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Fifty years, fifty countries: Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a multicultural, multi-ethnic country of more than six million inhabitants, of whom 15 per cent are from indigenous people groups. Tearfund has been working there since 1972, following a massive earthquake that hit the country’s capital, Managua.

By Ben Cohen | 17 Aug 2018

To mark 50 years of Tearfund, we’re sharing about 50 countries where we’ve worked, celebrating God’s provision and power to transform, and praying for each of these nations. This week we’re in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is a multicultural, multi-ethnic country of more than six million inhabitants, of whom 15 per cent are from indigenous people groups. Tearfund has been working there since 1972, following a massive earthquake that hit the country’s capital, Managua.

Although it is one of the poorest countries in Central America, the economy had been growing. However, the last few months have been ruinous for the economy and have left many in the country living in fear. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, protesting initially against President Ortega and his controversial tax reforms, then broadening out to other issues as opposition built.

Hundreds of protesters have been killed and thousands more injured. Paramilitary groups supporting President Ortega have been killing and ‘disappearing’ the young people that were protesting. And with the President planning to remain in office until 2021, there seems to be no likelihood of an early end to the crisis.

Standing firm
We and our partners are still at work in Nicaragua despite this unrest. In response to the current crisis, we are promoting the SOS Nicaragua campaign, which is asking other Latin America and Caribbean nations for prayer and action. This includes encouraging the church to condemn violence and human rights violations. More than 26,000 Nicaraguans have asked for refugee or political asylum in Costa Rica, and hundreds are leaving the country every day.

Apart from the current crisis, there are other major long-term issues that we are addressing: 30 percent of the population live in extreme poverty (earning less than £1.45 per day) – most of these living in rural areas. Access to basic services, including healthcare and education, remains severely limited.

We are working through church networks and local partner organisations to transform communities in a number of ways including: promoting sustainable development; helping communities recover as quickly as possible from natural disasters, and training churches and their leaders to advocate for community needs in remote and marginalised areas. Santa Elena’s story demonstrates this last area of work...

Distant hope
Imagine if your nearest healthcare facility was 27 miles away, with only two ways to reach it: trekking through dense jungle, or braving the waters of Central America’s Río Coco. These were the choices available to grandmother Santa Elena and her indigenous community in San Jerónimo village, north-eastern Nicaragua. In fact the entire Caribbean region of the country, which covers 55 per cent of the territory, only has three public hospitals. Year after year she saw people die unnecessarily from illness or injury.

Stepping up to the challenge
But then Santa Elena met Tearfund’s partner in the country Acción Médica Cristiana (AMC). AMC is working with indigenous communities, training community leaders like her to become health promoters.

She was determined to make the most of this and help her community. Now she and others in the village have been trained. Santa Elena says, ‘They have taught us how to deal with malaria, clean wounds, deal with snake bites. We know how to inject, have had midwife training…’

Lifesaving knowledge
Thanks to her new-found knowledge, Santa Elena is already making a huge difference to her community. ‘People don’t die as frequently as before,’ she says. ‘Children have better nutrition, maternal and childbirth mortality rates have decreased, and we have better knowledge to prevent new diseases.’

Thanks to your generosity and prayers, and the determination of people like Santa Elena, this remote community has made a huge leap forward in improving health and securing a brighter future.

PLEASE PRAY

If you would like to know more, please visit our Nicaragua page. And if you've missed any other articles in this series you can find them here.

Written by

Written by Ben Cohen

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