In 2018, a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest shook Nicaragua. People took to the streets to protest against a government´s proposal to reduce pension benefits to strengthen the country´s budget. The situation quickly spiralled out of control and a nationwide confrontation between demonstrators and security forces broke out, leaving over 300 people dead.
Fearing reprisal and fleeing reported persecution and human rights abuses, many of those who took part in the protests decided to seek refuge outside the country. More than 100,000 Nicaraguans left the country, 70,000 of whom crossed into neighbouring Costa Rica.
The United Nations launched an alarm on the critical situation of Nicaraguan refugees. The European Union responded by funding, among others, projects by the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) aimed at supporting the Government of Costa Rica in providing protection and aid, especially through cash assistance, to Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers through the hardest times.
Olman Sandino, a 50-year-old painter, is one of the Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica. He hails from Masaya, a city once known as the cradle of Nicaragua´s art and folklore. Olman decided to leave and reached San José alone and without money. He slept on the streets and feared for the worst.
“This help saved my life,” says Olman. He is one of the beneficiaries who received cash to get back on track and buy food and tools to start painting again.
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