Addressing Severe Childhood Poverty in Nicaragua

Restore health. Revive lost hope.

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Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and its people have long faced significant challenges in obtaining even basic necessities. In collaboration with trusted ministry partners and faithful donors around the world, Cross Catholic Outreach is working to meet the needs of these struggling families and help them fight their way out of poverty.

The poorest children in rural Nicaragua only eat one meal per day.

In rural Nicaragua, poor families have very limited opportunities for educating their children or improving their situation in life. In fact, most villagers are living hand-to-mouth, day by day. They are typically day laborers on local farms and large plantations, earning meager wages in return for backbreaking work. They struggle to secure basic necessities, such as food and safe housing, and nearly one-third of the rural population lives without access to improved water sources.

Keep reading to learn more about the plight of Nicaragua’s poor, and discover the steps you can take to make a difference!

A map of Nicaragua

Quick Facts

Population: 6,203,441 (2020 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP): $5,900 (2017 est.)

Literacy rate: 82.6%

Infant mortality: 16.5 deaths/1,000 live births

Population below poverty line: 29.6% (2015est.)

Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Evangelical 33.2%, Unspecified 13.2%

According to the CIA World Factbook, about 30% of Nicaragua’s rural population does not have access to improved water sources. Children often collect contaminated water in unclean containers and contract intestinal parasites as a result.

The Problem

War, Disaster and the Wide Wealth Gap

In the 1980s, civil war devastated Nicaragua, destroying much of the nation’s infrastructure and making it difficult for many families to rebuild their lives. Years later, a persisting wealth gap, a low minimum wage, a lack of access to quality schools, frequent earthquakes and a high rate of teen pregnancy continue to plague families, preventing them from improving their circumstances.

Poverty is particularly dire in the country’s rural regions. There, most families are engaged in employment as seasonal farm laborers, performing arduous work for minimal pay and scrambling to find odd jobs after the harvest. Often, remote villages do not have access to quality schools. In addition, malnutrition and waterborne bacteria put many villagers at risk for infectious diseases. Rural inhabitants commonly suffer from high fevers, gastrointestinal issues, anemia and kidney disease, as well as respiratory ailments due to the use of smoky indoor stoves.

Fifty percent of Nicaragua’s population identifies as Catholic, but when every day is a fight for survival, even people of faith can start to question God’s presence in their lives. Devoted ministries are striving to reveal Christ’s mercy and relieve the burden on the poor, but they need outside help to accomplish these goals.

With your support, we can empower devoted ministries that are striving to provide clean water and other necessities to families in need.

Poverty Relief in Nicaragua

Restoring Health and Hope Among the Poor

Cross Catholic Outreach is a Vatican-recognized 501(c)(3) organization that empowers Catholic ministries, parishes and dioceses serving the poor in developing nations. By partnering with these existing outreaches, we strive to unify the global Church, linking compassionate donors with priests, nuns and missionaries who are working “in the trenches” to transform impoverished communities.

Cross Catholic Outreach is working in rural Nicaragua to transform the lives of villagers who face a desperate choice between drinking contaminated water and going thirsty. Join this outpouring of God’s love in delivering improved health, better infrastructure, education support, economic development and community solidarity in obedience to Christ’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Donate Today to Provide Hope to Nicaraguans

Today, we are calling on compassionate Catholics like you to partner in this important work. Your support will empower ministries such as Amigos for Christ and Rainbow Network to share God’s mercy with the poor in Nicaragua. Together, we can relieve the burden on struggling families by providing lifesaving nourishment, installing clean water systems, improving family health, building safe housing, caring for vulnerable children and empowering families with sustainable sources of income.

Empowering Nicaragua's Poor

Featured Partner: Amigos for Christ

Founded shortly after Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaragua in 1998, Amigos for Christ is an interdenominational ministry working alongside more than 150 impoverished rural communities around Chinandega. Cross Catholic Outreach is working with this partner to strengthen the poor through health-conscious improvements, microcredit loans, vocational training, clean water, sanitation, spiritual support and more. Many projects facilitate mission groups from the U.S. that work alongside local community members to accomplish the project together.

“Amigos is built on the idea that we serve the Lord by serving his people,” explains Executive Director John Bland. “As we immerse ourselves in the lives of the poor in Chinandega, we show them that we will suffer with them, and by doing that, we demonstrate that our hearts are moved by the Lord. This is our witness to them.”

A woman beneficiary of an Amigos for Christ animal husbandry program

Animal Husbandry

In the remote rural villages of Nicaragua, poor men and women may only earn two or three dollars a day — barely enough to put food on the table.

That’s why Amigos for Christ is working to empower families with a sustainable source of income that suits their rural way of life — pigs! Your support can help empower eight households by equipping them with pigs, pigpen materials, feed, technical support and veterinary services. Families will also receive training in the Dave Ramsey system of managing money, helping them work toward the goal of earning $15 per day.


A Nicaraguan woman cooks on a clean air stove

Clean Kitchens

Rural Nicaraguan families typically cook their meals over indoor wood-burning stoves that produce high levels of carbon monoxide. Long-term exposure to these levels produces chronic respiratory issues and can even prove fatal.

With your help, our partner will be able to build modest clean-air kitchens in order to improve the health of sick and suffering families. Each kitchen is equipped with a sanitary ceramic-tiled food preparation area and a slow-burning smokeless stove. These stoves eliminate carbon monoxide poisoning and reduce the use of firewood by 70%.

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A young girl in Nicaragua glances over her shoulder with a smile while enjoying a warm meal


The poorest children in Nicaragua are underfed, leading to stunting, lethargy and weakened immune systems. Hungry children struggle to concentrate in school and often fall behind. Worse still, they are sometimes pulled out of school altogether to help support their struggling families.

You can help these children and their families by funding the shipment of nutrient-rich Vitafood meals. Your support empowers our partner to satisfy the hunger of Nicaraguan children and families and help them achieve a brighter future.

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A proud Nicaraguan farmer shows the fruits of his labors


Extreme poverty can produce many negative ripple-effects that hinder a family’s progress for generations. For example, poor fathers frequently migrate to other countries in search of permanent work, but their families often splinter because of the distance.

By providing 140 families with microloans, we can mitigate these issues. Your support will restore dignity, confidence and stability to entire households, providing them with profitable opportunities in either agriculture or business.

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Cool, clean water is poured over the head of a young girl in Nicaragua

Water and Sanitation

Without access to improved water sources, families often drink from contaminated streams and shallow wells. As a result, they battle with repeated bouts of waterborne illness, such as bacterial diarrhea — a leading cause of death for children under 5.

This year, our partner is working to construct water systems in five communities. Your support will bring much-needed relief, restoring families’ health through the gift of clean, safe water. It will also bless families with improved sanitation, including modern bathrooms in their homes.

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Featured Partner: Rainbow Network

Rainbow Network is currently working in 166 communities, touching 59,000 lives throughout Nicaragua. Its programs empower the poor by equipping them with the tools they need to improve their own lives and increase their self-sufficiency. In fact, all of Rainbow Network’s Nicaragua-based staff members are Nicaraguan and local to communities served by the ministry.

“I love our programs because they are holistic and all about empowerment. They don’t rely on me being here,” says Executive Director Megan Munzlinger. “You give [the people] the tools, and they really run with it.”

A girl at at Rainbow Network feeding program


Malnutrition stunts a child’s ability to develop both physically and cognitively. Rainbow Network’s feeding centers provide lifesaving daily meals for thousands of hungry children, as well as pregnant women, elderly people and other vulnerable populations.

Cross Catholic Outreach is working to provide both financial aid and shipments of food to support this vital program. Your support will provide priceless meals, allowing children to grow, learn, play and live as God intended.

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Two boys smile in front of a Rainbow Network house

Safe Housing

Impoverished Nicaraguan families often live in hot, tattered shelters built from plastic tarp and scraps of wood or tin. These structures leak and flood during a storm, and families receive little protection against rodents and intruders.

Rainbow Network’s housing program will build 21 earthquake-resistant homes, blessing a total of 168 people. Children will be able to sleep through the night, and families will dwell in peace and dignity.


A Nicaraguan boy

Community Transformation

This year, Cross Catholic Outreach is working with Rainbow Network to make a concentrated relief effort in San Isidro, a municipality located on the outskirts of Nagarote in western Nicaragua. With help from compassionate people like you, we will be able to support holistic transformation in 20 rural villages. This support will bless 5,733 people by providing:

  • ●  Nutritional support through 64 feeding centers.
  • ●  Scholarships for 105 students to attend high school.
  • ●  Bi-monthly medical clinics.
  • ●  Job training and microloans for 400 adults.


Change Lives Now

Please — join our concerted effort to address poverty in Nicaragua. With proper nutrition, clean drinking water, safe housing, and access to other important resources, poor families will finally be able to move forward with improved health and hope for the future.

Change Even More Lives

Giving monthly is a small way to have a big impact. Your regular support empowers our ministry to respond to urgent needs and fulfill our long-term projects across the world.

Become a monthly donor today and experience the joy of impacting lives every month.

What is the poorest country in Central America? What is the richest?

With a GDP Per Capital (PPP) of only $5,900, Nicaragua is considered the poorest country in Central America. In contrast, Panama is the richest country in Central America with a per capita GDP of $25,400.

What causes poverty in Central America?

The root causes of poverty vary from country to country, but common factors include oppressive historical events (such as civil war), an unequal distribution of wealth, frequent natural disasters and a lack of access to quality schools. High rates of drug abuse, crime and teen pregnancy can also serve as contributing factors.

How many people in Nicaragua live in poverty?

Nicaragua has a population of 6,203,441, and 29.6% live below the poverty line — about 1,836,219 people. According to numbers from The World Bank, more than 812,650 Nicaraguans (13.1% of the population) live on less than $3.20 per day.

What are the ways to help the poor?

Two of the most immediate, effective ways you can help the poor are by praying and giving. Intercede on behalf of the suffering, asking God to miraculously meet their needs. Then, take action to fund ministries that are working to bring relief and reveal Christ’s love. In this way, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor!

How much of Nicaragua is in poverty? 

As of 2020, 14.7% of Nicaragua’s population, or 90,000 people, are living in poverty. This amount increased from 13.5% in 2019, in part due to Covid-19, as well as the hits from Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Why is Nicaragua poor? 

The short answer is political upheaval. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Though there are various reasons behind the financial condition of Nicaragua, one of the biggest is the continuous political conflict that throws the country into instability. These political upheavals include three periods of dictatorship, a civil war, and a U.S. occupation. 

Additionally, the vast differences in quality of life between the rural and urban areas make it difficult for the country to prosper as a whole. Nicaragua is also heavily dependent on agricultural exports like cotton and coffee. 80% of the population works in agriculture and accounts for 15.5% of the GDP, yet still faces food insecurity in their everyday lives. 

Finally, natural disasters play a large role, due to the geographical location of Nicaragua. Since it’s surrounded by water and volcanoes, the land is extremely unstable and vulnerable to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, droughts, and hurricanes. 

What percent of Nicaragua’s rural population lives in poverty? 

43% of the total Nicaraguan population resides in rural areas. According to statistics, 52% of the rural population falls below the poverty line. Nearly 12% of those poor people fall under the category of extreme poverty. Most of them work in the agriculture industry in one way or another, although 20% of the rural population faces unemployment.

What is the average income of a person who lives in Nicaragua? 

The average monthly salary in Nicaragua is around 18,900 NIO, with the lowest average falling to 4790 NIO, and the highest reaching up to 84,500 NIO. Income is different depending on gender, with women earning less than men in every field. Other than gender, work experience is the most important factor in determining salaries, although education is also a factor. Average incomes differ between professions. 

Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2022, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.