Five Former Health Ministers Agree: “Nicaragua at Extreme Risk”

…from the Covid-19 pandemic

A woman wearing a facemask and gloves crosses the street, heading away from a private hospital in Managua. Photo: Jorge Torres / EFE

Letter sent to the WHO and PAHO denounces the lack of actions and transparency from the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo

Por Yader Luna (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Five of Nicaragua’s former Ministers of Health have sent a letter to the authorities of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), stating that the country faces “extreme risk”, given the “magnitude that the Covid-19 pandemic is now reaching, and its imminent aggravation due to the lack of actions” on the part of the government presided over by Daniel Ortega.

The letter was signed by five different leaders that once presided over Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health: Lea Guido (1980-1985); Dora Maria Tellez (1985-1990); Lombardo Martinez Cabezas (1997-1999); Martha McCoy (1999-2000); and Margarita M. Gurdian (2004-2007). They note that despite the constant calls and proposals for combatting the pandemic issued by different sectors of the country, these have “fallen on deaf ears” as far as the government is concerned.

In the letter directed to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebrevesus of the WHO, and Dr. Carissa F. Etienne of PAHO, the former ministers point out that even though the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes the illness known as Covid-19, was declared a global pandemic on March 11, “in Nicaragua, such has been ignored, placing the health of the population at the gravest risk.”

“In Nicaragua, no actions for prevention and contention are being taken. In the current phase of the pandemic, the proper mitigation actions haven’t been taken either. This situation is still more serious considering the limited capacity of the public health system. Taking urgent action to prevent and mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic should have been an imperative and urgent priority,” they note.

Neither information nor prevention

The five former ministers insist that the Coronavirus pandemic “is already affecting the population in an exponentially growing way, and especially the most vulnerable people.”

“Contrary to their constitutional mandate, the Ministry of Health hasn’t informed the Nicaraguan population in a truthful, objective and transparent way about the real situation of the pandemic,” they criticize.

Similarly, they lament that the situation has been aggravated by the fact that President Ortega as well as his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, “have repeatedly minimized the risk of Covid-19 in their messages.”

Personnel from Chinandega’s “Spanish” Hospital [“Hospital Espana”] clean furniture and other facilities in the hospital complex. Photo: Esta Semana
Concern for the health personnel

The letter emphasizes that the government “not only hasn’t properly promoted the basic measures of physical and hygienic distancing,” but on the contrary “has promoted in the last two months activities that imply agglomerations of people, thus facilitating conditions for a massive contagion resulting in elevated human losses.”

“It especially concerns us that the health personnel on the front line of attention to those who become ill with Covid-19, have been working without necessary and sufficient protection and have been obligated under threat of severe sanctions to alter the public health information to deny or artificially minimize the number of cases and deaths due to the pandemic,” the letter explains.

The former ministers also indicate that, to date, there are reports of “a considerable number of professionals who have been infected in the health units, weakening the conditions for attending to those who need them, and there are personnel who’ve been fired for suspicions of having informed the families transparently.”

The former health ministers state: “the Nicaraguan citizenry find themselves in a situation of extreme risk,” and also that the lack of measures, “converts this into a serious risk for the Central American region.”

“The painful consequences of the current situation – by omission or commission – will be the full responsibility of those who control the institutions but have refused to inform with full honesty,” they affirm.

“Those people and institutions, although they have the advice of the WHO and PAHO, have refused to convoke the citizens and other sectors to prevent and dictate the measures necessary to protect the population. They’ve delayed the preparation of the health system and haven’t proportioned adequate and sufficient protection for the health personnel,” the letter added.

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