Health, Education, and Entitlements

El Salvador Table of Contents

Historically, El Salvador's health care system has fallen short of the country's needs. The government's ability to provide adequate health care eroded during the 1980s because of the civil conflict's costliness and guerrilla attacks that destroyed many previously existing facilities. Spending on health care, as well as other social services, was supplanted by increases in military spending. Consequently, government spending on health services declined as a share of total expenditures from 10 percent in 1978 to 7.5 percent in 1986.

Nevertheless, compared with its performance earlier in the decade, health care improved in the mid-1980s, largely because of AID efforts. With AID assistance, the Salvadoran government circumvented drastic reductions in social services--despite cuts to these services in the fiscal budget--and progressed in a number of areas. Between 1984 and 1986, malaria cases declined from 62,000 to 23,500; officials from the Ministry of Public Health and Social Services were able to make 914 prenatal visits per 1,000 births in 1986, compared with 876 in 1984; health officials also increased distribution of oral rehydration packets (vital to reducing infant mortality) by 130 percent, from 650,000 in 1984 to 1.5 million in 1986.

Education's share of government expenditures declined, a side effect of the civil conflict, from 21.4 percent in 1976 to 14.5 percent in 1986. As a result, by 1986 over 1,000 schools had been abandoned.

Government spending on social security and welfare increased from US$11 million in 1976 to US$31 million in 1985, an increase in line with that for total government spending. Spending on housing and amenities, however, declined in nominal terms, from US$11 million in 1976 to US$6 million in 1985. This category included spending on sanitary services, which declined from US$800,000 in 1976 to US$200,000 in 1985, after dropping to a low of US$100,000 between 1979 and 1981.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress