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Country Reports

Nicaragua Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The small and impoverished Central American country of Nicaragua (population 6 million) remains vulnerable to a wide range of risks, including natural disasters, moderate crime rates, and various health concerns.

NATURAL RISKS

The rainy season (April/May to October/November) often brings floods, particularly in September and October.

Furthermore, hurricanes and tropical storms have the potential to hit the country between June and November, during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Hurricane Otto made landfall in the country in November 2016, causing infrastructural damage and resulting in several deaths.

Nicaragua is home to numerous active volcanoes including the Momotombo, Telica, Cerro, Masaya, and San Cristobal.

Earthquakes can strike at any time, notably along the Pacific Coast. There were a total of nine earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.0 or higher on the Richter scale in 2016. There is the risk of tsunamis in the event of an offshore earthquake.

The country, located in Central America's "Dry Corridor," regularly experiences droughts.

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Protests - for example to denounce the proposed construction of a transnational canal - are common, particularly in the capital Managua. These demonstrations sometimes turn violent and can result in significant transportation disruptions, particularly due to roadblocks often erected by protesters at major city intersections or on highways. Roads leading to Managua's Augusto C. Sandino International Airport (MGA) and streets in downtown Managua may be blocked during protests.

The frequency and intensity of protests often increases during electoral periods. Political violence is also occasionally reported. The next general elections (legislative and presidential) will be held in November 2021.

CRIME and TRANSPORTATION

Crime rates in Nicaragua, while relatively low by Central American standards, are not insignificant. Rates of theft, mugging, break-ins, sexual assaults, and pickpocketing are particularly high in urban areas such as Managua. The annual homicide rate remains relatively low at 8 murders per 100,000 residents. However, this varies significantly by region, with the highest rates in the Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur (RAAS), at 33 per 100,000. Nicaragua's police forces do not suffer from the same levels of endemic corruption as forces elsewhere in the region. However, the police presence is low, particularly outside the capital.

Cases of express kidnappings - in which the victim is typically driven to various ATMs (cash dispensers) to make withdrawals - have also been reported. Victims are typically abducted while traveling in unlicensed taxis. Use only licensed radio taxis, preferably ordered by telephone, and be vigilant when hailing taxis on the street.

Be aware that passengers on public transportation are frequently targeted by thieves. Travelers should avoid taking municipal buses for this reason as well as due to poor safety standards.

When driving, be vigilant when stuck in traffic or at traffic lights, as thieves have been known to target stopped cars. Always keep doors locked and windows rolled up and valuable items stored out of sight.

Visitors are advised to maintain a low profile at all times as petty criminals may target foreigners due to their perceived affluence; to minimize the risk of violent escalation, do not offer resistance if threatened and give up demanded objects.

Exercise caution in bars and nightclubs in tourist areas and avoid leaving your drink unattended as cases of drugging have been reported. Avoid travel by foot after dark if alone and avoid walking around in poorer neighborhoods.

Road conditions and road lighting in cities and highways are often poor. The combination of poor driving habits and vehicle conditions, along with the prevalence of drunk driving, contribute to a high prevalence of road accidents. Avoid long-distance travel by car after dark due to the threat of highway banditry.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Despite years of steady economic growth, Nicaragua remains an impoverished country, the second poorest in the Americas after Haiti. As such, transportation, electrical, medical, and tourist infrastructure is lacking, particularly outside of cities, and is highly vulnerable in the event of natural disasters.

LEGAL

Be aware that there are very stiff sentences for drug possession, even of very small quantities. Drug traffickers have been known to secretly place drugs into the luggage of unsuspecting travelers. Pay attention to baggage when traveling so avoid becoming an unwitting drug mule.

HEALTH

Public health infrastructure in Nicaragua is limited, particularly outside Managua, and care can be withheld until full payment is received. All visitors are advised to subscribe to travel medical insurance prior to departure for the country.

Due to the presence of diarrheal diseases, typhoid fever, and hepatitis A, it is recommended to only consume bottled beverages (no tap water) and foods that are thoroughly cooked.

A number of mosquito-borne diseases are also present:

  • Dengue fever poses a major health risk, notably during the rainy season (April/May to October/November). There were nearly 90,000 reported cases of dengue fever in 2016. Case rates are down slightly in 2017, with nearly 33,500 cases reported in the first eight months of the year.
  • Cases of chikungunya have also been reported.
  • There is a risk of contracting malaria in the following regions:  Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte (RAAN) and RAAS. There is a very low risk in Boaco, Chinandega, Esteli, Jinotega, Leon, Matagalpa, and Nueva Segovia. It is not present in Managua. The Nicaraguan government declared a state of emergency in the RAAN in May 2017, after 1300 cases of the disease were reported in since the beginning of the year.
  • There is a risk of contracting the Zika virus; while the disease is usually relatively benign, it can cause serious birth defects.

Transmission of epizootic rabies is a present risk in Nicaragua. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with both domestic and wild animals (e.g. street dogs). If you are scratched or bitten, seek immediate medical attention.

As of August 2017, the Nicaraguan government was on alert due to an intensifying conjunctivitis outbreak. More than 11,300 cases of the disease - also known as "pink eye" - were reported nationwide between the beginning of the year and late August 24.

Climate

Nicaragua's climate is tropical, hot, and humid. The rainy season lasts from May until October in the west of the country and until January along the Caribbean coast where hurricanes can strike between July and October. Torrential rain is not rare and often causes flooding. It rains much more along the Caribbean coast than in the center of the country or along the Pacific coast.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +505 Police: 118 Fire Dept.: 118 Ambulance: 102

Electricity

Voltage: 120 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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