A few statistics on Nicaragua:
· $1028 – Second lowest per capita income in the Americas
· 48% of population live below poverty line
· 30 – 40% of homes have a woman head of household
· President – Daniel Ortega – Sandanista Party – for the 2nd time.
Two of our traveling companions, one from the U.S. and one from Nicaragua, are political history buffs. During our many hours of traveling to and from our survey sites we had plenty of time for lively, interesting, informative discussions on the history, culture and politics of Nicaragua; the latter being incendiary, difficult, multi-faceted, dangerous, murky. What’s the truth? I’m not sure. I can only give you my observations.
In the isolated countryside, life goes on as it has for 100’s of years. There’s no time for anything but surviving in the simplest manner. Lack of money, jobs and transportation keeps subsistence farming alive. The simple homes of either handmade clay bricks or gleaned wood are clean.
Our survey was to inspect the condition and use of the latrines (installed in the last two years) and the older water systems in the area surrounding El Sauce. If the results are good, the Water for People funding will continue. And they were.
· Almost all households were headed by women.
· All agreed to allow us to view the latrines and answer questions about use and cleanliness.
· All latrines were clean and most decorated.
· All the people we talked to were friendly, open and educated in water use.
· No households had indoor water or plumbing.
The exception was in public institutions – both schools and health clinics. The older latrines, not installed by El Porvenir and WFP, were in bad condition, generally not functioning. There were few if any supplies or books. The buildings were rundown and in need of repair. When I asked about the sad conditions, I was told that education and health care were free, but the government “won’t put its money where its mouth is.” And “Since they’re “free”, the government won’t accept private funds when offered.” What?
When we returned to Managua, the political center of the country, the contrast was extreme. Nothing like the bucolic countryside filled with simple hard-working people. That’s the next and last story from Nicaragua.