Life in Nicaragua

  • The population of Nicaragua is almost 6 million.
  • Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, behind only Haiti.
  • 42.5% of Nicaraguans live below the poverty line, surviving on less than $1 per day.  75.8% of the population lives on less than $2 per day.
  • Poverty in Nicaragua is further complicated by the population’s extreme vulnerability to natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, drought, flooding and hurricanes. Hurricane Felix, for example, which hit in September 2007, affected 33,000 families and destroyed nearly 80% of the infrastructure in 295 communities.
  • Unemployment is only 6%, but underemployment is at 46.5%.  In other words, almost half of the labor force has jobs that are either less than full-time or are otherwise inadequate for the employee’s training or economic needs.
  • Nicaragua has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world, and it has the third lowest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Less than 25% of the economically active population has the security of a fixed salary.

Issues facing children in Nicaragua

  • Five of the country’s 17 departments have chronic malnutrition rates of more than 30%, and the rate exceeds 50% in the regions where most of Nicaragua’s indigenous people live.
  • Approximately 40% of the population does not have consistent access to health services (75% for the indigenous and Afro-descendent populations), with the remaining 60% covered by low-quality services.
  • A third of the population has no access to sustainable sources of drinking water, a figure that rises to 53% in rural areas and 79%.
  • 24% of children are not in the school system, and child labor affects approximately 14% of children under 15 are in the work force.  Exclusion from the school system mainly affects rural indigenous populations and Afro-descendent families, as well as children who have disabilities.
  • The annual HIV/AIDS incidence has increased from 4.1 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2003, to 27 in 2014. In recent years, the infection ratio between men and women has tilted increasingly towards women. 60% of adolescents who contracted HIV in 2008 were women. Approximately half of adolescents do not know how to prevent HIV.


  • According the Ministry of Education, there are more than 500,000 children not in school.
  • 21% of children leave school in the first grade.
  • Only 35% of preschool-age children are in school.
  • Average education level is 5.6 years, only 3.6 years in rural areas.
  • Only 40% of children enroll in high school, and only 40% of those graduate.
  • Teachers’ earn only half the average salary of the rest of Nicaragua’s workers.
  • Only 60% of those who enroll in primary school finish, out of the 87 % that enroll.
  • 17% of Nicaraguans over the age of 15 are illiterate.

(Source Information:, The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress, and The State of the World’s Children 2008)

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