Human Trafficking in Belize
Within a short distance of the Caribbean sea sits Belize, a small country with dense jungles, ancient ruins and tourist resorts. But recently, the coastal country has received classification on the Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking. However, the country is paying attention to human trafficking in Belize amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Its government is actively employing new strategies to relinquish this human rights violation.

The main targets of human trafficking in Belize are women and children. Traffickers often lure them into trafficking with promises of gainful employment. According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 50,000-100,000 women and children become trafficking victims annually.

The Human Trafficking Institute

Belize is on the Tier 2 Watch List according to the U.S. Department of State, meaning it does not meet the necessary requirements to prevent human trafficking. The minimum requirements for a Tier 1 ranking include meeting all standards that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act sets. These standards include decreasing the population of trafficking victims from the previous year, reporting all trafficked victims to appropriate officials and following the judicial system.

Seeking to eliminate Human Trafficking in Belize are the staff at the Human Trafficking Institute (HTI). The institute first emerged in 2015 and has been working toward implementing anti-trafficking laws and prosecuting traffickers to the fullest extent. The institute has made long strides to improve the overall safety in the community. On March 10, 2020, the country celebrated its second conviction, which found Rosa Anita Garcia Julian guilty of two counts of human trafficking. This proved to be a major milestone for the country, as it was the first conviction since 2016.

Most recently, HTI has partnered with Uganda to fight human trafficking. Over 2020, it helped rescue over 130 victims. Its new CEO, Victor Boutros, says changes need to occur in the way government addresses human trafficking. Through international diplomacy, governments could start contracts that commit to the overall safety and protection of victims of human traffickers. Government involvement is crucial in stopping human trafficking.

Importance of Biometrics

Higher conviction rates often lead to lower criminal activity. Technology is helping to prevent further injustices: an example of this technology in action is personal biometric data. Personal biometric data is any unique physical characteristic, like fingerprints, which can lead to convictions.

This data is also stored for future use. A prosecutor can use a fingerprint from 1990 to secure a conviction in a current case. Statistics can help pinpoint problem areas. Statistics track and monitor problem areas and also help to identify victims of human trafficking. Computers can recreate a single photograph of a child at age 10 to show what the child would look like 5 years later. This use of data and biometrics helps to identify and help victims.

Belize’s TIP Ranking

A yearly report tracks progress in lowering human trafficking rates. The TIP, or Trafficking in Persons Report, tracks each country’s progress ranking them in either Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 categories. Belize remained in the Tier 2 Watch List category for 2020 but is making fast progress to reach Tier 1 status to end human trafficking in Belize. Together, with the help of its government and police officials, it should be able to achieve this goal.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Soccer to Combat Poverty
A 5-year-old boy named Alex* stood on the dirt patch in San Pedro, Belize, and punched a fellow soccer player. He had caused a lot of fights in the previous weeks. Katherine Lord, a volunteer with More Than Fútbol, pulled him aside. Lord had just begun running a soccer extracurricular program for The Holy Cross School, the poorest school in Ambergris Caye. She explained to him that the school would not tolerate violence at practice. She told him that he was a natural leader, so if he chose not to fight anymore, he could be team captain. In just a few weeks, Alex began helping her run drills, organize his teammates and even break up fights. For Alex, this after-school soccer program offered a safe space to play and have fun. For years, More than Fútbol has been effectively using soccer to combat poverty in Belize.

More Than Fútbol

Founded by Ali Andrzejewski in 2008, More Than Fútbol is using soccer to combat poverty in Belize. Every year, the organization sends volunteers to San Pedro, Belize for a few weeks. After these few weeks, everyone but one volunteer returns home. This volunteer runs the soccer program and teaches empowerment classes at The Holy Cross School. More Than Fútbol also works in Nicaragua.

In spring 2018, Lord volunteered to stay in San Pedro for five months. She volunteered with More Than Fútbol for four years prior to living in Belize. While there, she taught empowerment, English and math classes and ran the after-school soccer program.

Child Poverty in Belize

In Belize, 58% of children live in poverty. UNICEF estimates that 60% of children do not have access to at least one of proper drinking water, sanitation, housing, nutrition or education. One study from UNICEF found that 19% of children in Belize experience growth stunting due to poverty and 27% of schools do not have clean water.

Poverty in San Pedro, a town in Ambergris Caye, is a serious problem. Many students, like Alex, who attend The Holy Cross School do not have access to electricity or running water at home. Sewage and trash line the streets so acutely that wood boards must cover the roads so that no one steps in the waste. Despite the fact that Ambergris Caye generates about 18% of the country’s GDP from tourism, the island does not receive most of this money. This makes the residents unable to escape poverty.

The Link Between Poverty, Stress and Violence

Poverty, stress and violence all correlate. Children in poverty are seven times more likely to self-harm and become involved in violence. According to the American Psychological Association, “poorer children and teens are… at greater risk for several negative outcomes such as poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioral and socioemotional problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays.” Children in poverty are more likely to have emotional or behavioral concerns such as anxiety, depression, aggression, conduct disorder, difficulty getting along with others and self-esteem issues. Children in poverty are also more likely to experience violence from a young age, which predisposes them to violent behaviors in the future. Parents living in poverty may also experience chronic stress or depression, which can cause them to parent in more severe ways, leading to worse socioemotional outcomes for children.

In Belize, estimates determined that 65% of children (ages 1-14) experience physical and psychological abuse or aggression at home. The Holy Cross School estimates that 90% of the children attending experience abuse from caregivers either physically, psychologically or sexually. Lord explained to The Borgen Project that “there’s a lot of fighting, especially among lower-income people. And it’s just because that’s how kids are treated by their parents. And it’s… I don’t want to say cultural– maybe systematic…. And so the kids would always be… fist fighting with each other and throwing rocks at each other.”

How Sports Can Reduce Stress and Fight Against Poverty

Despite the fact that the children often fought, Lord realized that soccer helped lower their aggression, improve their behaviors and their levels of happiness. Her first-hand experience influenced her to believe in the power of using soccer to combat poverty in Belize. The World Bank has found that empirically speaking, sports can help increase educational outcomes, empower players and encourage leadership. Playing sports can also alleviate anger and frustration and promote happiness.

Furthermore, sports can positively impact children’s development and goal-making. According to the University of Edinburgh, sports “matter because they are proven to boost educational capability, confidence, mental health and other learning skills that help not just education levels but working and social lives.” Sports can also benefit international development.

Other Organizations

Lord’s experience volunteering with More Than Fútbol is unique. However, there are many other organizations working to combat poverty in Belize and other parts of the world through soccer. For example, Street Football World works to empower communities and build soccer programs and stadiums. Love Futbol finances stadiums and supports the surrounding community. The work of these organizations is invaluable because sports can help empower children emotionally and socially. Like Katherine expressed to The Borgen Project, no matter the environment the kids come from, allowing them a space to grow and feel safe and supported can positively impact their moods, behaviors and self-confidence. Overall, it is clear that using sports to combat poverty in Belize is crucial because they can change children’s lives for the better and act as a source of international development.

* Name of Alex changed for privacy

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

the BSCFABelize’s sugar cane production has been a major staple to its economy since the 1800s. Today, it supports the livelihood of around 15% of Belizeans, contributes to 6% of Belize’s foreign exchange income and adds 30% gross value to the country’s agriculture. Due to its overall importance, organizations have taken great steps to help protect sugar farmers and improve their working conditions. A major step toward this goal was when the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) became Fairtrade certified in 2008. Since then, the value of sugar from Belize has grown and better working conditions and human rights have been established.

Sugar Cane Farmers in Belize

Sugar cane farmers and plantation workers often struggle because sugar prices in international markets are low and processing sugar cane is long and expensive. Smaller farms also have trouble getting access to lucrative markets that would buy more sugar. The compensation smallholder farmers receive for cane often fails to cover the costs they incur to produce it, leaving them in a debt trap and with little capital to reinvest in farms. They also cannot pay for newer equipment that would help make the process easier, faster and cheaper. The significant amount of time invested in farming to provide an income often leaves little time to engage in other opportunities that can pull them out of poverty, such as education. Fairtrade aims to alleviate these problems by helping people and organizations get better representation in the market and better prices for their crops.

The Impact of Fairtrade Certification

Since 2008, Belize’s sugar cane exports have increased greatly, particularly in the European market. In the first five years of the BSCFA becoming Fairtrade certified, Belize’s sugar cane gross profit grew significantly. Belize has also been able to increase the amount of sugar cane produced every year due to farmers getting resources to control pests in the early stages of the growing process and access to better farming and processing tools. From 2018 to 2019 alone, Belize went from producing 150,000 tons to more than one million tons of sugar cane.

Impact on Communities in Belize

A huge benefit of being Fairtrade certified is that organizations will receive premiums — extra money that farmers and workers can invest in their businesses or the community. The BSCFA gets around $3.5 million in premiums a year and has used that as grants for education, building and repairs, community spaces such as churches and libraries, funerals for impoverished families, water tank systems and more.

The BSCFA has continued advocacy and empowerment efforts to improve the working conditions of sugar cane farmers. In 2015, the BSCFA took a strong stance against child labor, lobbying the government to make laws against child labor and personally suspending support of farms that violated fairtrade practices.

Due to advocacy efforts such as these, the government of Belize has taken steps to stop child labor, such as working on bills that help others identify child labor situations and updating its Child Labor Policy to add additional protection for children. It also established a Child Labor Secretariat that works on identifying and reporting child labor cases.

Fairtrade and the BSCFA have made significant strides in protecting the rights of sugar cane farmers while expanding the economy. These efforts are lifting people out of poverty and ensuring that fairness prevails.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BelizeGovernment efforts have begun to reduce extreme poverty and hunger in Belize. However, a lack of focus on the wellbeing of the nation’s poor has rendered this aid ineffective. Thus, widespread poverty and poor nutrition remain pressing issues in a country whose GDP has grown steadily for nearly two decades. Since the year 2000, the government of Belize has participated in working toward eight Millennium Development Goals concerned with improving the quality of life and bolstering economic stability throughout the world. While Belize is making headway in numerous other categories, such as in providing universal education and promoting gender equality, a lack of attention given to the needs of vulnerable groups hurts this progress. In particular, hunger in Belize continues to be an issue for many marginalized groups.

The Impact of Gender Inequality on Hunger in Belize

Gendered differences in economic opportunity contribute directly to poor nutrition and hunger in Belize. Though the country has made efforts to improve equal participation of men and women in the economy, the women of Belize continue to suffer from employment discrimination. This makes many statistics concerning the nation’s economic condition somewhat inaccurate.

While Belize’s economy may seem to be flourishing based on statistics like GDP, the nation suffers from a high national unemployment rate of about 8%. Gender inequality exacerbates this for the women of Belize, whose unemployment rate is nearly three times higher than the national average.

Women in Belize participate in the labor force at a rate of only 62.5% to that of their male counterparts. As a result, gender inequality has deprived mothers of the resources necessary for raising healthy children. On top of the disproportionate difficulty of finding work as a woman in Belize, women also lack education about proper diet and exercise. Perhaps more importantly, they lack access to healthy food options, which tend to be more expensive than foods high in sugar and salt. Thus, women’s inequality exacerbates hunger in Belize.

Children’s Hunger in Belize

Belize’s economy depends directly on seasonal agricultural exports, such as rum, to support the economy. This means that fruits, vegetables and other natural products are among the most expensive in the nation’s domestic marketplace. The result of this limited access to healthy food has been a high rate of stunted growth and poor nutrition among children. This is particularly important as this demographic has grown the last two decades.

A Selective Humanitarian Response

The government of Belize has helped some of its more vulnerable demographics. The Belize Social Security Board, for example, has helped many elderly people avoid poverty. Additionally, programs like the Conditional Cash Transfer Program provide vulnerable communities in Belize with monetary security.

A reduction in the poverty rate amongst elderly Belizeans indicates that these programs have achieved some success. However, the government of Belize issues this aid on a selective basis. It therefore leaves women, children and members of the LGBT population without relief. This makes hunger in Belize a serious issue among these populations, lacking the financial means to secure access to nutritious food.

Though the Belizean government has helped some groups overcome hunger, discrimination has left some of the most vulnerable groups of Belizeans poor and hungry. Marginalized groups in Belize continue to suffer from the weakness of their nation’s economy. However, they are often those most excluded from relief. If hunger in Belize is to be eradicated, the government must first address social inequality in the population.

Anthony Lyon
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in Belize
Belize is a small Central American country with fewer citizens than many major American cities. Though the population is so small, Belize has struggled to provide adequate health care services in the past. Lately, however, public and private services have been working in tandem to better healthcare in Belize. Since the creation of the Health Care Strategic Plan in 2014, Belize has made a committed effort to improving healthcare policies and systems to best serve its population. The three initiatives below highlight recent successes in the effort to improve healthcare in Belize.

Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014-2024

In 2014, the World Health Organization in conjunction with the government of Belize created the Health Sector Strategic Plan. The plan created a framework and targets to be reached by 2024 focused around developing a more sustainable and people-centered healthcare system. The approach includes six key pillars of healthcare: governance and leadership, service delivery, financing, human resource in health, informational systems and medicines and technology.

The strategic plan includes a vast range of healthcare subcategories so that it can address healthcare inequity from multiple fronts. Some of the specific challenges faced by healthcare in Belize that the initiative has made plans to overcome include:

  • Unequal distribution of healthcare: This includes shortages of specialty providers and creates an imbalanced system. Belize often has to import healthcare workers, especially in certain specialties and to specific geographic locations.
  • Unequal healthcare financing: Access to care is limited and financial coverage is highly dependent on region.
  • Fragmentation: Belizean’s often don’t experience continuity of care. This system of receiving medical care only when necessary and not from the same provider leads to a higher risk of non-communicable diseases such as chronic illnesses, mental health disorders, and violence-related injuries.

The Health Sector Strategic Plan has also created the framework and put into practice viable solutions to address these issues.

  • National Health Insurance (NHI): Belize has initiated a system to expand national health insurance to more regions in order to address healthcare inequity and improve the financing system. The NHI system provides many primary care services to Belizean’s without cost.
  • Integrated primary health care approach: This approach specifically addresses fragmentation by implementing programs that assist with lifestyle-related health and wellness by a primary care physician.
  • Expanding the workforce: Expanded training programs both domestically and in conjunction with outside programs are helping to bolster the workforce.

Wisconsin Medical School’s Partnership with Belize Hospitals

Significant hurdle healthcare in Belize has faced is a shortage of medical professionals. To combat this issue, Belize has repeatedly had to import healthcare workers, which is often only a temporary solution. In order to strengthen the system from within, partnering programs with foreign medical schools help decrease provider shortages and better prepare hospital management and healthcare workers for best treating patients.

Beginning in 2010, The Global Health Department of the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) created a collaborative partnership with the Belize Ministry of Health to improve emergency medicine. Leaders from hospitals in Belize have met with MCW faculty to plan specific training goals in order to best address concerns specific to Belize.

The collective efforts of the initiative have produced goals for improving both emergency care and disaster preparedness and relief. They have also produced a tangible change in the form of training partnerships that work to standardize education and patient care. Rather than function as short term outreach, the partnership is committed to long-term collaboration and seeks to create a sustainable education model to improve healthcare in Belize.

Pan American Health Organization

One of the primary reasons that Belizean’s face unstable access to care is due to regional inconsistencies and shortages of healthcare workers. In addition to the Health Sector Strategic Plan, in 2019 the Pan American Health Organization together with the Ministry of Health produced The Strategic Plan on Human Resources for Universal Health 2019-2024.

One of the core goals of the Health Care Strategic Plan is to improve healthcare in Belize by addressing unequal access to care. The plan created a targeted approach for combatting inequities in health care by focusing on training personnel, creating improved working conditions, and developing a standard system for education and professional practices. The plan does more than just train workers, it gives them an incentive for providing quality care.

This focused strategy in combination with the longer term Health Sector Strategic Plan aims to improve both conditions for providers and access to enhanced health care for millions of Belizeans. Improving conditions for providers in addition to providing practical competency training in all geographic regions motivates providers to issue high-quality care and remain longer in the same area. The goal of the health workforce expansion plan is to improve healthcare in Belize through promoting quality and reliable care in all areas by empowering the professionals that provide it.

Conclusion

These three initiatives have been working with the Belizean government to best adapt to the health care needs of the population. Approaching improvements from a variety of angles, together they are working towards a wholistic betterment of healthcare in Belize.

Jazmin Johnson
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Belize
While the global community has certainly experienced unprecedented hardship in the wake of COVID-19, many organizations worldwide have stepped up to offer help where it is needed. Belize has been a recipient of such aid, having recently experienced a medical supply shortage in all geographic regions. In response to these limitations, as well as shortages of trained response teams, donations of medical equipment, testing kits and training programs have been offered by various countries and international groups. Below are four ways the international community has responded to COVID-19 in Belize.

4 Ways the International Community Has Responded to COVID-19 in Belize

  1. International COVID-19 Relief Donations. In response to shortages of testing kits and medical supplies, the Pan American Health Organization, together with the World Health Organization, made multiple donations to both the Belize Ministry of Health and the Central Medical Laboratory in April and May 2020. These donations included personal protective equipment necessary to keep health providers safe as well as supplies needed to conduct testing. These organizations were able to donate 100 gowns, 420 N-95 masks, 1,500 boxes of gloves, 750 reaction kits and 130 testing swabs to support the fight against COVID-19 in Belize.
  2. Taiwanese Donation of COVID-19 Supplies. Not only has Belize has been receiving donations of medical equipment from international relief organizations, but also from individual countries working to make a difference. Taiwan has made multiple donations to Belize in June and July of 2020. The donations included; thousands of testing kits, thermometers, ventilators, and protective equipment including over 270,000 masks, together totaling more than $1 million in supplies. A large hurdle in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Belize is accurate and fast testing: to aid with this obstacle, Taiwan developed rapid antibody tests able to deliver results in just 15 minutes with 95% specificity, and included 5,000 of these tests, along with accompanying analyzers, in their donation to Belize. These donations are just a single example of the long-standing friendship between the two countries.
  3. Community Volunteer Training for COVID-19 Centers. The Pan American Health Organization, along with the World Health Organization and the Belize Ministry of Health, held training sessions in April and May 2020 to provide volunteer medical staff with life-saving information regarding the prevention and control of COVID-19. The training included instruction on proper management of quarantine centers as well as practical infection prevention education. These training sessions have been provided on an ongoing basis by the Ministry of Health, and have been successful in preparing Red Cross volunteers for as-needed deployment to quarantine centers across Belize, as regions have been experiencing varying needs for additional resources as case numbers fluctuate. Another way these training sessions have prepared volunteers to face COVID-19 in Belize is through psychosocial support and training, helping to produce volunteers that are prepared to fight COVID-19 on all fronts.
  4. World Bank COVID-19 Assistance Program. In addition to the clear health implications of COVID-19 in Belize, the country’s most vulnerable populations have also experienced severe social and economic challenges in the wake of the pandemic. In response, the World Bank donated 12.4 million in July 2020 to support Belize’s social protection programs. The funds will be managed by the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, and will provide support for those most affected by COVID-19. Support will specifically be used to further aid those already receiving government assistance as well as those who don’t normally qualify, under a temporary COVID-19 relief program. Funds will be allocated to those experiencing poverty, with priority going to households containing children, pregnant women, elderly or persons with disabilities. The donation is expected to affect as many as 13,000 households affected by COVID-19 in Belize.

Efforts such as these are making progress against the spread of COVID-19 in Belize, and demonstrate the benefits of global cooperation amid a devastating pandemic.

Jazmin Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in Belize
Belize, a Central American country with a poverty rate of about 41.3 percent, struggles with the effects that poverty has on children. Of the Belizeans in poverty, approximately 40 percent of them are children. Income inequality and rapid population growth contribute to the high poverty rate. Child labor rates, poor health care and child prostitution are the primary factors playing into the rate of child poverty in Belize. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), UNICEF and the government are compounding efforts to reduce child poverty in Belize.

Nongovernmental Organization (NGOs) Efforts

Humanium is an NGO that enables donors to sponsor children in Belize and many other countries. Humanium emerged in Geneva in 2008 to improve the wellbeing of children worldwide. The child’s family can afford numerous basics, including better health care and education. Since 40 percent of families are in poverty, some children must work to aid in providing for the family. About 6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 work to provide for the family. Also, 36 percent of Belize’s population is 0-14 years of age; the high child poverty rate is a fair representation of the country’s overall poverty rate.

Minister of Foreign Affairs

In a U.N. report, Wilfred Elrington stated that child poverty in Belize was nearly 40 percent. Elrington further commented on how “[poverty] affects [the] capacity to learn. It affects [children’s] capacity to maintain good health.” While there are many NGOs in Belize that assist Belizean adults and children in poverty, Elrington and other officials stated that people should do more to solve the high poverty rate in the country.

UNICEF in Belize

UNICEF representative Susan Kasedde mentioned that education initiatives are a possible solution to poverty and violence. Both education improvements and higher enrollment could reduce poverty in Belize while simultaneously solving violence that affects local and major tourist industries. Based on the homicide rate in 2018, Belize remains one of the most violent countries in the world. UNICEF’s Children’s Agenda 2017-2030 aims to support children on the path to living a safe, healthy and successful life in Belize. The program also focuses on disadvantaged groups that are people often forget, such as those in remote regions with high poverty.

Investments in Education

As of 2017, the Government of Belize spent about 7 percent of its GDP on education, which places Belize in the top 10 in the world for education expenditure. This indicates that the country is utilizing education as a path to reducing adult and child poverty in Belize. Universal education for all children has the potential to help reduce poverty in children and future generations as a study showed in the Asian Economic and Financial Review. The case study in Nigeria found that higher education led to a decline in youth poverty in Nigeria. Poverty in Nigeria was significantly higher at 70 percent; the research shows the possible benefit of investment in education to reduce poverty. 

In January 2020, the Inter-American Development Bank provided a $10 million loan to reduce child poverty in Belize. It will go towards the creation of a STEAM Lab School in Belize City. One of the goals of this school is to improve the quality of primary and secondary classrooms. Another goal is to improve gender equity from a young age, specifically in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths courses. With child poverty in Belize at an estimated 40 percent, investments in education could be a long-term solution to improve the country’s high child poverty.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Belize
Belize has increasingly become a popular tourist attraction over the past several years. Not only is it a favorite among celebrities, but it is also a place where many non-famous people choose to purchase property. Vast natural ecosystems and welcoming locals draw visitors to the country for rest and relaxation. As the nation continues to evolve, byproducts of expansion take a toll on the preservation of natural resources, in turn creating waste and other issues that affect sanitation in Belize.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Belize

  1. Water quantity is not a problem for Belize. Water is a natural and ample resource in the country. Groundwater, as well as rivers and the sea, provide an unlimited supply. According to a publication that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) submitted, Belize’s water supply exceeds that of other Central American and Caribbean nations. Only a mere 3 percent of the population does not have access to a sustainable water source. By 2009, residents enjoyed a generous supply of improved water connections. When the Belizean government stepped in to revise its infrastructure, this led to a significant improvement compared to prior years. Since then, the government has not slowed down its policies toward the improvement of sanitation and access to drinkable water. Companies such as Belize Water Services Limited (BWS) has doubled its water supply to the residents they serve by investing within the country’s infrastructure.
  2. Small villages keep sanitation infrastructure at bay. Locals in rural areas use basic outhouse toilets in various places. Some are located in the middle of the forest while people have constructed others over the sea. Due to the high cost of organized sanitation systems, the estimated 200 small villages that exist in Belize lacked adequate systems to support a much-needed sanitation system as early as 6 years ago. Some are located either close to or in tourist destinations. Improvements have occurred since the construction of a landfill named Mile 24 in 2009. Local private collection companies send out trucks to collect waste from the homes and houses of residents in rural areas. Because of this, tourist areas and villages have fared much better by having access to toilets and supported solid waste disposal.
  3. Water and sanitation systems improvement is on a continual rise. With the involvement of the Belizean government, the gap between poor sanitation and sound infrastructures continues to narrow. The nation’s government has welcomed assistance from other companies both local and abroad in order to improve the health and lives of its citizens through safe drinking resources. The work to develop solutions for basic clean water and waste management systems has paid off. This includes bathrooms in basic housing as well as some rural areas. A near 25 percent increase of tourist visits to the country from 2017 to 2018 is a telltale sign of a demand for an improved quality of life for citizens and visitors alike.
  4. Businesses contribute greatly to this improvement. Belize Water Services Limited (BWS) is a public company that serves nearly all cities in Belize as well as about 30 percent of the country’s small villages. It serves drinkable and potable water that has received treatment through the company’s exclusive “double run” water treatment plant. The company began in 2001 and the Belizean government is a majority shareholder.
  5. Some residents prefer raw water. Some citizens in Belize do not completely trust treated water. They prefer natural raw water or source water, which is essentially rainwater in cisterns, which are commonly on rooftops in Belize. This water then receives treatment with chlorine or an in-home filtration system to make it safe for consumption.
  6. Tourists should know their water source before drinking. In the city of San Pedro as well as other tourist cities, many residents prefer water from their own familiar cisterns. Water can come from a few different sources, and the taste or safety can differ greatly. Belize advises vacationers with sensitive stomachs to stick to bottled water as some locals already do. While cistern water is safe to drink, it can often be unpleasant due to a noticeable chlorine taste.
  7. Ocean water can transform into drinking water. In Belize, BWS treats water from the sea using a reverse osmosis procedure to remove the salt from it. The majority of the water comes from the enormous amounts of rainfall the country sees each year; however, as the country continues to grow, it may increasingly tap into this water source. As a solution, the government continues to support companies like BWS in acquiring more facilities to support the growing population.
  8. Sanitation in Belize took nearly 25 years to develop. Starting in 1991 with the creation of the Solid Waste Management Authority Act, the Belizean government began to address the issue of solid waste disposal. Five years later, the Department of Environment (DOE) put an action plan in place. By 2013, the DOE created the first transfer stations for the management of solid waste products. The organization of waste disposal helped residents of smaller villages as well as some rural areas eliminate the need to transfer their own solid waste. While deep rural areas continue to struggle, local truck routes owned by private companies help residents in the far outreaches of the country.
  9. The environment is safe. The Belize Solid Waste Management Authority (BSWMA) works with the Department of Environment to ensure that sanitation in Belize receives proper management in order to protect the environment. Part of BSWMA’s mission is to incorporate feedback and cooperation from the country’s citizens. These initiatives help to continually improve upon the safe and eco-friendly collection of waste throughout the country.
  10. Some waste comes from outside. In some cases, cruise ships have utilized waste management facilities to empty their vessels of trash while coming to port. As the country continues to grow, there will likely be demands for more waste solutions that are entering the country. The largest area that is suffering is that of the rural villages. Many who live in the countryside dump their trash in rivers or the sea, undoing the lengthy progress that has occurred to materialize into sustainable systems that exist in the city.

Most of Belize’s infrastructures are stable and use the latest technology. The growth of Belize and the growing health of its citizens are evidence of these facts. There is a definite standard in place to ensure little to no impact on the environment. Business and commerce are on an upward trend. The government plays a significant role in growing the nation’s civil framework as well as addressing issues of sanitation in Belize. Belize is a country with a unique ecology. Its popularity as a place to unwind, and perhaps stay, is growing.

– Julie Jenkins
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Belize

Belize is a small country located in Central America, along the Caribbean Sea. It has the lowest population in Central America, populated by 385,854 people. It is an English speaking country comprised of people from several different ethnic backgrounds. Tourism makes up the greater part of the economy of Belize, as it contains beautiful islands with crystal-clear waters that attract people year-round. Belize is both a destination and a home for many. Despite the tourist-rich islands, poverty is widespread throughout the country and its effects remain prevalent in many lives. Below is a list of the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Belize.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belize

  1. As of 2018, the average life expectancy in Belize is 74.7 years. For females, the average is 76.3 years, while the males’ average is slightly lower at 73.1 years old. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, this life expectancy ranks 122nd globally. The life expectancy in Belize has improved over the past few decades, increasing from an average of 71.1 years in 1990.
  2. About 40 percent of the annual deaths in Belize is comprised of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease. The second greatest mortality rates result from injuries and external causes at about 28 percent annually. An additional 20 percent results from communicable diseases, such as HIV, which continues to be a concern throughout Belize.
  3. The country’s high homicide rate specifically affects male life expectancy. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Belize is continually ranked on the top 10 list for world homicides. Gang violence is extremely present in Belize City, making homicide one of the leading causes of death in males, alongside HIV and road traffic incidents.
  4. Poverty is most prevalent within the child population of Belize. While 41 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line, approximately 49.3 percent of all children live in poverty. Children are less likely to overcome poverty since they cannot fully provide for themselves.
  5. There is a substantial impact on the indigenous population in Belize from poverty. Of all children under the age of five, 18 percent suffer from stunting; However, this percentage jumps to 50 percent when looking at the indigenous community.
  6. Belize has high access to clean resources. 99.5 percent of the population has access to a water source. One factor is the significant amount of the population that lives along the coast. Another 90.5 percent of the population has access to a sanitation facility. The high percentage of access to water and sanitation allows for better overall health in the country, aiding the life expectancy in Belize.
  7. Belize is susceptible to natural disasters such as hurricanes and coastal flooding between June and November. Due to flooding and infrastructure, the damage comes lack or difficulty to access clean resources, such as water. As a result, sanitary conditions are put in jeopardy. Furthermore, this gives way to the spread of waterborne illness or infectious disease, specifically in children, who are more vulnerable to sickness. Ultimately, being detrimental to life expectancy in Belize.
  8. The Belize Health Structure Strategic plan was created in 2014 to improve the country’s health sector by 2024. The goal is to develop a Primary Health care based system through integrated health service delivery networks. This will both positively impact the health of the population while creating more sustainable outcomes.
  9. The World Bank Group has created an objective to improve youth employability and at-risk youth inclusion. This is a targeted program to enhance the employment of youth, and specifically at-risk youth males, ages 8-19, who are susceptible to street violence and crime. It aims to provide young people with the skills needed to work and motivation to remain employed.
  10. The World Health Organization created a country cooperation strategy agenda with four specific priorities from 2017-2021. The goal is to achieve a higher quality of life for all people in Belize. The agenda includes health systems accessible to all, human resources for the growing population, promoting health and wellness to reduce the major causes of death, and addressing health emergencies to the public.

The top 10 facts about life expectancy in Belize reveal the country’s continual struggle with poverty and its impacts on health and well being; However, it simultaneously shines a light on the significant steps the country and government is taking. With a constantly increasing population, the next decade of growth and improvement is crucial for the country of Belize.

– Savannah Huls

Photo: Flickr