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MSF’s first mission in 1972 was in Managua, the capital and largest city of Nicaragua, where an earthquake destroyed most of the city and killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.

We then spent 22 years treating victims of Chagas, a parasitic disease that attacks the heart and the nervous and digestive systems. The project closed in 2005, after the national health ministry had included the disease in a new 10-year plan and the rate of infections had dropped.

In 2018, we returned to Nicaragua to offer psychosocial support to people suffering from conditions such as anxiety, adjustment disorder and post-traumatic stress as a result of having witnessed or experienced violent events associated with civil and political unrest.

What is happening in Nicaragua?

Ongoing social and political violence has threatened both the physical and psychological health of the Nicaraguan people. The circumstances have prompted thousands of people to seek asylum in the neighboring country of Costa Rica. Since April 2018, approximately 68,000 Nicaraguans have fled to Costa Rica.

How we're helping in Nicaragua

Throughout 2019, MSF provided medical and mental health care to victims of traumatic episodes of violence experienced during armed unrest or while detained. We offered mental health care to patients and their relatives, most of whom were suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to running basic medical services, MSF facilitated access to specialized care, such as physiotherapy and neurology, and treatment for sexual violence. The teams strengthened their activities in the capital, Managua, and in Masaya, Jinotepe, León, Estelí, Jinotega, and Matagalpa.

Until September, MSF staff also treated Nicaraguan patients who had crossed the border into Costa Rica to request asylum. According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, Costa Rica has received more than 68,000 of the estimated 82,000 Nicaraguans who have fled the country since April 2018. Our teams there offered medical and psychological care and organized referrals to specialist services.

In both countries, MSF provided training in basic mental health care, psychological first aid, and self-help to community leaders, groups and educators to enable them to give psychological support to others in crisis situations. After collaborating with other groups and organizations, the teams were able to extend these activities. At the end of the year, we handed over all services and referred patients to these organisations.