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Nicaragua: COVID transmission and deaths show slow decline

News from Nicaragua | Friday, 14 August 2020 |

According to weekly figures published on 11 August by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country is 4,115 of whom 128 have died. However, the number of cases appears to be falling slowly with 213 new cases reported in and three deaths in the previous week. This compares with 347 new cases and 10 deaths on 23 June.

Since January this year, the Nicaraguan government like every other government globally has been engaged in the crisis of a generation in planning for and managing not only a health crisis but also a social and economic crisis.

As the immensity of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds the UN and other international agencies warn of the cataclysmic consequences for so many already impoverished by past international failures to address gross inequalities and chronic levels of poverty.

In April, World Food Programme director David Beasley warned that ‘there is a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.’

Response rooted in the social economic reality of Nicaragua

It is against this backdrop, that the Nicaraguan government has taken a well-integrated approach to confronting the pandemic, an approach rooted in the reality of Nicaragua that balances the safety and livelihoods of the population especially the most vulnerable.

Forty percent of the country’s population lives in the countryside where their livelihoods depend on looking after their livestock and cultivating crops. The period from April – June is the planting season so instigating a policy such as confining people to their homes whether they are large or small scale farmers would not only deprive them of their livelihoods but also threaten the food security of the country as a whole.

A further 30% of the population live in urban areas where they are self-employed earning only sufficient to sustain themselves from one day to the next: if they don’t earn, their family doesn’t eat.

Family and community based health model

Unlike other countries in the region such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras Nicaragua has a comprehensive, free national health service, part of a well-integrated National Development Plan focused on poverty reduction and infrastructure development. The country uses a family and community based health model co-ordinated by the Ministry of Health (MINSA).

Applied to the COVID-19 pandemic, this model aims to guarantee an integrated approach consisting of constant house to house visits to provide training and early detection. This enables early intervention to quickly ensure the best possible treatment and followup up and to prevent community transmission. A network of 80 mobile clinics has been used to reach more remote rural areas with a sparse population. All levels of the health service function as an integrated whole: communities, health posts, health centres, local government, and regional and national hospitals.

Ensuring that other health programmes are not neglected

For Nicaragua, it is also vital to make sure that in confronting COVID other related programmes are not sidelined. These include vaccination programmes for children and older adults, rabies vaccinations for dogs, and constant vigilance to prevent other potentially life threatening diseases such as malaria, dengue, zika virus and respiratory infections from taking hold.

World Food Programme and Inter-American Development Bank Support

On 28 July the World Food Programme (WFP )announced continued support for one of the government’s programmes providing 1,200,000 meals daily for all school children through the Ministry of Education. The WFP report entitled “Food Security in Nicaragua in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic," states that the Covid-19 management strategy is comprehensive, with priority focus on guaranteeing food security for the population."

As part of a regional package the Inter-American Development Bank has approved a US$43 million loan to the Nicaraguan government to strengthen the health system’s response to COVID. The funds will be used to strengthen detection, transmission prevention and followup, and upgrade equipment in hospitals.