Project start | 2004


Free missions | 233


Survey of the Ocotal project

Dates and Facts

Project begin: 2004

Last mission: summer 2015

Number of German Doctors: 2, one of whom was always a dentist

Missions: The German Doctors performed a total of 233 voluntary missions in Nicaragua from 2004 to the middle of 2015.

Patient contacts: more than 10,000 treatments were performed annually in Ocotal.

Partner: The German Doctors cooperated with the Asociación Vida Nueva, which cares for street children and abused girls.

Structure: The German Doctors and their team drove in a jeep according to a fixed schedule to impoverished villages every weekday.

Mission sites: The villages in the mountainous regions around Ocotal, especially near the border to Honduras.

Most common health problems: toothaches, bronchitis, gastrointestinal diseases, headaches, and dizziness.

Priorities: One priority was the provision of basic medical care to the population in remote mountainous regions. The other priority was dental care of patients. This part of the work is being continued in a German Doctors’ partner project.

Survey of the Ocotal project

Medical aid in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the Human Development Index, 42.5% of the population lives in poverty. In rural regions, this percentage rises to 70%. This makes Nicaragua (after Haiti) the second poorest country in Latin America. There are many reasons for the bad economic situation. Aside from historical factors, one-sided economic structure, and decades of oligarchic economy, frequent natural catastrophes, like earthquakes, hurricanes, and El Nin᷉o, play an important role.

We first concentrated our work in Managua, but after the general medical provision of the people there improved, the German Doctors decided to focus their efforts on the impoverished peasants in the region around Ocotal in 2009. Thanks to the work of the Médicos Alemanes, the local teams, the numerous missions by German doctors and dentists, and the good coordination by Katrin Hennings and Reinhart Bein together with the dentist Walter Schweizer, many people who would have had hardly any access to medical care if we had not been there were helped.

Since the German Doctors have made very many strategic modifications for their other projects in Sierra Leone, Kenia, India, Bangladesh, and on the Philippines since 2013, it was decided to bundle personnel and financial means and not to send any more doctors to Nicaragua after the middle of 2015. The dental part of the project is being continued under the supervision of a Nicaraguan dentist as a partner project, thus ensuring dental care for our patients in Ocotal in the future.

Survey of the Ocotal project

Mobile basic medical care

Every weekday the team consisting of the German doctor and the German dentist and the local team set out from Ocotal on the scenic but treacherous roads to reach small villages scattered in the mountains. During the rainy season, some villages could not be reached by jeep due to the swelling rivers. The waiting patients were advised of changes in the scheduled doctors’ visits by the small radio station in the church in Ocotal. The number of inhabitants in the villages was between 200 and 1000, whereby the patients often undertook land marches on foot lasting up to three hours each way to reach the German Doctors, who then provided medical care for many further villages in the vicinity.

Thus, the German Doctors with their team in the mobile clinic provided basic general medical care for the destitute and isolated population in the mountains and brought them otherwise difficult to obtain medicines.

Survey of the Ocotal project

Life in the dry zone "zona seca"

Some of the villages to which the team drove from Ocotal are located in the dry zone. The people living here are especially poor since sufficient rain for a harvest falls for only a short time each year. During the dry season, people here often only have tortillas and salt to eat, but no more beans or rice. Drinking water often has to be carried over a long distance and is often of poor quality. That is why there are so many cases of diarrhea during the dry season.

The people own their own land in some areas, but only small lots, which are of poor quality, stony, and steep. People suffer from hunger practically the whole year through. In other areas, people work on coffee plantations for very low pay. A family cannot be fed with such little money; therefore, many children there are mal- or undernourished. The German Doctors met many different tribes during their consultations. In some places, the patients consist solely of Indios; in others, there are also Mestizen (half-breeds).


German Doctors help worldwide

We believe in the right of every human being to get medical care no matter their origin. Therefore our volunteer German Doctors offer medical treatments in developing countries for the poorest of the poor. Whether people infected with HIV, undernourished children deficiency syndromes or people with chronic diseases, we help everyone who needs help.

Our doctors work during their annual leave or retirement for a period of six weeks and waive any compensation. More than 7000 missions with more than 3200 doctors were completed since 1983.