NicaNotes: Hurricane Eta: Nicaragua Prioritizes Saving and Improving Lives

By Nan McCurdy

How is it that there were only two lives lost during a level 4 Hurricane 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.

On Oct. 30 the National Institute of Emergency Preparedness, INPAE, was inaugurated to consolidate the training and preparation activities of the population developed by SINAPRED, The National System for Prevention, Mitigation and Attention to Disasters. It 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? An enormous one is the presence of 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, Oct. 31, some 120 fishermen were evacuated from the Miskito Keys to Bilwi 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, Walpa, inland to Karawala; and 142 people from Tasbapounie evacuated to Orinoco. A search and rescue mission of 6 people was carried out at Barra Wawa Bar. And 163 fishermen who were in Cayos Perlas were evacuated to Laguna de Perlas.

The torrential downpours on November 4 have 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 is expected in these areas.

The other area in which the country must be well-prepared ahead of time is in health care. Ministry of Health authorities announced on Nov. 3 that in the city of Bilwi there are eight medical brigades mobilizing where medical attention is needed and the New Dawn mobile Hospital is functioning. Two emergency surgeries and two deliveries of babies 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 went on to say that they have “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, announced the actions developed to confront Hurricane ETA, as a priority of the government. “We have 11 medical brigades in Waspán downstream and upstream and in Prinzapolka in the sector of Silibila. We 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.”

Writing on Nov. 4 there are still downpours in many places but the worst of the hurricane is over. Photos show the destruction of many homes, power lines, and more. But people are safe, have food and medical attention, and families will soon begin to receive plastic tarps and other items so that many can move back to their homes. The government has mobilized to help the people by supplying their emergency needs and soon officials will begin projects of home repairs and the building of new homes for those who lost their dwellings. The good thing is that the Nicaraguan government has the political will to organize supplies and workers to provide for the people in their time of need; the bad thing is that they have so much practice attending to disasters because of the country’s location in a zone of hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions!

 

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

33 Years of Caribbean Coast Autonomy and Advances Celebrated
On October 30th, thousands of Costeños took to the streets in celebration of 33 years of Caribbean Coast Autonomy, established with the approval of Law No. 28 on September 2, 1987 and published in La Gaceta, Diario Oficial No. 238 on October 30, 1987. During the Sandinista Popular Revolution in the 1980s, the right to education in their own language was recognized and carried out. Also recognized was the right to elect communal, territorial, and regional authorities; as well as the recognition of the six ethnic groups, with their cultural diversity and ancestral customs. And thanks to Law 28 amending the Political Constitution, several Multicultural Universities were born.

Demarcation and titling began in 2002 but until 2007, there was no guarantee that Indigenous territories would be legalized. Since then 23 territories of original peoples have been titled by the Sandinista Government. The granting of titles covers 304 ancestral communities, 39,531 families, more than 200,000 people and 37,841 square kilometers, that is, 31.16% of the national territory.

In the special zone of Alto Wangki and Bocay, the last two titles for original communities will be ready at the end of 2020. On April 30, 2019, the Sandinista government inaugurated a 72.8 kilometer hydraulic concrete highway that joins the Pacific and the Caribbean by all-weather road for the first time in the country’s history. This construction took 3.5 years and cost US$115 million. Radio La Primerisima, 30 Oct. 2020

OMFIF Director Describes Nicaragua’s Advances
A government delegation participated in the Seminar entitled “Central America: Integration, Investment and Trade Opportunities” held virtually on Oct. 30. Organized by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the event was convened to evaluate the recent OMFIF socioeconomic report and investment in Central America. In remarks during the Seminar, the OMFIF Director of Studies Danae Kyriakopoulou noted that “the key to British investment in Nicaragua has been the outstanding creation of employment, the lowest level of unemployment in the region, economic stability according to data from the risk management agencies, investments in mining and healthcare, improved electricity coverage, a solid financial system and the best rate of liquidity assets in Central America.” For his part Dante Mossi, CABEI President, stated that “Nicaragua manages an exemplary project portfolio that contributes to social development of the population and stability in the country, which generates confidence among foreign investors.” Nicaragua News, 2 Oct. 2020

Holiday Toys for Children
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced on Oct. 29 that the Government will start delivering 1.2 million toys to Nicaraguan children on Dec. 10. “As of December 10th the good news is that 1.2 million toys will be delivered to the same number of boys and girls at schools around all the country.” Radio La Primerisima, 29 Oct. 2020

First Doctor from the Rama Indigenous Community
The indigenous people of Rama Cay, south of the city of Bluefields, in the Southern Caribbean Autonomous Region, have their first doctor, Dr. Barney McCrea Urbina, 37 years old. “I ended my teaching career in 2006. One thing that always caught my attention is that there were no Rama doctors at the Rama Cay health center, and I heard in the community meetings that people always wanted us to have our own doctor from our culture,” said McCrea. Dr. McCrea entered the medical school of the National Autonomous University in Leon in 2008, thanks to the rector of Bluefields Indian Caribbean University (BICU) professor Farand Dometz. [Dr. Dometz also promoted the creation of a medical school in Bluefields. And, on October 6, 2008, the BICU inaugurated its School of Medicine in coordination with the UNAN-Managua and the Model of Intercultural Health Care (MASIRAAS).] In 2016, Dr. McCrea did his internship in the Bilwi hospital and in San Carlos, Rio San Juan. He then did his social service in the regional hospital of Bluefields and the following year in the communities of the Rama territory. “The indigenous communities want to be served by their own people and so they encouraged me to train as a doctor,” said McCrea who defended his doctoral thesis on Oct. 27. Radio La Primerisima, 29 Oct. 2020

60,000 Nicaraguans Have Returned Home Since Pandemic
The Ministry of Interior announced that, since March 11, when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, 64,623 compatriots (24,177 women and 40,446 men) from different countries have returned to Nicaragua. Radio La Primerisima, 29 Oct. 2020

Television and Radio Classes Continue
The Ministry of Education (Mined) continues offering classes on television and radio to strengthen learning. This educational tool is useful in literature, mathematics, social studies, and natural sciences and at all levels from initial studies through secondary and adult education. Radio La Primerisima, 29 Oct. 2020

Sustainable Development of the Livestock Sector
The European Union Ambassador in Managua, Pelayo Castro and the Spanish Ambassador, María del Mar Fernández-Palacios made a field visit this week to evaluate the progress of the Cooperation Project for Sustainable Development of the livestock sector in Chontales department. The US$ 592,314 project financed the building of the Regional Laboratory for Veterinary Diagnosis and Food Microbiology of the Institute for Agricultural Protection and Health, benefiting 9,000 small and medium producers in 11 municipalities. Nicaragua News, 30 Oct. 2020

National Institute of Emergency Preparedness Inaugurated
On Oct. 30 the National System of Prevention and Attention to Disasters inaugurated the National Institute of Emergency Preparedness, INPAE, named after former mayor of Posoltega Felicita Zeledón as a tribute to her heroism. In 1998, she tried in vain to get immediate help from President Arnoldo Aleman, who would not believe her that there had been a mudslide that ended up taking more than 3,000 lives. If he had immediately called a national emergency and sent help, many lives could have been saved. The inauguration and development of the National Institute of Emergency Preparedness (INPAE) consolidates the training and preparation activities of the population developed by SINAPRED. Radio La Primerisima, 30 Oct. 2020

Police Receive Award from Spanish Foundation
The Carlos III Foundation awarded the Infante Cháves Ibero-American Order in the Grand Cross Degree to the Nicaragua National Police, in recognition of its exemplary work ensuring security of the population and its contribution to the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. The award was received Oct. 30 by the Nicaragua Ambassador in Madrid, Carlos Midence. Nicaragua News, 3 Nov. 2020