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Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO provides urgent support to safeguard El Salvador’s National Library

15 May 2019

The heavy rains that have hit El Salvador since the end of April 2019 have significantly damaged the National Library and the National Theatre of El Salvador, and their documentary collections. 

UNESCO’s urgent support has been requested by the Ministry of Culture of El Salvador to provide emergency assistance for the safeguarding and recovery of the buildings and their historic collections, which are part of the country‘s built and documentary heritage. According to local authorities, the National Library and National Theatre have experienced extensive structural damage and a valuable collection of newspaper articles, covering important aspects of the country’s post-independence period, has been seriously damaged.  

In response, UNESCO, through its Heritage Emergency Fund, is quickly providing technical assistance. Material and equipment such as temperature gauges, machines to extract humidity, packing boxes and protective material specifically designed for documentary collections have been provided for the recovery of the invaluable items at risk.  
An expert mission is ongoing to assess the damage and provide advice to the responsible authorities, including strategies for preventing similar disasters at other cultural institutions and repositories in El Salvador.

On Thursday 8 May, the Director and Representative of UNESCO for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, Ms Esther Kuisch Laroche, accompanied by the Minister of Culture of El Salvador, H.E. Ms Silvia Elena Regalado, visited the affected sites and made a

first delivery of essential equipment and materials for the salvaging of the documents affected by the flood at the National Library.

During the visit, Ms Kuisch Laroche reiterated UNESCO’s full support as well as encouraged and congratulated the Library’s staff for the exceptional efforts being made to rescue as many of the documents damaged by the flood as possible. 

The events in El Salvador highlight the importance of placing more emphasis on disaster risk reduction, preventive and response measures, and the preservation of heritage in all its forms. To this end, UNESCO will be organizing workshops on this theme in El Salvador, Honduras, Panamá and Costa Rica within the next three months. These trainings aim to support governments, libraries, archives and museums to develop action plans to protect, preserve and restore documentary heritage.