Tens of thousands of Nicaraguan refugees in neighboring Costa Rica are going hungry and eat only once or twice a day, the UN refugee agency warned Friday.
According to the UNHCR, more than three-quarters of the 81,000 Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica are going hungry as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Before the pandemic hit, and thanks to effective local integration initiatives in Costa Rica, only three percent of refugees were eating once a day or less. Now, this has more than quadrupled to 14 percent,” UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said in Geneva.
The agency estimates that 63 percent of Nicaraguan refugees living in Costa Rica can only eat twice a day.
Migrants have been hard hit by restrictions adopted to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Nicaraguans fled across the border after a wave of social protests and a subsequent crackdown by the government of President Daniel Ortega.
Many are in such dire straits that they are planning to return to Nicaragua, despite the risks they reported having fled.
Nicaraguan refugees in other countries in the region, such as Panama, Guatemala and Mexico, report facing similar problems, Mantoo said.
“Refugee hosting communities are facing similar conditions and the economic contraction in these countries will make it even more difficult for refugees and their hosts to recover.”