reserves, the loss of employment, the difficulty in traveling to look for income and the rising cost of basic goods, among other complications generated by COVID-19, have lead toStressed acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 2!) thanks to food assistance until May in Honduras and El Salvador. Between June and September, following the possible lifting of measures and the reactivation of the economy, El Salvador will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) but Honduras will continue to suffer from the accumulated negative impact of COVID-19 measures and 2019 harvest losses, and impacted regions will enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Nicaragua will remain Stressed (IPC phase 2) between May and September.




    El Salvador and Honduras

    • Lockdown and social-distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have led to unemployment and reduced salaries, predominantly affecting the retail, tourism, construction, manufacturing and education sectors.
    • COVID-19 control measures have had the greatest impact on the income of people who depend on the informal economy.
    • Reduced income among the population have forced some households to reduce on the size and number of meals.
    • Deterioration of productive capacities and human capital due to the economic breakdown caused by COVID-19, particularly in Honduras.
    • Transfers of family remittances from abroad are expected to decrease.
    • Poor families are likely to find themselves in the lean season without economic resources, dependent on the market, with prices of basic goods rising and employment constraints caused by COVID-19.
    • Low export prices and the effects of COVID-19 mean that investment in coffee-growing could be affected.


    • Indebtedness among the poorest sections of the population to buy food.
    • Moderate increases in the prices of certain commodities (vegetables, basic grains, fats and oils).
    • The price of maize is expected to rise above both last year’s price and the five-year average in Honduras and Nicaragua.
    • The price of red beans is expected to rise above last year in the three countries and above the average in Honduras and Nicaragua.


    To reduce the spread of COVID-19, governments have taken lockdown and social-distancing measures, including: curfews, the suspension of urban and extra-urban transport and the closure of educational establishments, shopping centers and services; these measures are expected to be lifted from June onwards. Adverse effects on countries’ economies are anticipated, demanding medium- and long-term socioeconomic mitigation strategies.

    According to the World Bank, economic growth prospects for the region’s countries are negative in 2020 (Honduras -2.3, El Salvador -4.3 and Nicaragua -4.3), leading to an increased poverty gap.

    The survey carried out by the Salvadoran Chamber of Commerce and Industry in early April 2020 on the impact of the extension of COVID-19 emergency measures on the economy identified the following effects: 28 percent of companies have registered a 75 percent drop in sales and 37.9 percent report a 100 percent drop. If the emergency period lasts for four weeks, 23 percent are likely to have to reduce operations, 23 percent will suspend operations, 21 percent will cut staff, 11 percent will diversify services, 9 percent will close branches, and 8 percent will continue until closure while 5 percent will close for good. Only 2 percent of respondents said they could continue working in the same way as before the emergency.

    The COVID-19 survey “Analysis of Corporate Resilience”, conducted by Honduran researchers and business associations in late March, indicates that 70 percent of companies did not register any sales, 27 percent of companies had to negotiate job terminations and 19 percent terminated permanent employee contracts; 15 percent of companies are closing, 30 percent will close within a month, 39.4 percent will survive for a period of up to 3 months, 10.2 percent up to 6 months, 2.9 percent up to 12 months and only 2.5 percent would be able to survive for a year or more.

    It is the informal economy, which accounts for a high percentage of the economically active population (EAP) in these countries, that is most affected by isolation and social-distancing measures.

    The 2019/2020 Apante season will finish in April, predominantly in production areas in Honduras and Nicaragua. This is expected to partially meet the demand for basic grains in the region during the season of lower production (May-October). There are also commercial imports and government strategic reserves, which are expected to cover the shortfall in maize production resulting from drought losses during the Primera season (main harvest 2019), mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua.

    To avoid stockpiling and unbridled rises in the price of basic consumer goods, governments have implemented price control and supply monitoring mechanisms in distribution centers. Despite these mechanisms, however, sector operators have reported increases in the prices of basic goods.

    The effects of COVID-19 mean that foreign exchange income from family remittances from abroad may be affected. This is a result of the situation in the countries of residence: in Honduras, the highest percentages come from the United States (80.3 percent), Spain (7.8 percent), and Costa Rica (2.1 percent); in El Salvador 95 percent comes from the United States and the rest mainly from Canada, Spain and Italy; in Nicaragua, they come from the United States (56 percent), Costa Rica (17.5 percent), Spain (13 percent) and Panama (5.2 percent).

    According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) the composite indicator price for coffee in March rose 6.9 percent from February, to 109.05 US cents per pound. Alongside this, there has been a decline in exports from the largest producers; it is thus estimated that COVID-19 will have a profound impact on the global coffee sector, affecting production, consumption and international trade.

    The weather forecasts for this agricultural season (2020–2021) predict a normal rainfall pattern. Combined with direct government support for agricultural production and employment generation, this means that good basic grain production may be expected in the Primera season.

    The Government of El Salvador has implemented a USD 300 payment per family, which is currently being distributed. It is predominantly aimed at people in the informal economy, to compensate for the lack of basic income on which to survive, and it is estimated that 1.5 million families will be covered. It has also implemented actions to guarantee emergency food reserves of basic grains by importing maize, beans and rice. Alongside this, it is maintaining a cap on the prices of basic goods and supervising distribution centers to avoid stockpiling and speculation.

    The Honduran government has launched the Plan Honduras Solidaria [Honduras Solidarity Plan] with the aim of providing food rations to 800,000 families, representing a population of 3.2 million people across the entire country, during May and possibly June. It is also promoting strategies for reactivating production, declaring food and agro-industrial production a national priority. Among other decisions, it is making unused government-owned, national and commonly-owned ejido land available for production. It has instructed the administration of the National Treasury to allocate approximately USD 258 million to implementing existing projects linked to rural production and reactivation in the dry corridor; it has also ordered implementation of the Plan for the Renovation and Maintenance of Public Infrastructure for the Storage, Conservation and Distribution of Grains nationally. Assistance is planned until June. At present there is no confirmed information on support for subsequent months.

    Poor families are dependent on the food assistance provided by central governments, as well as by municipal authorities, non-governmental organizations, the business sector and religious communities, to survive. In rural areas, they wait until the rainy season has set in before beginning the agricultural work of sowing the Primera crop. It is thus anticipated that food assistance to the poorest households will be necessary from June to September, even when the movement of people begins to return to normal. This is due to the difficulties they will face in finding employment or generating income again and because the rural population will rely on their harvests at the end of the period for food.

    Measures taken by governments to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (isolation, distancing, suspension of work and transport, closure of shopping centers and other services) are affecting the employment of the population in general and the informal sector in particular. At present, this situation has had a lesser impact on Nicaragua, which has not officially adopted measures to control COVID-19. However, given the spread of the virus, the short-term situation in the country may equal or become more severe than other countries of the region.

    Families that have exhausted their food reserves and income from agricultural work (coffee and sugar cane harvesting, and other local or distant jobs) in recent months will have difficulty in meeting basic food needs and will also face rises in the prices of basic consumer goods. However, some of this population will be supported by aid programs, and will thus be in Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2!) until June in El Salvador and Honduras; between July and September the dry corridor areas in Honduras that have been affected for several years running by poor harvests and a deterioration of livelihoods, and assuming the discontinuation of food aid, will face greater difficulties in meeting food needs. These families will be in Crisis food insecurity (IPC Phase 3). In El Salvador, during the gradual return to normal economic activities, the food situation is likely to improve, reaching Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2). In Nicaragua, areas impacted by the 2019 drought will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), although a limited number of households are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    Figures El pronóstico es de precipitaciones superiores al promedio en la región

    Figure 1

    Figura 1

    Source: NMME-CPC-NOAA

    Los precios se mantienen al rededor del promedio y por arriba a partir de agosto

    Figure 2

    Figura 2

    Source: FEWS NET con datos del Ministerio de Agricultura

    Los precios se mantienen al rededor del promedio

    Figure 3

    Figura 3

    Source: FEWS NET con datos del Ministerio de Agricultura

    Los precios sobrepasan al promedio hasta junio para luego volver debajo de el

    Figure 4

    Figura 4

    Source: FEWS NET con datos del Ministerio de Agricultura

    Los precios se mantienen por arriba del promedio

    Figure 5

    Figura 5

    Source: FEWS NET con datos del Ministerio de Agricultura

    Los precios se mantienen por arriba del promedio

    Figure 6

    Figura 6

    Source: FEWS NET con datos del Ministerio de Agricultura

    Los precios se mantienen levemente por arriba del promedio

    Figure 7

    Figura 7

    Source: FEWS NET con datos del Ministerio de Agricultura

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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