Every day at work is different for Dr Giovanna Aguilar. She works as a psychologist and counsellor in a health centre on the outskirts of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, providing specialised care for women survivors of violence. Dr Giovanna’s job often takes her beyond her job description.
“Everyday I see different people with different needs,” she explains, “At times they can be extreme. I have seen people who tell me they have gone for two days without eating. You have to find a way to support them.”
Like many people working on the frontline of El Salvador’s humanitarian crisis, Dr Giovanna has to be ready for anything.
“I am always mindful and empathetic about the wider context that people live in and how violence has impacted other aspects of their lives.”
For many people in El Salvador, a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world, violence is an everyday reality. It’s estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 people are internally displaced by violence each year, with many more fleeing the country to find safety. Violence in El Salvador is often unpredictable. At a moment’s notice, people’s lives can be uprooted. Hidden, on the run, and struggling to survive, one of the greatest challenges for people displaced by violence can be finding the support and services they may desperately need. In a 2017 assessment, the IRC found that families and individuals on the move were often unable to meet their basic needs, such as shelter, food, clothing, and legal support.
In times of crisis, getting the correct information can be lifesaving.
The International Rescue Committee has created CuéntaNos (meaning “tell us” in Spanish) an online platform, easily accessible from a phone or laptop.
Through CuéntaNos, users will find an interactive map which provides trustworthy and up-to-date information about a range of services, where they are located and how to contact and access them. The platform also provides information bulletins, on a variety of topics from human rights to how to get identification documents. People also have the option of using a dedicated CuéntaNos Whatsapp number.
It may be a simple tool, but CuéntaNos offers a myriad of different solutions to the complex challenges that people face in Nothern Central America.
CuéntaNos is used by people in urgent need of services – whether this is shelter for the night, or perhaps the nearest health clinic or job centre.
For example, Dr Giovanna Aguilar has recommended her patients use CuéntaNos to find services.
“My patients' needs are often complex and varied. CuéntaNos can be really helpful in this regard. It provides answers to a lot of my patient’s needs.”
Karen Cruz de Meléndez, a community organiser in San Salvador, had recently helped facilitate an IRC-run training session which introduced CuéntaNos to the communities she works with.
The CuéntaNos training session, which was supported by EU Humanitarian Aid, was helping high-risk communities better prepare for the consequences of violence. Karen could already see the potential of CuentaNos for the people she helped. “In this city, it can be really difficult to find out information. For people who need help it can be difficult to know where we can refer them,” Karen explains.
“CuéntaNos is wonderful! It’s like a directory of services that community groups have at our finger tips. If there is a group following the same goal as us we can then say: let's join together!”
The International Rescue Committee partners with the European Union to provide life-saving support to people caught in conflict and disasters around the world. Our work funded by the EU through the Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO) enables people to survive, recover and rebuild their lives.