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Nicaragua, the “land of lakes and volcanoes,” is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

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In addition to wars and rebellions, dictators and widespread poverty, natural disasters have led to the destruction of the capital city of Managua twice in the last century. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch ravaged the country and more than 750,000 people lost their homes or possessions. Estimated at $1 billion, the damage further weakened an already dwindling economy. The drought of 2001 caused additional hardship to the people of Nicaragua, damaging most of their crops and setting back the economy.

According to the World Bank, approximately 50 percent of the population live in poverty and 19 percent live in extreme poverty. Almost half of the population lacks access to safe water, illiteracy is still high, and there is a whole generation that was unable to attend school or saw its education interrupted by the war. Half of Nicaragua’s population is now living below poverty line. The leading causes of death among children under a year old are intestinal infectious diseases and malnutrition.

Food For The Poor has been working in Nicaragua since 1998, with partner the American Nicaraguan Foundation. The charity has more than 39 ongoing projects there. Key developments include:

  • Construction of more than 15,643 housing units
  • Development in 2012 of Yeshai Fields Village of Peace. Watch a video of the village here.
  • Creation of more than 20 water projects

Learn more about our projects in Nicaragua


Nicaragua Map Nicaraguan Country Flag

The Pacific coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, saw the Sandinistas defeated, but voting in 2006 announced the return of former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra. Nicaragua's infrastructure and economy - hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 - are slowly being rebuilt.

Fast Facts

  • Area ― 49,998 sq. miles (slightly larger than New York State)
  • Population ― 5,891,199 (July 2010 est.)
  • Capital ― Managua
  • Independence Day ― Sept. 15, 1821, from Spain
  • Languages ― Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census)
  • Religion ― Roman Catholic 58.5%, Evangelical 21.6%, Moravian 1.6%, Jehovah's Witness 0.9%, other 1.7%, none 15.7% (2005 census)
  • Currency ― Gold Cordoba (NIO) / 22 cordobas = $1 USD (Oct. 2010 est.)
  • Unemployment ― 8.2% (2009 est.) Note: underemployment was 46.5% in 2008
  • Literacy rate ― Total population: 67.5% | Male: 67.2% | Female: 67.8%
    (Defined: age 15 and older can read and write) (2003 est.)


By Age: (2010 est.)

0-14 years: 33.8% (male 1,013,866 / female 976,430)
15-64 years: 62.9% (male 1,847,756 / female 1,857,264)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 85,782 / female 110,101)

Median Age: (2010 est.)

Total: 22.5 years
Male:22.1 years
Female: 22.9 years

Infant Mortality: (2010 est.)

Total: 25.02 deaths / 1,000 live births
Male: 28.09 deaths / 1,000 live births
Female:21.8 deaths / 1,000 live births

Life Expectancy: (2010 est.)

Total: 71.5 years
Male: 69.35 years
Female: 73.75 years

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