El Salvador

Because of you

Youth for Christ’s local team in El Salvador is currently discipling young people through sports ministry and  English lessons.

El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world, with one of the highest murder rates.

A mara

A ‘mara’ gang member

Official reports for 2011 state that a total of 4,374 murders were committed in El Salvador last year, equivalent to a homicide rate of 70 per 100,000 population, one of the highest in the world according to several international studies. Eighty-five percent of the murder victims were male, and 83 percent of the crimes were committed in the central department (province) of San Salvador, where the capital city is located. Crime and violence in El Salvador, and more generally in Central America, also undermines social capital and erodes the assets and incomes of the poor, impeding safe access to education and reducing employment opportunities. Addressing this challenge will need a concerted and multipronged effort on the part of governments, civil society, and international development partners. El Salvador, together with Honduras and Guatemala, face an acute and serious crime problem caused by ‘mara’ activities. In El Salvador alone, with its 6.6 million people, some 40,000 young people have been recruited as ‘mara’ members, according to police calculations.

Poverty and social exclusion were the prevalent cultural conditions that impelled young Central Americans with no future to join the ranks of the maras. El Salvador is experiencing new forms of violence: barbaric murders, massacres of entire families and the resurgence of clandestine cemeteries in the Salvadoran countryside, where killers bury their victims in shallow mass graves, consigning them to the long list of the disappeared.

  • Population: 6,6 million people – UN International Data Base.
  • Young people who have been recruited as ‘mara’ members: 44,000(Estimated)
  • 9,000 of these young people are in prison.
  • Over 2 million people live in high-risk areas. Gangs dominate these high-risk areas.
  • Around 800,000 children and young people of those who live in these areas are directly influenced by the phenomenon of the Maras.
  • Young people between 11 to 17 years are more likely to join gangs.


  • Nine out of ten people who die each year in the country are young people between 15 to 17 years.
  • Murders with firearms: 2000: 1,932
  • Homicides: 2003: 2,112, 2004: 2,756
  • Young people – Annual victims of homicide: (SOURCE: American University of El Salvador, 2005) 15-17 years: 93%
  • Average Age at which young people join gangs: 13.5 years

In this context, Youth for Christ in El Salvador is interested in working on prevention, focusing on the effort to decrease the number of people who join gangs or maras, based on a plan that focuses on the character and self-esteem of young people at risk, family integration projects, sports and vocational workshops.

Currently, Youth for Christ in El Salvador has open doors in four public high schools. and is still working with the Ministry of Education in order to obtain a license for an extended linkage with these institutions. Also, Youth for Christ has been offered a work position in one of the two rehabilitation centers for young gang members who are in prison. This center is in the municipality of Tonacatepeque, San Salvador. No ministry has begun at the institution yet.