Information by Country

Nicaragua: Background

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.
Nicaragua has a population of 5.1 million and an annual population growth rate of 2.7 per cent; 53 per cent of the population is under 18 years of age. Nicaragua's main challenge is to overcome inequity and poverty, which affect children and women most severely. The breakdown of income distribution shows that 45 per cent of all income goes to the richest 10 per cent of the population, while only 14 per cent goes to the poorest. Nicaragua is the third poorest country in the Americas, with a per capita gross national product of $453. Poverty affects 2.3 million persons, 831,000 of whom live in extreme poverty, mainly in the Central and Atlantic regions.

One of every three children has some degree of chronic malnutrition and nine per cent suffer from severe malnutrition. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 150 per 100,000 live births is unacceptably high. In the Atlantic region and areas difficult to access, MMR may be twice as high as the national average. Adolescent pregnancies account for one of every four births nationally. Safe water and sanitation coverage continues to be low, particularly in rural areas and those with dispersed populations.

Access to early childhood development interventions is limited. An estimated 79 per cent of primary-school-age children are enrolled, with no gender difference. The quality and relevance of education are significant problems. It takes an average of 10.3 years to complete the mandatory six years of schooling, and only 29 per cent of children complete primary schooling. Poverty affects school participation, with many families unable to afford the direct or hidden costs. Poverty also results in child labour, which affects more than 167,000 children and adolescents.

One of every four households is headed by a woman. Family violence leads to family disintegration and a culture of violence. As yet, 36 per cent of children are not legally registered due to administrative, legal and cultural causes. Only five per cent of disabled children receive appropriate support. Child and adolescent sexual exploitation, drug use and violence are emerging issues of concern. The existence of approximately 76,000 landmines continues to be a high-risk factor for children and adolescents.

The presence of HIV/AIDS in all departments and the potential of its spread represent a high, latent risk. Official data show a low number of cases, giving a false sense of security. The main challenges of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and counterparts are to improve surveillance capacity; raise awareness among decision makers to overcome denial; and support the National Programme on Sexually Transmitted Infections/HIV/AIDS.

Growing environmental degradation exacerbates poverty among children and their families. Poverty and its interaction with the environment increase already high levels of social and environmental vulnerability. Nicaragua is also prone to disasters including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and drought.



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