Health and Life in Nicaragua
Nicaragua has a long history of natural disaster, social conflict and revolution. Unfortunately, these events have wreaked havoc on Nicaragua’s economy and health care system. While improvements to the economy have been made, as of 2012 Nicaragua was second only to Haiti in the percentage of its population living under $2 per day which is approximately 32%. Almost 70% of its population lives under $4 per day- high in comparison to its neighbors Guatemala and Honduras which are 52% and 53% respectively. About 63 percent of rural households are living in poverty.
Nicaragua’s health concerns are varied and can make statistical averages difficult to interpret. Poor rural and indigenous populations have health concerns that are different from urban centers. In poor rural areas and areas with indigenous populations, primary health concerns include neonatal mortality, maternal mortality, and communicable diseases. Mortality in children under 5 is approximately 26/1000 and the maternal death ratio is 95 deaths per 100,000 births. The leading causes are diarrhea, respiratory disease, malnutrition, and meningitis. Communicable diseases of particular concern include malaria, the prevalence of Tuberculosis and the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS. The incidence of HIV/AIDS seems to be shifting for women in particular.
While non-communicable disease is a broad concern, its characterization in the urban setting can be unique. Within the non-communicable disease category, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer are leading causes. In the urban population, mental illness, neurosis, alcoholism and violence are of particular concern. Leading causes of non-communicable disease deaths in young people aged 10-19 include traffic accidents, suicide, drowning, injuries and leukemia.
Nicaragua also has a high risk for natural disaster as it is susceptible to hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flooding and droughts. Each of these has their own direct and indirect health impacts including, but not exclusively: injury, changes in disease patterns, crop loss, loss of housing.
Dental disease is also prevalent in Nicaragua, especially among children. Our partner, Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC), conducted a survey and found that of 570 children living in Matagalpa, only one child had ever visited a dentist, and 458 of the children had cavities—averaging 4.5 cavities per child.
Medical Teams International has provided various types of support, including grant funding and volunteer teams. We have sent volunteer teams to Nicaragua since 1999. In partnership with AMC, a Nicaraguan Christian nonprofit, our volunteers have provided:
- emergency medical care to survivors of Hurricane Mitch
- dental care for impoverished families and training for dental health promoters
- OB/GYN and midwifery training to enhance the skills of local midwives
- medical services for people without access to care
MTI will continue to collaborating with AMC in the coming years. MTI and AMC are actively exploring new ways to collaborate in order meet the varied and emerging health needs of Nicaraguans.
MTI partner in Nicaragua
Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC) is a Christian grassroots Nicaraguan organization that was founded by a group of socially minded university students in 1984. The organization implements community health and development programs in poor communities in Nicaragua, with an emphasis on women, children and adolescents. The focus of the organization is on preventive and holistic health interventions.
Volunteers should familiarize themselves with the security situation in Mexico by researching various websites: the Overseas Security Advisory Council - http://www.osac.gov, the U.S. Department of State - http://travel.state.gov, Australia’s Smart Traveler’s website - http://smarttraveler.gov.au and the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Common wealth Office website - http://smarttraveler.gov.au. Volunteers should enroll in the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – STEP (https://step.state.gov) or at the website for the country of their citizenship in order to be assisted if services are required.
http://www.who.int/countryfocus/cooperation_strategy/ccsbrief_nic_en.pdf and http://www.preventionweb.net/files/14169_NaturalDisasters2010.pdf
Please donate or volunteer to help save lives in Nicaragua.