SAN SALVADOR – A Salvadoran city hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic also is facing a water crisis that is making it difficult for its inhabitants to practice frequent hand-washing, one of the main recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
EFE observed the same situation in four neighborhoods of the densely populated eastern municipality of Soyapango, part of the San Salvador metropolitan area: people with barrels and other containers waiting for a water tanker truck to arrive.
David Evora – a young taxi driver who lives in the Alta Vista neighborhood, one of that satellite city’s most populous with more than 100,000 inhabitants – told EFE that people in his district have gone 25 days without water, though adding that a small trickle fell from the faucet early Tuesday morning.
A resident of that neighborhood for the past 22 years, he said the supply of water has always been sporadic but the problem has worsened and is more acute during the pandemic because of the importance of hand hygiene.
Residents of another badly affected neighborhood, Sierra Morena, told EFE that they have endured nearly seven months of intermittent water service.
Soyapango Mayor Juan Pablo Alvarez for his part told EFE in an interview that the situation is worrying and said people’s desperation may reach a point where they shut down streets to press their demands.
“Typically 60 percent of the municipality has always had problems with their water (service),” Alvarez said. But amid the pandemic “85 percent of the locality hasn’t had water for more than three weeks.”
He added that the lack of water was one of the causes of a resurgence of coronavirus cases in Soyapango.
Residents of that municipality pay up to $15 a week for water service provided by the state-run National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers, a hefty chunk of change in a Central American country where the minimum salary is just $300 a month.
And now with their faucets dry, they are having to incur the additional expense of purchasing water barrels.
Home to around 400,000 inhabitants, Soyapango is known as the “Industrial City” because of its maquiladora factories, plants where goods are assembled for export. The “Dr. Jose Molina Martinez” National Psychiatric Hospital also is located there.
Soyapango has been El Salvador’s second-hardest-hit municipality (after only the adjacent capital of San Salvador) with 2,068 confirmed coronavirus cases, or 8.7 percent of the nationwide total, according to official figures.
Through Tuesday, the Central American country had reported 23,717 cases, 11,696 of which are active; a total of 633 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 and 11,388 Salvadorans have been hospitalized and released.
The mayor said the biggest wave of infections occurred between June and July and that the figures have started to decline in August.
A total of 407 people died in June in Soyapango, according to Alvarez, who said 59 were determined to be victims of COVID-19 and 95 others are regarded as suspected coronavirus deaths.
The number of death certificates issued in July rose to 521, including 107 COVID-19 deaths and 176 other fatalities suspected of being caused by that respiratory disease.
Alvarez said a contingency plan was put in place to combat the pandemic that included door-to-door visits by doctors, nurses and nurse assistants to detect coronavirus cases.
A total of 35,000 homes have been visited to date, the mayor said, adding that medicine kits are delivered to people who test positive that include vitamin C, zinc, ivermectin and anti-allergic drugs.
“All this with the authorization of the Health Ministry,” Alvarez said.
Soyapango also is seeing an increase in deaths from chronic diseases as a result of the coronavirus crisis, according to the mayor.
“People have been afraid of going to the hospital to get their medications. But on the other hand, they’re not attending to people with chronic diseases because the whole (health) apparatus is focused on the pandemic,” Alvarez said.
He added that 253 people died of chronic diseases in June and 131 more in July.
“The hospital system has completely neglected other illnesses, such as the chronic diseases that also are killing a lot of people, more than COVID,” the mayor said.