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At a glance: Nicaragua

The big picture

Click for a detailed map (PDF)

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

Despite efforts made in recent years in the areas of economic growth and poverty reduction, Nicaragua still has highly unequal income distribution and development levels, which limit the possibility of achieving the Millennium Development Goals. According to data from the 2005 living standards measurement survey, 48.3 per cent of the total population (just over 5 million people) live in poverty, with 17 per cent living in extreme poverty. This is further complicated by the population’s extreme vulnerability to natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, drought, flooding and hurricanes. Hurricane Felix, for example, which hit in September 2007, affected 33,000 families in 295 communities, leaving over 100 people dead and nearly 80 per cent of the infrastructure destroyed.

Issues facing children in Nicaragua

  • Five of the country’s 17 departments have chronic malnutrition rates of over 30 per cent – and the rate exceeds 50 per cent in the regions where most of Nicaragua’s indigenous people live.
  • Approximately 40 per cent of the population has no access to health services (75 per cent for the indigenous and Afro-descendent population), with the remaining 60 per cent covered by low-quality services.
  • A third of the population still had no access to sustainable sources of drinking water in 2007, a figure that rises to 53 per cent in rural areas and 79 per cent in the autonomous regions. Although it is reported that 75.8 per cent of the population has access to sanitary services, a low level of latrine use has been observed.
  • 24 per cent of children are not in the school system, and child labour affects approximately 10 per cent of children and adolescents. Exclusion from the school system mainly affects rural indigenous populations and Afro-descendent families, as well as children who have disabilities or live in the streets.
  • The annual HIV/AIDS incidence has increased from 4.1 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2003, to 12.5 in 2008. In recent years, the infection ratio between men and women has tilted increasingly towards women.  Sixty per cent of adolescents who contracted HIV in 2008 were women. Approximately half of adolescents do not know how to prevent HIV.

Activities and results for children

  • One important achievement between 2001 and 2007 was the reduction of maternal mortality from 140 to 81.7 per 100,000 live births. However, most babies are born at home and a skilled attendant is absent at a third of deliveries, so many maternal deaths are not reported.
  • A recent rubella vaccination campaign immunized 3.8 million people, effectively eradicating this disease in Nicaragua.
  • Iodine deficiency has also been eliminated, with 97 per cent of households consuming iodized salt.
  • The Ministry of Education has adopted UNICEF’s Child-Friendly and Healthy Schools Initiative as the model for its plan to revamp and improve the educational system. ‘Child-friendly’ schools have higher enrolment, retention and completion rates.
  • Education on sexual health and HIV/AIDS-prevention strategies has been added to the national school curriculum.
  • UNICEF has worked with Save the Children and local partners to provide birth registration for 65,000 children in the eastern autonomous regions.
  • In the wake of Hurricane Felix, UNICEF Nicaragua spearheaded the provision of shelter for hurricane-affected children and families. It also worked to meet the country’s emergency water and sanitation needs with water-purification tablets and hygiene kits. And UNICEF worked to minimize the disruption of school classes by bringing education kits and materials to the affected children.



Basic Indicators

Under-5 mortality rank


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 1990


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 2012


U5MR by sex 2012, male


U5MR by sex 2012, female


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2012


Neonatal mortality rate 2012


Total population (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of births (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) 2012


GNI per capita (US$) 2012


Life expectancy at birth (years) 2012


Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*


Primary school net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2011*


Definitions and data sources [popup]

Source: The State of the World's Children

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