As Epidemic Sweeps Nicaragua, Government Denies Construction of Life-Saving Clinic

For Immediate Release
February 11, 2014

Managua, Nicaragua – Over a thousand people call on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to approve the construction of a renal clinic in Chichigalpa to provide life-saving dialysis treatment for those suffering from an epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the region. Through negotiations, ASOCHIVIDA, an association of more than 2,300 ex-sugarcane workers who suffer from CKD, secured the funds, land, and plans to build a life-saving dialysis clinic in Chichigalpa, but the Government of Nicaragua has rejected the proposal for undisclosed reasons.

CKD is terminal, and progression is inevitable without a kidney transplant or early and continual access to dialysis. In Chichigalpa, CKD kills about two people every day. The clinic, which ASOCHIVIDA has been waiting for the government to approve for over two years, would provide needed care for those who are ill.

Last month, a protest in Chichigalpa by a group of former sugarcane workers not affiliated with ASOCHIVIDA was met with violence by the police. One protester was killed and several injured. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) is currently investigating the incident.

“The tragic events of last month underscore the need for the government to fulfill its responsibilities and its commitments to provide those with the disease adequate medical treatment,” says Ezequiel Ramirez, the president of ASOCHIVIDA. “Last July, ASOCHIVIDA President Donald Cortez died of CKD while waiting for the clinic to be built. We hope to dedicate the clinic to our leader, Donald Cortez: Present in the struggle.”

With the help of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) in 2008, ASOCHIVIDA filed a complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) regarding IFC’s investment in Nicaragua Sugar Estates Limited (NESL). Through the mediation with NSEL convened by the CAO, ASOCHIVIDA secured monthly distribution of basic food provisions for its members; income generation projects that have benefited more than 500 members directly and provided revenue for the organization that is, in turn, used to help members cover their medical and funeral expenses; 100 houses that provide the conditions necessary for the people who are sick to receive dialysis; and ground-breaking research on the cause of the disease by Boston University School of Public Health.

“President Ortega has a simple task before him: approve the construction of the clinic – immediately. In his New Year’s address, he said he would defend those fighting for their rights to tranquility and well-being. He even touted his commitment to combating epidemics. It’s time for him to fight for ASOCHIVIDA and give their members a chance to survive this epidemic,” says CIEL Senior Attorney Jocelyn Medallo.

ASOCHIVIDA, CIEL, and more than 1,200 people who signed a petition demand that President Ortega approve construction of the renal clinic in Chichigalpa. “It is not only the right thing to do, it is what is required of Nicaragua under international law,” concludes Medallo.

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Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is committed to strengthening and using international law and institutions to protect the environment, promote human health, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non‐profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building.