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IDB Finances Program for Poor Children in Nicaragua

The Inter-American Development Bank has granted Nicaragua two loans of $7.5 million each to finance a social welfare program for children under six years of age who live in extreme poverty in the nation’s cities.


The program’s goal is to improve living conditions for preschool-age urban children, alleviating the deprivations they face in nutrition, health and stimulation. The program will offer more services for young children in poor neighborhoods while also seeking to improve the quality and sustainability of these services.


To date, Nicaragua’s social programs for young children have tended to focus on rural areas, where poverty is more pronounced. But the vulnerability of the urban poor has become increasingly evident, given the sharp economic contraction, rising food prices and growing unemployment that came in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.


The new Urban Welfare Program for Children in Extreme Poverty will be implemented at the neighborhood level, covering children from approximately 8,000 families who live in the 80 poorest neighborhoods in the nine poorest urban municipalities in the country.


The program will be implemented over three years, and its results will be measured on the basis of some 50 indicators. For example, chronic malnutrition among poor urban children under the age of five is expected to fall from 14.1 percent today to 8.3 percent in 2012. The percentage of children under 12 in covered neighborhoods who have not been registered in the Civil Registry is expected to drop from 25 percent to 8 percent in two years.


To achieve these results, the program will build and/or equip 128 community childcare centers in the targeted neighborhoods in order to provide services to children under six in their own neighborhoods throughout the school year. The program will use the comprehensive model from a similar project that was successful for rural children, known by its acronym PAININ, which also received IDB financing.


Because these types of centers do not currently receive much assistance, financing is needed not only for the buildings where they are located but also for furnishings, equipment, teacher training and salaries, food and nutritional supplements for the children, and program and stimulation supplies.


The need for early childcare centers is especially critical in Nicaragua’s cities, where 32 percent of children live in single-parent households. Public childcare centers offer few services for children under six, and estimates suggest that some 25 percent of urban children have not been registered in the Civil Registry.


The program also includes activities designed to ensure the involvement and support of children’s families and their local communities. These activities will promote positive attitudes and behavior related to child development. A third component of the program involves consolidating the network of institutions that provide comprehensive child services, which would make public programs more efficient.


The program is structured in two phases, and it will include an external evaluation of the first phase’s impact prior to beginning the second. The second phase will also last three years and extend the model to new neighborhoods, requiring $20 million in additional financing.

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