Hurricanes in Nicaragua left about half a million people with limited access to drinking water

12 March 2021
Girls with UNICEF-provided backpacks in front of a large fallen tree.

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MANAGUA / PANAMA CITY, March 11.- Almost four months after the passing of powerful hurricanes Eta and Iota in Nicaragua, about 500,000 people including many children are still affected by limited access to water, hygiene and sanitation facilities in the Northern Caribbean Coast, said today UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jean Gough, when wrapping up a 6 day-field visit to affected communities.  

On the ground, tangible progress has been made by the government of Nicaragua and other humanitarian partners to respond to the immediate needs and rebuild damaged infrastructure such as schools, housing and water facilities.  However, the start of the dry season highlights the rising and urgent need to support Nicaragua and accelerate the efforts to improve sustainable access to drinkable water, food, protection, education, health and livelihoods even in the most remote areas.  

UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean visited Nicaragua and assessed the progress of UNICEF’s humanitarian response in the communities of Kiwastara, Andre along the Coco river in the Waspam municipality and Wawa Bar, Karatá in the municipality of Puerto Cabezas. 

“The level of destruction left by these two mighty hurricanes one after the other goes beyond our imagination. Boats drifted hundreds of meters away from the shore, trees were smashed like matchsticks and roofs were lifted up by destructive sea currents, winds and rain,” said Jean Gough. “Over the next few months, families affected by the hurricanes can no longer rely on the rain as a source of safe water. Limited access to drinkable water may expose children to increased risks of diarrhoea and malnutrition in the coming weeks.”  

About 1,8 million people, including 720,000 children are still in need of humanitarian aid, especially among the indigenous communities of the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Girls, boys and adolescents are among the most affected and the most invisible, with immediate and long-term effects derived from the climate emergency. More than 260 schools lost their roofs and have been partially damaged or totally destroyed.  

In the aftermath of the hurricanes, UNICEF immediately provided humanitarian assistance to affected girls, boys, adolescents and families in the southern and northern coasts of Nicaragua, especially those in conditions of greater vulnerability, focusing on water and sanitation, nutrition, education in emergencies, protection, and psychosocial support, including: 

  • 18,000 hygiene kits have been distributed to families  
  • 300 wells and tanks have been set up or cleaned up 
  • 476 latrines have been built or refurbished at the community and school levels 
  • 6,150 cleaning kits with soap and buckets have been provided to schools 
  • 11,000 school backpacks have been distributed to affected children so they can return to schools 
  • 12 temporary learning spaces have been set up while schools are being repaired to enable 7,500 children to keep learning 

On the ground, I saw roofless schools being repaired, contaminated wells being refurbished. Reconstruction efforts are clearly underway. Amidst this tragic situation, I witnessed how a simple school backpack can put a smile on the face of a child and light up hope among the entire community. But beyond learning, going back to school also helped these families in the most remote areas to overcome the trauma and regain a sense of normalcy though their own children,” said Jean Gough. UNICEF also recognizes the decision by the government of Nicaragua to keep schools open last year and resume the face-to-face school year last month, even in the areas affected by the twin hurricanes. 

“It’s unfair that children from the poorest communities in Nicaragua are the least responsible for climate change, yet they are bearing the greatest burden of its impact,” explained Jean Gough. “This is not the first hurricane to hit the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and unfortunately, it’s not going to be the last. Families living in the most exposed areas need to get better prepared in the face of extreme weather events, before the next hurricane season starts. One of our greatest challenges now is to search for innovative, scalable and sustainable solutions to quickly reduce risks and build resilience at home, in the school and for every child.”    

Last year, UNICEF made an emergency appeal for more than 17 million US$ to provide humanitarian assistance to 430,000 people, including 120,000 children. So far, UNICEF has only received 47 per cent of the funding needed.  

UNICEF is grateful to the international donors generously contributing to its humanitarian response in Nicaragua, including USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the Government of Japan and the European Union’s department for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).  

UNICEF is urgently calling on the international community to bolster its financial support to the children of Nicaragua in improving their access to education, nutrition, protection, water and sanitation. 


Note to the Editors: 

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Media contacts

Olga Moraga
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Nicaragua
Tel: +505 22680687
Laurent Duvillier
Regional Chief of Communication
UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: + 507 3017393
Tel: + 507 6169 9886


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