The massive protests in Nicaragua, which began in April of 2018, has led to a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Nicaraguans have left the country, the majority fleeing to neighboring Costa Rica. Civil unrest, poverty and COVID-19 have contributed to several issues Nicaraguan refugees are facing. Organizations have dedicated efforts to assist with the humanitarian crisis in Central America and help Nicaraguan refugees.
The Ortega Regime
In April 2018, Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, announced pension cuts for his citizens. Following the announcement, protesters filled the streets of multiple Nicaraguan cities. The protesters demanded that pension cuts be canceled and requested an end to the years of corruption committed by the Ortega regime. The protesters were met with violence, with more than 300 dead and thousands injured or missing. Journalists covering the anti-government protests were harassed and attacked by authorities, ultimately silencing the free press. The government has been accused of using ‘weapons of war’ on its citizens and committing human rights violations. Consequently, the political unrest has created a push factor for migration out of the country.
Two-thirds of Nicaraguan refugees have fled to neighboring Costa Rica. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), 81,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees. The UNCHR found that since the pandemic, 14% of refugees eat once a day or less and 63% of Nicaraguan refugees eat only two meals a day. Moreover, many Nicaraguans have lost steady income, increasing the chances of falling deeper into poverty.
Humanitarian Aid: UNCHR
To handle the influx of refugees into Costa Rica, the country needed assistance from NGOs. In February 2020, the UNCHR granted Costa Rica $4.1 million to reduce poverty for Nicaraguan refugees. Furthermore, the UNCHR grant pays for legal assistance and civil organizations that help migrants. As much as 53% of Nicaraguan refugees had no health insurance, but with the help of the UNCHR, around 6,000 now have medical insurance through the Costa Rican Social Security System.
The IFRC Helps Nicaraguan Refugees
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also actively partaking in addressing the humanitarian crisis for Nicaraguan refugees. The IFRC’s mission is to “meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.” Moreover, the IFRC is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, assisting displaced people around the world with resources and relief. Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, called the migration crisis during a pandemic a “catastrophe.” Furthermore, Rocca has called the attention of government officials to take care of the most vulnerable, asylum seekers because they are most severely impacted by COVID-19.
Corner of Love Helps Migrants
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border restrictive, making it harder for migrants to cross. Additionally, the pandemic has created more uncertainty for the futures of Nicaraguan refugees. Despite these struggles, NGOs are not giving up on this vulnerable population. The NGO, Corner of Love, is assisting migrants at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. Corner of Love ensures migrants have access to food and hygiene products, thus contributing to the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees.
The efforts of organizations stepping in to help Nicaraguan refugees with the humanitarian crisis give struggling people hope for a brighter tomorrow.
– Andy Calderon