Thousands affected by a Tropical Storm in Nicaragua

Thursday 13 November 2014

Managua, Nicaragua. 13.11.2014 Andrea Núñez-Flores Rey

Prinzapolka river, November 2014

At least 10,030 people were affected by floods after the tropical storm #37 in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua since last October 12th. Save the Children is conducting an humanitarian response; we are distributing non-food items, wells repair, promotion of healthy water, creating safe spaces for children.

The tropical storm caused the overflow of the river Prinzapolka and affected about 6,018 children from the indigenous communities on the riverbanks. 1,214 homes were damaged by the floods and 150 families (744 people) were displaced to a temporary shelter in the community Alamikangban. After 8 – 9 days, the returned to their homes, but the damage continues.

According to the epidemiologist of the municipal hospital: “At the shelter, mass illnesses occurred: respiratory infections related to poor diet, lifestyle of people (such as hand washing, water quality, food preparation, and so on); diarrhea; fever syndromes.”

Save the Children response

After this emergency, tropical storm #37, we distributed kits with non-food items to 1,819 families -9,192 people including 5,306 children- in coordination with local organizations and the Mayor of Alamikangban. The kits contained: a bucket to store water with a tap, mosquito nets, blankets and black plastic - to cover the roofs and to prevent households get wet with rain, because most of the roofs are made by palm leafs or old zinc.

The kits were delivered house per house by Save the Children teams and our partners.

Lucila González, the project coordinator explains: “We will replace lost belongings, but we also conducting other activities. During November and December: Training in the use of latrines and wells and safe water; rehabilitation/reconstruction of wells; creating safe spaces for children: and recreational activities for children. We will train 54 community leaders in the use and promotion of safe water. Furthermore, we are strengthening the capacities of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and coordinate with them to support the communities that are hardest to reach.”

NFI delivery, 31.10.2014 Photo by project coordinator

Many structural problems

These communities are exceptionally vulnerable, due to their extreme poverty and isolation.

For you to understand: These are small communities living on the edge of the river where people cultivate rice and bananas for subsistence. Most houses are made of palm leaves and are built on stilts to prevent floods.

The population does not speak Spanish, but "Miskito", the local language. In all the communities except in the county capital, children cannot receive secondary education and in many communities they cannot even complete primary school.

There is no electricity or running water in most of the communities. People often have no well or, when the wells are polluted (often), they use rainwater for drinking. Many people drink water straight from the river, even though they know it is contaminated, so that diseases related to unsafe water are abundant (diarrhea, for example). Life expectancy is very short, it is unusual to find people in the communities that are older than 60.

An old woman from Alamikangban

There is only one hospital in the county capital, where people from the most isolated communities would arrive by speedboat (which almost nobody can afford) or rowboat. Children from 7 or 8 years start to row alone. In fact, last year (2013) two children (brothers) died in a boat on their way to school, which was in a neighbouring community.

It is a common image: small children going to schools in other communities by rowboat. In these schools, the quality of teaching is usually very low because teachers have barely finished high school themselves.

Other structural problems are domestic violence, violence against children and sexual violence, due to the strong patriarchal culture, in which women and children are less valued and have fewer rights than men, and are subjugated to the will of the male "head of household". Other common issues are physical punishment against children and teen pregnancies.

Mother and her son, prinzapolka 06.11.2014