What do you do if there is trouble in the country of your planned project? When code orange has been issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for all travelers, what does it mean for you_ This is the case in Nicaragua, the home of the Rio Coco project.
Since 18 April, when President Daniel Ortega announced a cut in pensions and an increase in social security contributions, the people of Nicaragua started protesting. Especially the elderly took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction, by means of peaceful protests. Soon more protests followed, and there were wounded because the government wanted to stop these protests, using whatever means to achieve their goals. Since then things have gone from bad to worse. Public transport no longer runs, in major cities roads are blocked with self-built walls, the government is relentless in the fight against protesters and hospitals are full of wounded.
After the first reports of unrest, we remained positive. The region where we are going is in the far northeast of Nicaragua, far away from the cities where the most violence takes place. The government sort of left this region long ago to its own affairs, and the population in the small villages often do not even participate in national economic traffic. People grow their own food and have little or no income, so the reforms barely affect them.
But what about your own safety when you carry out a project? Can you travel safely to the jungle? What do you do in case of a medical emergency if hospitals have their hands full or are in unsafe areas? What do you do if you are bitten by a rabies infected animal and you have to receive antibodies within 48 hours? Can the building materials come to location through all roadblocks? What about food security? By asking ourselves these questions we have to conclude that Nicaragua is not a safe project location at the moment. As much as we would like to help the population of the Rio Coco (and their need might just had rapidly increased), the risks are too great. There is also no support from TU Delft for traveling to the area for which the ministry issues a negative travel advice.
Then of course there is a moment of (big) disappointment, of feeling that you do not want to have done all the preparation for nothing. Fortunately, we appear to be a resilient team and we encourage each other to search for solutions. We are currently busy looking for an alternative project location. One that is safe enough for us, but where the problem of clean drinking water facilities for the population is the same as in the northeast of Nicaragua.