From Tue Oct 22 10:30:21 2002
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 2002 16:41:40 -0500 (CDT)
From: NicaNet <>
Subject: Nicaragua Network Hotline
Article: 146300
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Three Million Nicaraguans Below the Poverty Line

Nicaragua Network Hotline, 21 October 2002

Sobering statistics from the Nicaraguan Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) revealed that nearly two-thirds of the population lives in poverty or extreme poverty. According to INEC Director, the Rev. Miguel Angel Casco, 60% of Nicaraguans, just over three million people, cannot cover their basic life requirements, with nearly one million in extreme distress. The grim information is all the more tragic given the surprising news that Nicaragua produced a surplus of corn during this year's harvest, although now the government reports that it is unable to store it all so some is rotting.

Fifty four percent of the population now live in an urban setting, with close to one quarter of all Nicaraguans in the capital, Managua. This represents an extraordinarily lopsided concentration, when one considers that the country is as large as New York State, but has only a total of 5.2 million inhabitants. Most blame the collapse of the coffee prices, natural factors such as Hurricane Mitch, and the lack of financing for small farmers for the imbalance. During the Sandinista government of the 1980s it was the policy to slow the urban migration by bringing electricity, health care, and education to rural areas while maintaining Managua as barely livable. Succeeding governments have ignored rural needs.

Casco went on to say that, while up to 80% of town dwellers had access to clean drinking water, that number shrank to a mere 28% in the countryside. Roughly the same proportion obtained with electric power, 73% and 40%. The situation is lamentable, he said. These, water, health, sanitation, are the basic indicators of levels of impoverishment anywhere in the world.

Despite the seriousness of INEC's findings, there was one piece of good news. Barbara Moore, the new US Ambassador, revealed that in the past three years, Nicaragua has cut its infant mortality rate by 20%. Nicaragua's government, the Health Ministry, and the hundreds of health volunteers have made an enormous effort to raise the general level of health among the population, she said. This figure is among the lowest in Central America. There was no explanation as to why Moore made the announcement, rather than INEC. (La Prensa, 18 October)