Down to Zero Nicaragua

The Down to Zero (DtZ) program includes preventative and protective measures that focus on actual child victims and children at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is a fundamental violation of children's rights. It consists of child prostitution, child pornography, and child trafficking for sexual purposes. The DtZ program is carried out in four countries in Latin America, including Nicaragua.

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In Nicaragua the DtZ program runs in the municipalities of San Rafael del Sur, Managua Department and Masachapa, Pochomil and Madroã’al, coast rural areas in the Pacific.

Poverty and violence
Nicaragua is a small country in Central America with 5.2 million inhabitants. 30% of the population lives below the national poverty line, from which 14,6% live in extreme poverty. Nicaragua is supposedly the most secure country in the region, however, violence towards children and adolescents is ever increasing. The figures speak for themselves: every 4 minutes the police register a new possible criminal prosecution and every hour a sex crime. And yet many crimes are not reported or do not lead to a conviction of the offenders.

Disturbing data
According to data of the Legal Institute of Medicine (2012), 88% of the reports on sexual violence concerned persons with an age below 18, most of them are women. Often victims of CSEC are recruited in rural or border areas and are from indigenous or African-descendant communities. In 43% of the cases, violence took place in their own home and 24% in the house of the aggressor.

In the DtZ program we aim at teaching at-risk children and adolescents and other victims to speak out, advocate, and seek protection against commercial sexual exploitation of children. Personal development plans are an important tool in the program. Children and adolescents are motivated to get organized in youth-led organizations. These organizations make sure that children have access to specialized services to protect them, help them rehabilitate, reintegrate, and reduce their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

Government and stakeholders
ICCO Cooperation makes private sector stakeholders aware of their role in fighting sexual child abuse. In both the tourist industry, the mining, cement and sugar industries, and the transportation sector they amend their practices and/or business models based on ethical principles and values to actively protect children against sexual exploitation. Last but not least, the government at all levels to take action.
Down to Zero Nicaragua

Target group

We support at-risk children, mostly urban, including boys and girls, and child victims. The age spectrum ranges from 11-18 years.

The Latin American region is divided in four countries, in which the municipalities are divided into communities with different political or administrative denomination depending of the size of their population (barrios, sectores, parajes, etc.). In Colombia the DTZ program works in Bogotá (Chapinero y Candelaria) and La Guajira (Riohacha and Albania).

Executive government institutions and law enforcement agencies on different levels (national and subnational, considering the existing decentralized and autonomous political organizations) are addressed through advocacy and strengthening institutional capacities and law enforcement.

Private sector
Industries of tourism and extractive industry such as mining are addressed to collaborate with the communities and government in fighting commercial sexual exploitation of children.


All groups ie, children, communities, governments and the private sector are key players in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children and are equally important. The government ought to take more responsibility in protecting the children. Part of the project is that we lobby to make funds available by the government. In addition, communities are made aware that they should teach their children how they can protect themselves The private sector forbids commercial sexual exploitation of children in their work areas. All these elements are likely to have a long-term impact.

Goals overview

The goals of the Down to Zero program are:

- Children: Child victims and at-risk children are empowered and act as agents of change and are able to protect themselves from (re)victimization of sexual child abuse.
- Communities: Targeted communities are safer, offer better protection to child victims and can prevent children from becoming (re)victimized.
- Governments and law enforcement agencies: governments and judiciary systems apply policies, plans of actions, budgets and protocols to effectively combat sexual exploitation of children.
- Private sector: market leaders or branch associations of the tourist industry, ICT, transportation are actively engaged in the protection of children against commercial sexual exploitation.