El Salvador declares drought emergency for first time ever

Women wash their clothes at the Acelhuate river in Nejapa, El Salvador February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador declared a water shortage emergency for the first time in its history on Thursday, citing the effects of climate change and the El Niño phenomenon, the country’s president said.

In the last four years, rainfall has decreased considerably in the Central American country, and river and water reserve levels have reached a critical state, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said at a news conference.

In recent weeks, residents from neighborhoods on the outskirts of the capital city of San Salvador have protested because of water shortages in their communities.

Countries across Central America declared an agricultural alert last year as a result of the severe drought which has affected some 1.6 million people in the region, in particular growers of coffee, corn and beans.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Andrew Hay