Central America 19/12/11

Mysterious epidemic reaps through Central America, as continuing Costa Rican road project comes under fire from Nicaragua.

A strange epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has been sweeping through Central America in the past years, afflicting thousands of rural workers in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) featured on BBC World, between 2005 and 2009 male deaths from CKD have risen by 16% in Costa Rica and 26% in Guatemala.

El Salvador has witnessed a rise of 27% in CKD-related deaths, as the disease has become the second biggest cause of death among men.

Nicaragua claimed the highest percentage raise (41%), with CKD being responsible for more deaths each year than HIV and diabetes combined.

El Salvador’s health minister recently called on the international community for help, saying that the epidemic is ‘wasting away our populations’.

While the causes for this event remain unclear, it has been suggested that they may be related to the extensive use of unsafe pesticides and herbicides in rural areas, as well as abuse of alcohol consumption and heat stress due to long working hours.

In other news, on Tuesday Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said that the construction of a 150 km road near the border with Nicaragua – south of the Rio San Juan – will continue its development, amid strong contestation from the Foreign Ministry of Nicaragua.

‘My government will continue to execute the projects that will improve the living conditions of the people in the [border] region,’ Chinchilla said at a weekly press conference. ‘It is our sovereign right to do so.”

In late November, Nicaragua’s foreign vice minister Manuel Coronel Kautz wrote a formal protest to Costa Rican Foreign minister Enrique Castillo, asking that the project be abandoned and maintaining that it is ‘causing environmental damage’ and ‘destroying the flora and fauna’ near the river.

‘We don’t have to give any explanation to the government of Nicaragua,’ Chinchilla  rebuked, ‘particularly not when they are the ones refusing to abide by the measures requested by the International Court of Justice at The Hague.’