IACHR and OSRESCER Express Alarm at Scarcity of Public Information on the Pandemic in Nicaragua and Urge State to Implement Urgent Science-Based Prevention Measures with a Human Rights Approach

November 17, 2021

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Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Economic Rights (OSRESCER) expressed their alarm over the limited information on the COVID-19 pandemic being provided by government authorities in Nicaragua. According to figures from the Citizen Observatory, deaths from COVID-19 allegedly range between 190 and 200 per week, in contrast to reports from the Ministry of Health (MINSA), according to which there has only been one death per week.

The IACHR and the OSRESCER expressed their concern over the lack of a public health response and adoption of efficient, preventive measures to counter the spread of SARS-CoV2 on the part of Nicaraguan authorities. Civil society organizations have noted that State authorities have continued to call on the public to attend large-scale events and activities without precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ranging from party meetings to celebrations and other forms of entertainment. Likewise, they have noted that the most recent of these invitations made by the national government do not include social distancing measures or guidelines for voluntary quarantine or isolation, which is especially concerning given the high levels of contagion recorded by civil society organizations and other stakeholders.

The IACHR and the OSRESCER noted once again that the failure to adopt measures and actions that are in line with the recommendations of international public health organizations regarding COVID-19 could jeopardize the life, health, and physical integrity of large sectors of the population. The IACHR and the OSRESCER also recalled that the State is obliged to allow individuals access to public information and to guarantee that this is available. This is particularly important in circumstances in which this information is a tool for exercising the rights to health, integrity, and life itself, as is the case in the current pandemic.

Furthermore, the IACHR and OSRESCER are concerned that vaccination rates in Nicaragua are very low compared to other countries in the region. Although Nicaragua has the capacity to vaccinate at least 150,000 people per day, according to public information, the current vaccination campaign is falling short of these figures. In this regard, according to data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Nicaragua has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Latin America: as of mid-November, only 7.38% of the population had completed the vaccination scheme.

In addition, according to publicly available information, the COVID-19 vaccination model being implemented by the Nicaraguan government will allegedly only cover 2.8 million people over 30 years of age, which barely represents 32% of the country's population of more than six million. The State has claimed that at least 523,000 Nicaraguans have been vaccinated since the campaign began almost seven months ago. At a public event, the President himself pointed out that this figure represents 18.6% of the population scheduled to be vaccinated, all of whom are over 30 years. According to his announcement, the State plans to vaccinate 2,800,000 people, 523,557 have already received their injections. He added that from September 20 to October 9, the state would be receiving more vaccines and applying 400,000 of these. Despite this announcement, the IACHR and the OSRESCER are concerned by the difficulties that have been encountered in implementing the vaccination program. They are aware that a day before the beginning of the current phase, there were queues and crowds in the department of Carazo and in Managua, where social distancing measures, capacity limits, and biosecurity measures were not respected.

The IACHR and the OSRESCER also urged the State to take concrete actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially by accelerating the vaccination process since this is the most effective way of stopping the virus from spreading. In this regard, they reminded the State of the recommendations issued in IACHR resolutions 1/2020, 4/2020 and 1/2021, which provide a broad conceptual framework that allows government authorities to design, plan, and implement public policies and adopt measures required to address the pandemic from a human rights approach, and called on the State to implement these recommendations.

The IACHR and the OSRESCER also reiterated their concern over the situation of health-sector workers and professionals. On this point, they noted that labor unions, professional associations, and individual health-sector workers have made various efforts to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially by seeking to influence the general population through information campaigns on social media platforms and other mechanisms available to them, in response to the limited information provided by the State. In addition, health-sector workers are among the groups at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19, since, as of October 13, 2021, according to figures from the Citizen Observatory, at least 1,375 health workers have been reported to have suffered symptoms associated with COVID-19 in the different departments and autonomous regions of the country (85 municipalities). Similarly, the State has only reported a total of 223 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, although this figure may be higher, according to health-sector organizations.

Finally, the IACHR and the OSRESCER have become aware of ongoing acts of harassment and persecution targeting health-sector workers as a consequence of going about their work. In response, they once again condemned these actions and urged the Nicaraguan State to cease them immediately, and to provide effective protection for health professionals. This particularly includes prioritizing immunizing this group with safe, effective vaccines against COVID-19.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 309/21

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