Save the Children’s work in Nicaragua focuses on six program areas:
Of every 100 children that enters the 1st grade in Nicaragua, only 45 complete 5th grade. Many abandon their studies to work and help support their families. Nearly 50% of the country’s schools are in need of significant repair.
Save the Children’s education program in Nicaragua is working with local partners and the Ministry of Education to improve education access and quality, with a concentration of students in first through third grades. Education programming also prioritizes the inclusion of children with disabilities. SC has developed preschool and first grade education methodologies that encourage the use of creative arts and recreational reading, and that promote children’s active learning.
In 2012, Save the Children extended the reach of its education programming to remote communities in the Northern Atlantic Autonomous Region, many of which do not have a school, and where schools do exist, they are in poor conditions, have limited physical spaces to accommodate students, limited educational coverage, are located long distances away—often only reachable by boat—and are highly vulnerable to risks and the threat of conflict.
Health, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS
While infant mortality has been reduced in Nicaragua, children living in rural areas of Nicaragua are much more likely to become ill or die of preventable disease than children in urban areas. Neonatal mortality represents approximately fifty percent of all infant deaths (18 per 1,000 live births), the second highest in Central America. 20.2% of Nicaraguan children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Again, the overwhelming majority of these children live in rural areas.
Save the Children works closely with the Ministry of Health to implement community health and nutrition strategies focused on children under the age of five, prioritizing difficult-to-access rural communities. In 2006, we launched the Community Case Management (CCM) strategy to train community health volunteers to assess, treat and refer children with common illnesses to health facilities. Exemplifying Save the Children’s Theory of Change, in 2012, the Ministry of Health made CCM the official norm for all health posts in remote, rural communities.
Community health and nutrition strategies emphasize the key role of mothers, fathers and the community as a whole in caring for children’s health. Save the Children, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, supports community health workers to carry out growth monitoring, promote behavior change communication, and empower women. Exclusive breastfeeding, and iron supplementation for pregnant and lactating women and deworming treatment for children are some of the inexpensive and effective strategies that are improving child health in rural communities.
In the last three years, (2009-2012) the incidence of HIV infection in Nicaragua has nearly tripled, from 7 to 20 out of 100,000; even more worrisome is that 75% of these new cases are adolescent girls and boys. Save the Children works with local organizations and the Ministry of Health to prevent HIV through efforts that combine health services with community action using a family and community health model. Peer education activities for HIV prevention are promoted for groups of adolescents and youth, and individual counseling is provided for pregnant women to prevent vertical transmission of the virus.
Despite a number of significant advancements in recent years, the fulfillment of children’s rights in Nicaragua continues to require ongoing advocacy on the part of civil society groups, networks and international organizations to change culturally-rooted concepts used by adults to define children’s role in society.
Save the Children’s Child Rights Governance program works to strengthen public institutions and establish monitoring systems to ensure the fulfillment of child rights at the community, municipal, departmental and national level. Save the Children provides support to networks and groups of children and adolescents in lobbying their local governments and communities so that their voices are respected and heard. As a result of children’s direct advocacy, at the close of 2013, 36 municipal governments had approved children’s rights policies that prioritize investment in children, education, protection and recreation. An additional 18 policies are in the process of being approved, which will soon cover more than one third of Nicaragua’s 153 municipalities.
There are high numbers of children in Nicaragua who were not registered for a birth certificate at the time of their birth, which increases their vulnerability to risks such as illegal adoptions or child trafficking, and limits their access to basic health and education services. Working with government civil registry authorities, local governments and civil society to guarantee the right to a name and a nationality by promoting birth registry is a priority for Save the Children in Nicaragua.
Violence against children and adolescents most acutely affects impoverished children already living in vulnerable conditions marked by poverty, geographic and social isolation, and natural disasters. Machismo and gender inequality increase the vulnerability of girls and young women to violence and exploitation.
The protection program in Nicaragua works with the government protection system to ensure policies for protecting children and adolescents are developed, implemented and monitored by public institutions as well as civil society organizations. Save the Children has collaborated at the national and regional level to address the increased threat of trafficking and organized crime, which targets vulnerable children and adolescents, especially girls. Protection programming in Nicaragua includes the participation of children as promoters, working with their peers to share knowledge about how to protect themselves from violence and defend their rights.
Since 2002, Save the Children has worked with rural populations in northern Nicaragua to implement combined initiatives that mobilize communities and promote women’s participation through local food security groups. These groups work to reduce malnutrition in their communities by increasing crop yields, improving basic grain storage, diversifying production of crops with high economic and nutritional value, involving women to strengthen their management skills, and connecting beneficiaries to profitable value chains.
Save the Children also contributes to an increased understanding of market opportunities at the municipal level, credit systems, and the promotion of technologies among producers, which allows families to climb the ladder of food security by taking advantage of their skills and available resources.