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

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Belize
Belize is a small Central American country on the coast of the Caribbean with a per capita income of $4,806.50. Although it is considered an upper-middle income country, 41 percent of the population in Belize live below the national poverty line. Poverty in Belize makes many groups vulnerable to crimes and human rights violations such as human and drug trafficking and violence from gang involvement. However, the government is making an effort to address these issues and make human rights a larger priority. Below are the top ten facts about human rights in Belize.

10 Facts About Human Rights in Belize

  1. Previously identified as having violated human rights by The United States Department of State Human Rights Report, Belize has since addressed many issues, specifically in race relations. In The USDS Human Rights Report for 2016, employers in Belize were reported to have, “generally treated indigenous persons equally with other ethnic groups for employment and other purposes” despite the fact there are still some basic areas that still need to be improved in general workers rights.
  2. The recently-released 2017 USDS Human Rights Report does not report any major crimes against human rights, but there have certainly been unlawful activities, especially among government officials. The report notes that the “allegations of unlawful killings by security officers” and government officials being involved in human trafficking and child labor scandals.
  3.  Although actions have been taken against officials who have been accused of committing human rights violations, few prosecutions have succeeded. While a small number of lower-ranking officials have faced appropriate punishment, even fewer higher-ranking officials have seen repercussions for abuses committed.
  4. The most common complaint reported is police abuse. There have been 59 formal complaints of police brutality recorded as of October 2017. Only 44 of the 59 offenders have been placed on interdiction or suspension. Security forces have been accused of brutality and corruption, but the government fails to properly penalize the offenders.
  5. There has been an increase in complaints against The Immigration and Nationality Department. Investigations into these complaints and cases of corruption continue to uncover suspicious activities of high-ranking officials and other authorities; although, no prosecutions have been made.
  6. Prison and detention center conditions received no complaints this time around. There are also no reports on abuse of power. The prison allows visits made by independent human rights observers and, although the prison system seems transparent enough, the process of arrest, detention and trial suffers from delays due to a backlog of cases.
  7. The Santa Clara Law’s International Human Rights Clinic submitted a brief in June on behalf of a community near the Macal River suffering from the large development project of the Chalillo Dam constructed in 2005. The information brings to light the human rights obligations of relevant authorities to protect its citizens as well as the legal issues the company could face regarding environmental damage. The clinic aims to support petitioner affected by these actions as well as get the Commission to write clear language on obligations regarding economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights.
  8. Because Belize possesses a low rate on the U.S. State Department’s 2017 Human Trafficking Report, the U.S. banned the issuing of temporary work visas to Belize in January 2018. A few agencies have been assisting Belize to eradicate the issue. For instance, the U.S Embassy in Belize provides training on Forensic Interviewing Techniques for Victims of Human Trafficking to Belize government officials.
  9. Belize has been included in different organizations considering the state of human rights all around the world. The Organization of American States celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, inviting the ECADE, The Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, to help develop the language of human rights, especially in the LGBTQ communities.
  10. Labor markets no longer suffer from outright forced labor but from subtler violations of acceptable conditions of work. A nongovernmental organization reported instances of different employers who violated wage agreements and purposefully misclassified employees to avoid paying benefits. 

The fight for human rights is essential to nurturing the conditions for a world free of poverty, as these top ten facts about human rights in Belize indicate. As Belize continues to progress in developing its language, attitudes and policies regarding human rights, its citizen should begin to see a safer and higher quality of life.

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

facts about poverty in Belize

Belize is a Central American country located along the Caribbean Sea with a 2017 population of over 360,000 people. It became an independent nation in 1981, and tourism has become one of the biggest drivers of the economy.

Belize has suffered major challenges that have had a detrimental impact on the country and its people. These challenges include a high public debt and the effects of environmental disasters like hurricanes. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Belize.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Belize

  1. Belize is considered an upper-middle-income country with a GDP per capita of $4,806.50. Despite this, a 2009 study revealed that 41.3 percent of the population of Belize lives at or below the poverty line. The main at-risk group in Belize is the children. In 2016, 49 percent of the children in Belize lived in poverty. These children lack access to basic needs such as healthcare and are vulnerable to exploitation.
  2. Different ethnic groups in the country struggle more with poverty than others. In the study recorded in 2009, the results concluded that the poverty rate for the indigenous Maya population was 68 percent, significantly higher than the countrywide average of the time. This represents a disparity in the income levels of different ethnic groups.
  3. Malnutrition is a severe problem in Belize. In 2015, a study showed that over 16 percent of children under the age of five suffered from stunting caused by malnutrition. Approximately five percent of children under the age of five were underweight. That year, less than half of children between the ages of six months old and two years old received adequate nutrition and meal frequency the day before the study.
  4. People are unable to receive access to necessary health care. The Health Care Access and Quality index shows that Belize rates 55.7 out of 100 for access to and quality of health care. Another issue is the significant portion spent by households on health care; over 23 percent of healthcare spending came out of pocket in 2015. However, government spending is expected to increase in the coming years, which will begin reducing the proportion of healthcare spending paid directly by the people.
  5. The unemployment rate in Belize is currently at nine percent of the labor force. Despite an increase in the quantity of jobs in the labor force due to the growth in the population, job opportunities have not increased in Belize at the same rate. Compounding with this problem, a majority of unemployed workers in Belize remain unemployed for six months or more.
  6. In 2015, just over 87 percent of the population had access to the basic sanitation facilities. Though many people still live without adequate sanitation, the availability of sanitation services has been slowly but steadily increasing, rising from a level below 83 percent in 2000. In 2015, 90.5 percent of the people received better access to sanitation, indicating that the trend of improvement will continue.
  7. Agriculture is the second most significant industry in Belize’s economy, and is particularly vulnerable to the environmental dangers presented by the climate in the country. When the agriculture industry suffers it has an impact on the availability of affordable food and on the lives of people, especially in rural areas. Approximately 40 percent of the most disadvantaged of Belize’s population live in rural areas that depend on the agriculture industry.
  8. Belize has among one of the highest crime rates in the world. In 2017, there were more than 90 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Other significant crimes that have become prominent are the drug trade and human trafficking. Young people living in poverty are vulnerable to gang involvement (responsible for a significant portion of violence), and to exploitation ( such as in prostitution).
  9. Educational attainment is low, with an average of 8.1 years of education in 2016. A year before, a study showed that the primary school completion rate was just below 87 percent of children. However, school enrollment has also continued to improve, with a seven percent jump in secondary school attendance between 2014 and 2016. The government of Belize plans to continue pushing for education with methods such as funding new institutions in lower income areas.
  10. In 2016, a four-year Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy for Belize was established. It contains a plan for the key areas that will be the focus for change and new policy in Belize, with priorities that include the development of disaster relief and improvements in education. Several projects now underway in the country work toward goals such as financing a strategy to promote growth and providing funding for disease treatment.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Belize show that there are significant obstacles to improving the state of poverty in the country. However, they also show that many improvements are currently happening that will contribute to helping those in need in Belize. Development is not only achievable, but it occurs at this very moment.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Belize
In Belize, the gender gap between men and women has been prevalent and consistent. However, in 1990, a bill was signed into law prohibiting discrimination against women based on their gender. Since then, the country has promoted women’s rights and has specifically focused on girls’ education. There are three major ways the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee has promoted a better life and has improved girls’ education in Belize.

Increased Literacy a Result of Girls’ Education in Belize

More young women are literate than ever before, leading to a more balanced workforce. Literacy, a strong indicator of equality, has increased in younger women. When literacy increases, nationwide productivity is enhanced and the reduced gender imbalance allows for a more equitable work environment between the sexes. As such, women are being given a chance to obtain degrees and higher positions in the workforce.

Not only is it statistically proven that a nation’s economy benefits from girls’ education, the social impact of girls’ education in Belize allows for cohesive collaboration for well-being in Belize. A country such as Belize that is working towards progressive goals can only benefit from closing the gender gap between those in the workforce.

While the gender gap is not wholly solved by the presence of more young girls in school, there is a significant increase in women both in post-secondary education and in the workforce. There are discrepancies in pay, but the step of promoting literacy to young girls is an important step in building a stronger Belize.

Women Gaining Access to More Diverse Career Options

The more women there are attending schools, the more the gender-career divide disappears. Without initial education, there would not be a basis upon which to form the beginnings of a woman’s career. Historically, the church-state setup of the Belizean government has promoted that women, specifically women who do not conform to the ideal standards set by the church, should remain at home and fulfill tasks for the family rather than for the economy.

While there is no shame in a woman being at home for her family, the promotion of girls’ education in Belize is making that scenario just one option of many for women. In addition to the classic educational materials, women are now being given the option to study for previously male-dominated careers via hands-on skills in carpentry, mechanics and other areas. By addressing the traditions of separating men and women into categories of whom should perform what action in society, Belize is well on the way to developing a strong nation with a multifaceted and talented workforce.

Emphasis on Women’s Equality Reduces Domestic Violence

A focus on education promotes health and independence, which are important for a developing country. Historically, there has been a connection between women with lower education levels and higher levels of domestic violence experienced by those women. In promoting gender equality in schools for girls between ages three and five, a sense of pride, autonomy and strength develops.

In providing an alternative to learning domestic tasks, the Belizean government may begin to reduce the pressing issue of domestic violence. The efforts being made in Belize show that there will likely be more progress in a country that needs both men and women to contribute to its economic growth.

– Kayleigh Mattoon
Photo: Flickr