• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 102,000 People displaced [?]



Protests against the reform of the social security system that began in April 2018 were instantly met by violent repression from Nicaraguan authorities, prompting a period of large-scale civil unrest characterised by protests, demonstrations, and strikes. Reports of violence, arbitrary detentions, harassment tactics, intimidation campaigns, and incidents of torture against opposition protesters and human rights defenders have increased and are likely to continue, with no political resolution in sight. ? The crisis has led some 52,000 to flee to Costa Rica. ?

The political crisis has led to economic turmoil, with Nicaragua formally falling into recession on 1 October 2018 for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2009. Unemployment has spiked, with an estimated 417,000 people losing their jobs between April and November 2018. ?

According to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH), 561 people were killed and 4,578 injured in relation to the crisis since April 2018, an increase from the 325 killed and 2,000 injured previously reported between April and August 2018. ?

Latest Developments


No significant recent humanitarian developments. This crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.


Humanitarian Access



Humanitarian access in Nicaragua remained stable despite the current difficult political environment, compounded by the impact of natural hazards. The limitations imposed by the Government on humanitarian activities and operations are of particular concern. Bureaucratic requirements, including complex registration processes, keep agencies on hold despite being prepared to respond. NGOs are not allowed to operate unless they comply with all requirements outlined by several laws and regulations.

Although some international NGOs and UN agencies are operational in Nicaragua, other humanitarian and human rights organisations have been denied entry into the country, expelled, or forced to shut down. Staff members of humanitarian and faith-based organisations, as well as their activities, are closely controlled. The Parliament approved in October 2020 the ‘foreign agents’ law, which grants the Government control over any natural or legal person in Nicaragua (Nicaraguan or of other nationality) who receives funds or goods directly or indirectly from foreign natural persons, governments, agencies, foundations, corporations, or associations of any type or nature. This law poses a significant access constraint for humanitarian organisations and agencies, national and international, who receive foreign funding from or have links to foreign countries.

In terms of logistical constraints, hurricanes Eta and Iota caused severe damage to infrastructure – including bridges, schools, and hospitals – which has not yet been repaired. This continues to affect access for both humanitarian organisations and people in need.

Read more in the latest ACAPS Humanitarian Access Overview.


New legislation that highly limits humanitarian operations adds to unmet needs and worsens humanitarian conditions Latest update: 04/04/2021


Highly unlikely Somewhat likely Highly likely


Very low Moderate Major

Risk rationale

In September 2018, as a result of ongoing demonstrations against the Nicaraguan government, a statement issued by the national police prohibited anti-government protests.? This prohibition remains in place as at 25 March. Since September 2018, the government has issued more laws that considerably restrict the exercise of human rights and forms of opposition and dissent, resulting in the government gaining more political control.?

In October 2020, the Nicaraguan parliament passed the Foreign Agents Act. This legislation requires all people and entities (including humanitarian organisations and agencies) who receive funds or goods from foreign governments or entities to register with the government and report on activities on a monthly basis in order to operate in the country. If they do not register as foreign agents and comply with the requisites and procedures of the act, they could be forced to shut down.?

As a result of this law, as at 5 February 2021 two prominent organisations that promote human rights and freedom of speech and press had announced the closure of their operations in rejection of the legislation.? As at 9 March 2021, two humanitarian organisations - which had provided material aid following hurricanes Eta and Iota - were facing possible closure because of difficulties in registering as foreign agents.? This law poses a significant access constraint for national and international organisations and agencies that receive foreign funding or which have links to foreign countries.

Human rights organisations were already facing restrictions and persecution from the government. There is a moderate risk that humanitarian organisations that provide material aid will also see their operations being hampered as a result of the bureaucratic difficulties imposed by the Foreign Agents Act. This will likely lead to worsening humanitarian conditions and limited or no response capacity for existing and new needs.

Risk impact

In the event that the operations of humanitarian organisations are hampered, the following humanitarian needs linked to the socio-political and economic crisis, as well as to natural disasters, are expected to go unmet. Nicaragua is in fact facing a socio-political and economic crisis that has been worsening since the 2018 political events. It is also one of the least developed countries in Latin America in terms of basic services, and is vulnerable to recurrent natural disasters.? Food insecurity and malnutrition remain a key concern as the prevalence of chronic undernutrition is 17%; rates are as high as 30% in some regions. Food insecurity is closely related to poverty and to frequent natural disasters.?

In November 2020, hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Nicaragua. These hurricanes affected 60% of the national territory, triggering intense flooding and landslides which resulted in the destruction of homes, agriculture, and fishery-based livelihoods. More than three million people were exposed, with an estimated 1.8 million people affected. There are still 730,600 people in need and new weather events could increase this number.? People affected by the economic crisis and the hurricanes, or who face food insecurity, often rely on aid provided by humanitarian organisations to meet their needs. These include WASH, health, food, education, and the recovery of livelihoods and agricultural production. If humanitarian organisations temporarily or permanently close their operations, existing and new needs will be unmet - increasing the number of people in need.

Migration flows are also likely to increase, as people leave Nicaragua because of worsening socio-economic conditions and a lack of access to services and aid. The lack of human rights organisations could also lead to more violent repression and human rights violations from state actors, as well as increased protection concerns.

Read the full Global Risk Analysis here.

Read this risk

COVID-19 Outbreak


Nicaragua has officially confirmed  6,989 cases of COVID-19 with 183 deaths ?. No confinement measures or lockdown have been imposed in the country, with NGOs and doctors casting doubts on official governmental figures. Classes have resumed following the Easter break, borders are open, and mass gatherings are not prohibited, with higher risk of exposure to infection for all citizens. Testing availability is severely limited, as is the capacity of the healthcare system, which is short on medical professionals. Very little information is available on the humanitarian response. Nicaragua shares land borders with Honduras and Costa Rica, both of which have active outbreaks with hundreds of cases.?

Key priorities


Protection: Large-scale civic unrest has persisted since the beginning of the crisis, and the government’s repressive strategies have intensified, raising serious protection concerns. ?

Food security and livelihoods:  Nicaragua is experiencing high levels of food insecurity due to the impacts of Hurricanes Eta and Iota. Increasing food prices resulting from economic recession and the COVID -19 pandemic also limits food access. ?

Information gaps and needs

  • Current data on economic activity is missing because the Central Bank of Nicaragua (BNC) has not provided updates since June 2018, and the Nicaraguan government is still downplaying the economic crisis and contesting figures.