I am Dolene Miller, an Afro-descendant from the Caribbean (Atlantic) Coast of Nicaragua and for me it is important and very necessary to support any initiative to protect my community from COVID19. As ethnic minorities, we are facing a health crisis in precarious conditions because the national government itself has not wanted to assume its responsibility to protect the population from infection, has not issued a quarantine and, on the contrary, is promoting massive activities according to its thesis of contagion of the herd. Specialist doctors have been dismissed and the numbers of people who have been infected and those who have died are hidden. The government's attitude endangers our community and could decimate our Afro-descendent population, even put an end to this vulnerable population because health care conditions on the Caribbean Coast are precarious and there are few medical personnel who can attend to these cases.
Our communities live in poverty and extreme poverty, so the effects of COVID19 on our families and communities means further deepening poverty rates. This is due to the fact that job opportunities have been closed off abroad as many of our fellow countrymen who were the mainstay of the family economy in our communities have returned through remittances. It is important to consider that we are a Central American country with a human development index similar to that of Haiti and with an economic crisis that is intensifying as a result of a social and political crisis that has arisen in the country, starting in 2018, and that has repercussions in our coastal communities.
The indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast have three laws that, in addition to the country's political constitution, are of vital importance to their development. One of them is the one that recognizes the right to our autonomy and self-determination known as the Statute of Autonomy of the Regions of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (Law 28) enacted in 1987. The other law is the Demarcation of Communal Lands (Law 445) promulgated in 2002 as a result of the Awas Tigni case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights where these peoples, composed of Miskitus, Mayangnas, Ramas, and Afro-Creole and Garifuna Indians, demanded with the law the historical vindication of their communal lands. Finally, there is the Language Law (Law 162) which, in addition to obliging the Nicaraguan state to educate the coastal population in their mother tongue, establishes that the justice system in our towns must also consider customary law.
With the existing legal framework on the right to land, our peoples can contribute, in a very active way, to the improvement of public health through traditional medicine. In this time of pandemic, it has been demonstrated that by detecting the first symptoms of COVID19 , and with strict quarantine, ancestral practices could prevent further problems for the community. This is demonstrated not only during the time of the COVID19 because the country does not have enough doctors or specialists per population. The two autonomous regions of the Caribbean Coast have the most deplorable human development indices in the country, because despite having 70% of the forests, these are indiscriminately exploited by the national government, which does not contribute to the sustainable development of the country because they do not respect their own laws, especially to conserve BOSAWAS in the Northern Caribbean and the Río Indio and Maíz Biosphere Reserve in the Southern Caribbean of Nicaragua. In this way the process of autonomy and territorial demarcation of communal lands on the Caribbean Coast, which territorially means 54% of the national territory, if managed well can contribute against the effects of climate change and improve conditions to protect biodiversity. A 'green recovery' of our country could be generated because communal lands are stated in our laws that are unseizable, inalienable and imprescriptible, therefore it is our responsibility to take care of these resources that are guarantees of a clean environment and protection of mother earth.
We believe that development does not mean destroying forests or over-exploiting resources. Sustainability is fundamental because we need the forest and future generations will need it so we cannot be agents of destruction. By promoting climate change we are risking the destruction of our peoples. As developing countries our demands are few and the quality of life can be achieved with will and a good plan for sustainable development.