The United States Government (USG) has provided approximately $2.5 billion in development assistance to Nicaragua, mainly through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Since its establishment in 1962, USAID has helped transform the lives of Nicaraguan families by funding programs that promote democratic practices, education, economic development, infrastructure, and natural resources, while providing humanitarian and life-saving assistance when most needed.
USAID played a vital role in the economic stabilization efforts of the early 1990s. With cash transfers totaling over $507 million, USAID helped curb rampant inflation, pay off debts to multilateral institutions, and fund $36.3 million on programs to generate employment. USAID has also provided millions of dollars in loans to farmers, entrepreneurs, and business owners, resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs. USAID programs invested over $27 million in employment generation projects and funded the electrification project in the Caribbean Coast.
USAID invested over $140 million in health projects that included family planning, maternal and child health, immunization assistance, and decentralization of health services. Assistance in these areas was met with such ringing success that in 2006 USAID started planning for Nicaragua’s graduation from the health program, indicating that health outcomes in Nicaragua had improved significantly and that these improvements could be sustained. The Agency continues its HIV/AIDS prevention activities in the country.
USAID created educational programs, provided new textbooks and school materials, led teacher training, and built new schools to reach students in remote rural areas. USAID programs have also helped approximately 150,000 children and youth complete primary and basic secondary school through 7,290 scholarships and over 5,400 youth trained and certified in different technical trades. USAID’s education program in Nicaragua’s Southern Autonomous Region of the Caribbean Coast has provided scholarships and vocational training in this area. USAID has also contributed to higher education in Nicaragua by helping establish INCAE Business School, ranked among the top ten business schools in the world.
Infrastructure and natural resources
The U.S. government funded the construction of many of the country’s major roads, including the iconic Inter-American Highway, the road from Managua to Granada, and the road from Leon to Chinandega. USAID also funded environmental education and awareness campaigns and helped establish reserves and protected areas, including the Miskito Cays Reserve, the Bosawas Reserve, the Chacocente Wildlife Refuge, and the Mombacho Volcano.
Democracy and Governance
USAID has played an important role in supporting democracy, good governance and rule of law. In the 1990’s, USAID’s support allowed the creation of financial management systems for the national and municipal governments and helped modernize and create various State institutions. It also supported a comprehensive judicial reform to include a new Criminal Code for complex crimes such as corruption, organized crime, and human trafficking. USAID has been active for every national and municipal election in Nicaragua since 1996, always striving to increase citizen and civil society participation, coordinate with election management bodies, electoral observation and support voter education. USAID has also been supporting civil society organizations’ initiatives aiming to increase transparency and accountability. Currently, USAID works with local partners to support democratic practices, human rights, civil society, and independent media.
When an emergency strikes, USAID provides support to people on the ground, responding and bringing humanitarian relief. After the 1972 earthquake devastated Managua, USAID was instrumental in the recovery process by providing over $80 million to reconstruct the capital city to build 8,000 housing units, install 4,560 household water connections, and repair 60,000 household electric connections. After Hurricane Mitch, USAID provided $103 million in emergency assistance to repair damaged infrastructure, restore livelihoods, and provide health services and food aid. To address Nicaragua’s current humanitarian needs in the wake of two devastating hurricanes and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, between 2020 and 2021, USAID has provided over $17 million to implement water, sanitation, and hygiene community projects, provide food and disinfection kits to vulnerable populations, and carry out programs to protect vulnerable populations.