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12/03/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/02/2020 19:21

NicaNotes: Hurricane ETA: Nicaragua Prioritizes Saving and Improving Lives

How is it that there were only two lives lost during a level 4 hurricane-Hurricane Eta-that affected Nicaragua beginning Nov. 2 on the Caribbean Coast? Nicaragua is constantly preparing and training people to save lives in disasters: thousands of people have participated in simulations for hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and more, and this happens a number of times during the year in every municipality.

Nicaragua is among the first countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with the best disaster risk management, according to a study conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in August 2020.

Nicaragua showed its ability to confront disaster when that first hurricane hit. On Oct. 30 the National Institute of Emergency Preparedness, INPAE, was inaugurated to consolidate the training and preparation activities of the population developed by the National System for Prevention, Mitigation and Attention to Disasters (SINAPRED). INPAE was inaugurated on the anniversary of one of the hardest days during Hurricane Mitch in 1998 when thousands of lives were lost in a mudslide, in part, because the government at the time would not declare an emergency and send in rescue teams. President Arnoldo Aleman, in particular, wouldn't believe the Sandinista mayor of Posoltega despite her repeated calls for help to rescue people stuck in the mud.

What have been some of the important factors in Nicaragua's preparedness for Hurricane ETA? One is having several good highways from the center of the country to the Caribbean Coast, just finished in the last two years. This makes it much easier to quickly move vehicles, gasoline for trucks and boats, food and medical equipment just ahead of a disaster.

Moving people out of the way of the hurricane is essential to saving lives. Two days ahead of time, on Oct. 31, some 120 fishermen were evacuated from the Miskito Keys to Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) by military personnel. On November 1 the people who live in the Keys were evacuated. The eye of the hurricane went right through the Miskito Keys the night of Nov. 2.

The other life-saver is moving people to safe shelters in strong buildings out of flood zones. On Nov. 2, 10,000 people were moved to shelters in Bilwi and another 10,000 in Prinzapolka and nearly another 10,000 in other Caribbean Coast municipalities to protect lives.

The Navy evacuated 2,059 in other parts of the Caribbean Coast: 325 people were evacuated from Wawa Bar on the Caribbean; 1,285 people from Cabo Viejo on the Caribbean near the Honduran border were evacuated to the community of Wankawala; 138 people were evacuated from the mouth of Río Grande, Sandy Bay, Sirpi, and Walpa, inland to Karawala; 142 people from Tasbapounie were evacuated to Orinoco. Six people carried out a search and rescue mission to Barra Wawa Bar. And 163 fishermen who were in Cayos Perlas were evacuated to Laguna de Perlas.

The torrential downpours on November 4 caused the flooding of some neighborhoods in Jinotega, San José de Bocay and Wiwilí where 27 people were evacuated by the army. The strong currents of the Wamblán River dragged down the suspension bridge.

To save lives you must also have food and first response supplies in place before the disaster hits. The government sent many food caravans between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2. Trucks were loaded with food, blankets, mats, hammocks, thick plastic, and personal hygiene kits. And on Nov. 3 food, mattresses, blankets, hammocks, food, plastic and hygiene kits were sent to the evacuated families in Rosita, Bonanza and Prinzapolka because flooding was expected in these areas.

The other area in which a country must be well-prepared ahead of time is in health care. Ministry of Health authorities said on Nov. 3 that in the city of Bilwi there were eight medical brigades mobilizing to where medical attention was needed and the New Dawn Mobile Hospital was functioning. Two emergency surgeries and two deliveries had been performed by the morning of Nov. 3. 'We are supplied with medicines, laboratory supplies, replacement material, oxygen, fuel, and food for our patients for a period of 45 days,' said Dr. Sonia Castro. She added that '217 activated medical command posts are available as well as supplies and equipment for care; there are 1,670 medicine kits to attend 1,000 people per kit. And we have transportation and brigades for the transfer of patients in risk situations. We have 92 functioning power plants for the health units.'

The Health Minister Martha Reyes, said the actions developed to confront Hurricane ETA were a priority of the government. 'We have 11 medical brigades in Waspán downstream and upstream and in Prinzapolka in the sector of Silibila. They have attended 119 pregnant women, 64 people with chronic diseases and 52 people with disabilities. We have organized 325 Brigades with 6,500 Health Partners. We have visited 4,650 homes in vulnerable locations. We visited all 153 municipalities to review the functioning of the local Emergency Health Plan.'

By Nov. 4 there were downpours in many places but the worst of the hurricane was over. Pictures showed the devastation of many homes, power lines, and more. But people were safe, with food, medical attention, and families were receiving plastic and other items so that many could move back to their homes. All the training and preparation had paid off.

Nicaragua and Central America then got slammed by the second hurricane in two weeks, with Hurricane Iota, the strongest in history to hit Nicaragua when it made landfall just 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta hit less than two weeks before.

Again, Nicaragua was the most prepared country in the region and 160,000 people were evacuated from the danger zone. The government is now providing roofing and other materials for home repairs and the building of new homes for those who lost their homes. But two devastating hurricanes within two weeks would tax the resources of the wealthy nations, much less Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the hemisphere and Nicaragua will need help to recover. Click here to make a donation for hurricane recovery.

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

Hurricane Relief Loans for Nicaragua
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) approved US$443 million for Nicaragua, divided in two loans. The region's multilateral financial institution explained in a press release that a first loan of US$300 million will be dedicated to a multi-sector program focused on economic reactivation and social protection. Then with a loan of US$143 million the government will undertake an ambitious national program for sustainable electrification and renewable energy. The first contribution is part of the NIC-Solidaria Program and in the case of Nicaragua its implementation will mean the creation of more than 2,100 jobs and an expansion of health care capacity of more than 520 hospital beds, among other benefits that will reach more than a million and a half people. With the second contribution, Nicaragua will be able to reach 99.9% access to electricity and will modernize its electrical network with new substations and reduced technical losses. This is in addition to the US$185.32 million loan from the International Monetary Fund to alleviate the effects of the pandemic. The IMF granted the funds through a US$61.77 million loan delivered through a mechanism called Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and another of US$123.55 million transmitted through the Rapid Financing Facility (RFF). (Informe Pastran, 27 Nov. 2020)

Video on Beef Production Refutes Media Reports
This new short video about beef production for export refutes disinformation by the Oakland Institute, Reveal, PBS and other media about Nicaragua's beef Industry. The video shows that all of the cattle have not one, but two tags as part of the required traceability. It also shows the cattle owners signing contracts pledging not to graze cattle or use land in any of the protected areas along the Caribbean coast. Hundreds of thousands of people work in this industry. (Nuevo Carnic, S.A., 23 Nov. 2020)

Efforts on Reforestation and Biodiversity
The Nicaraguan Forestry Institute (INAFOR) announced that it will deliver more than 30 thousand fruit trees to families on the Caribbean Coast to reforest areas affected by the hurricanes. Indiana Fuentes, co-director of the institution, explained that priority will be given to reforestation in Bilwi, Waspam, Triangulo Minero, Prinzapolka and Haoulover. According to preliminary data from INAFOR, about 21,000 trees were lost in 'urban and peri-urban' areas. MARENA's Minister Zumaya Castillo said, 'MARENA will work on strengthening protected areas, biodiversity conservation and restoration, supporting local livelihoods with training, environmental clean-up days, waste management and, above all, providing an incentive to the producer to continue conserving the pine areas.' (Informe Pastran, 27 Nov. 2020)

Resources Available for Vaccine
The Government now has the resources to buy the Covid-19 vaccines when they become available, announced Iván Acosta, head of the Treasury. He recalled that they signed loans for US$50 million with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and another US$57 million with the International Development Bank for the purchase, import and application of the vaccines. 'We are prepared with the resources and are only waiting for the effectiveness of the vaccines to be tested before proceeding with their purchase,' said Acosta. (Radio La Primerisima, 2 Dec. 2020)

Army Helps Deliver Food
The Army in coordination with the Nicaraguan Red Cross - Bluefields branch, delivered thousands of food packages in Bluefields, the municipalities of the Cruz de Río Grande, Autonomous Region of the Southern Caribbean Coast, to supply the families affected by hurricane IOTA. (Informe Pastran, 1 Dec. 2020)

New Equipment Strengthens Health Care
Health Minister Martha Reyes reported that, in order to strengthen diagnostic capabilities of the public healthcare system throughout the country, 40 primary, regional and national hospitals are being equipped with stationary and portable ultrasound and x-ray machines, thermal cribs, fetal monitors, electrosurgical scalpels, neurosurgical drills, microscopes, centrifuges, spectrophotometers, and electrocardiographs. The Minister stated that 'this investment in public health strengthens the rapid response capabilities of hospitals and the quality of service.' (Nicaragua News, 1 Dec. 2020)

Covid - 19 Report December 1
The Health Ministry reported on Dec. 1 that from Nov. 24 to Nov. 30 there were 42 new cases of Covid-19 registered and 46 people recuperated. Since the beginning of the pandemic in Nicaragua in March there have been 4,671 registered cases, 161 deaths and 4,456 people recuperated. (Radio La Primerisima, 1 Dec. 2020)

Educator Miguel De Castilla Urbina Honored on his Death
Miguel De Castilla Urbina, famous educator, former Minister of Education, and permanent representative for Nicaragua to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was laid to rest in Managua on Dec. 1. He will be honored in Juigalpa in the Palace of Culture. On Dec. 3 the funeral will take place at UNAN-Chontales. Later, De Castilla, recipient of the Order of Cultural Independence Ruben Dario, will be buried in the Juigalpa cemetery. The Juigalpa Municipal Council voted to create the Miguel De Castilla Urbina Ecological Order and to name a new Geopark for him. De Castilla dedicated sixty years to the educational and cultural life of his country. (Radio La Primerisima, 2 Dec. 2020)

Note: A Nicaragua Network delegation met with Castilla in 2007 when he was Minister of Education. His first actions when he took office that January as the FSLN returned to power had been to remove the fees for public schools which had been mandated by the international financial institutions and put in place by previous administrations. ¡Miguel de Castilla, Presente!

Government Demands End to Sanctions
The Government of Nicaragua once again demanded an immediate end to unilateral coercive measures by the United States during a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council. The Nicaraguan representative, Jaime Hermida, said that it is imperative to immediately suspend the unilateral coercive economic measures imposed on the Nicaraguan peoples since these aggressions are true obstacles to the eradication of poverty and to achievement of the Sustainable Development Objectives contained in Agenda 2030. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 Nov. 2020)