Disasters & Accidents

Unicef warns of neglect in Nicaraguan Caribbean after hurricanes

Managua, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- Unicef’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jean Gough, has warned of institutional neglect of Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACN) that was hit four months ago by the powerful hurricanes Eta and Iota.

During a six-day tour of Nicaragua, Honduran Gough visited four communities in the RACN hit by the two hurricanes – category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, of a maximum of 5 – and said in an interview with Efe the impact was big and the need to find solutions for the population there is urgent.

The area is one of the poorest and most isolated in the country, with about 500,000 mostly indigenous inhabitants.

The impact is such, Gough said, that in Wawa Bar, a coastal indigenous community of 1,512 inhabitants located 24 kilometers south of Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas), a boat sits in the center of the village.

“The impact was great,” said the official, who added that recovery will be long due to the extensive damage caused and because it is an isolated region and difficult to access.

In the two most isolated of the four communities that she visited, she said flooding contaminated the water supply, destroyed crops as well as residents’ belongings for basic survival, and roofs of houses.

The other two, including Wawa Bar, suffered other types of impact, among them seawater entering the communities, destroying houses, collapsing trees, and polluting wells and water sources.

The other damages are the psychosocial impact on children and adolescents, who after being evacuated, returned to their communities to find their homes were not still standing, she said.

Gough foresees a slow recovery because the community members lost their crops, their work tools, their boats and canoes, and they are rebuilding their homes, while aid has only trickled in.

Unicef Nicaragua has received about half of its requested aid, estimated at $20 million, she said. The Nicaraguan government has estimated the losses caused by the hurricanes at $742 million.

The storms left 21 dead, which doesn’t include at least seven victims, three of them during Eta’s passage, which were not recognized by the authorities.

Among the main needs identified during her visit to that region, the official pointed to access to drinking water, electricity, maintaining secondary education, infrastructure, and mental health, mainly in childhood and adolescents.

She also highlighted the need to maintain the cold chain in health centers to guarantee vaccinations, and to take advantage of solar energy, as well as digital technology in education.

Gough regretted that the humanitarian crisis in the RACN caused by the hurricanes is no longer a topic on the news media agenda.

“These things disappear quickly from the screens because of other problems that exist in other parts of the world,” reasoned Gough, who promised that Unicef will seek to keep visible the needs of the Nicaraguan Caribbean community so that their inhabitants have hope. EFE-EPA


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