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Women's Empowerment in BelizeRecent advancements in women’s empowerment in Belize have been made due to the implementation of multiple women’s rights policies. In 1990, Belize signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The National Women’s Commission (NWC) of Belize carries out programs in line with the CEDAW and the National Gender Policy, the primary policies shaping women’s rights in Belize. The current perspective of women’s empowerment in Belize has evolved immensely since 1990 due to the government’s efforts to address modern threats to women’s rights.

Gender roles for women in Belize are fairly stereotypical under the construction of the church-state system. In 1999, the U.N. recognized very strong “cultural traditions… (that) placed women in a subordinate position in Belize,” and continued by stating, “both men and women had to be involved in changing old cultural traditions.” Women’s empowerment in Belize is disrupted by the discriminations fostered by the influence of the church. Since the adoption of the CEDAW in 1990, Belize has made new legislation and amendments to combat discrimination against women.

In 2007, The Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee monitoring the effects of CEDAW saw that women in Belize suffer from “discriminatory hiring practices, limited maternal protection, dismissal due to pregnancy, sexual harassment and persistent pay inequality between women and men.” To address the discriminatory labor practices the Belize Labor act was amended in 2011 to penalize unfair dismissals and establish the Labor Complaints Tribunal.

While women now receive greater higher education degrees than men (a large advancement from 1990) the U.S. 2016 Belize Human Rights Report verifies “that men traditionally earn more–on average BZ$90 ($45) more– per month than women because they hold higher managerial positions.” Since the labor laws were amended, women’s unemployment has declined – nearly five percent from 2014 to 2015 – and the amount of women receiving degrees has increased. Women’s equality in labor and education in Belize requires additional attention but, with traceable achievements thus far, the country is moving in the right direction.

Domestic violence in Belize is grossly under-reported and prosecutions are low because individuals are reluctant to press charges against their offenders. The 2016 U.S. Human Rights Report published that “There were 15 cases of gender-based murder against women” that year. This violence is aggregated by the church-state relationship that perpetuates an outdated perspective on women’s rights. Belize revised the Domestic Violence Protocol for Police Officers in 2010 and works with shelters like the Haven house and Mary Open Doors to support threatened women and hopefully reduce the gender-based murders against women.

As a part of the U.N., Belize is positioned to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030 including SDG 5, to achieve gender equality. Perhaps one of the strongest symbols of the advancements Belize has made in women’s empowerment was the 2014 “20,000 STRONG” Women’s Empowerment Rally. The first of its kind, the rally had 12,000 men and women join together and march to show the influence and significance of women. The rally was held again in 2016, in collaboration with the NWC, where they announced the new 20-4-20 Women’s Economic Development Program.

As the U.N. established, women’s empowerment in Belize can only be accomplished with the combined efforts of men and women. The rallies in 2014 and 2016 have set the tone for a unified nation in support of gender equality. In partnership with governmental organizations and NGO’s and with the support of its citizens, Belize is on track to establishing gender equality by 2030.

– Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to BelizeLocated on the eastern coast of Central America, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the rainforest, Belize is a diverse and small nation of 366,000 people. The success of humanitarian aid to Belize has been evident.

Belize is subject to chronic instability, due to its vulnerability from climate shocks and a longstanding public debt burden. Policymakers have done much in undertaking adjustments to bring Belize back to a sustainable development trajectory. However, some are still at risk of getting left behind, like the country’s children, who are most vulnerable and affected by these challenges.

Despite these difficulties, Belize has made considerable advances in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015, performing satisfactorily in health-related investments and progressing on a positive track for child and maternal mortality rates, HIV/AIDS and the environment.

Much of the humanitarian aid to Belize comes from UNICEF, who has been committed to Belize dating back to 1954. UNICEF established an office in the country after Belize gained its independence in 1981. It provided aid in the form of environment health, vector control, school feeding and the provision of school textbooks and supplies. Currently, UNICEF is focused primarily on young child survival, education and development, disparity reduction through policy investment, participatory governance and the protection of children against violence.

Another form of successful humanitarian aid to Belize by UNICEF is their response to the Zika Virus outbreak in the region, providing fieldwork support and training at the national and local levels, with the Sustainable and Child Friendly Municipalities Initiative. So far, UNICEF has allocated over BZ$116,000 to Zika relief efforts.

UNICEF also provided humanitarian aid to Belize during the aftermath of Hurricane Earl, which struck Belize on August 4, 2016. They provided aid totaling over BZ$153,000 to help the most vulnerable families. This was done in partnership with the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, the Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development, city mayors, NEMO, Immigration and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The aid provided included the distribution of hygiene kits, the provision of support to shelters and the cleansing of debris and dissemination of emergency messages.

Similarly, Brazil donated provisions to Belize after it was hit by Hurricane Arthur in 2008, which was the worst tropical storm to affect the country in the past four decades. It provided 1,370 boxes of food, containing rice, beans, sugar, powdered milk, soy oil and ham in each box. Brazil also donated provisions valuing approximately $50,000 to assist the victims of Hurricane Dean in 2007.

With the success of humanitarian aid to Belize that has already been provided, the future of the country is looking brighter than ever. Still, there is a need for more aid that will improve the quality of life drastically in Belize.

Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Belize

In the country of Belize, there are about 366,000 citizens to take care of. These 366,000 individuals may be different from one another, but they are all entitled to basic rights. Human rights in Belize are not perfect, nor will they ever be, but are a work in progress as efforts are continuously being made to better them.

One major issue in Belize is police brutality. This past April, a video of an altercation between citizens and police in San Pedro Central Park went viral. While attempting to bring a woman to the police station, the police proceeded to kick her. They also fired gunshots, injuring five people. Although PC Norman Coye and PC Darnell Madrill of the San Pedro Police Department were charged for wounding others in the incident, the victim of the incident remains disappointed in how the situation is being handled. Since there were other officers involved, she finds it unfair that only two were reprimanded for their actions.

According to the U.S. 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, in 2015 there were 217 new complaints of police abuse. Despite that large increase, less than half of them were actually investigated.

With police brutality being a major concern in Belize, it is a priority to resolve it. One of the first steps in finding a solution is addressing the problem. Thankfully, public officials in Belize are doing so. The United Women’s Group criticized the police’s mishandling of the incident in San Pedro Central Park. Besides expressing disappointment in the way the Police Professional Standards Branch responded to it, they also urged the government to bring justice to the victims and properly punish the officers involved.

Besides the United Women’s Group, others are acknowledging police brutality in Belize. First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow also made a public statement in response to the same incident. She not only told the Belize Police Department to handle situations less violently, but also asked the Professional Standards Branch of the Department to thoroughly investigate the case.

A person of higher power has the ability to influence more people, since they have a larger following. By taking a public stance, different organizations and individuals are leading others to acknowledge the problem by doing so themselves. Human rights in Belize will continue to improve as more people take a stand against police brutality.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in BelizeBelize is a well-known destination for luxurious vacation getaways. While tourism has brought some wealth to the region, GDP growth has slowed over the past few years. Additionally, the impact of Hurricane Earl in August of 2016 has put stress on the country’s economy.

While the sunshine and snorkeling may seem alluring, there are a few health risks that the residents of this tropical region in Central America face.

Here are a few of the common diseases in Belize that affect its residents.

Hepatitis A and B

One common disease in the area is Hepatitis A. This disease can be contracted through food or water consumption. Additionally, this virus has a high chance of circulation in poor sanitary conditions.

The annual mortality rate per 100,000 people for Hepatitis A is approximately 0.1, according to a report by Health Grove. The report also stated that since 1990, this mortality rate has decreased by 68.6 percent.

Hepatitis B is also prevalent in Belize and can be transmitted through sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood products. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines are highly recommended if you are anticipating the need for surgery. Hepatitis B has approximately the same mortality rate at Hepatitis A in Belize.

Since 1990, the Hepatitis B’s mortality rate has decreased by 69.2 percent, according to the Health Grove report.

Malaria

Belize is considered to be a low-risk country for malaria, though antimalarial medication is recommended for those more susceptible to contracting the disease, like women who are pregnant.

Belize is currently in the pre-elimination phase in order to control malaria in the region, according to a report from the Health Sector Strategic Plan. Between 2007, where there were 845 cases of malaria, and 2012, with only 37 cases, cases of malaria decreased by 95 percent in Belize. Other regions in Latin America have experienced a reduction in the number of cases of malaria over similar time spans.

The report also stated that even with limited resources and low per capita health expenditure, Belize has been able to make smart investments that have led to improvements in health services and the reduction of diseases like Malaria.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is another one of the most common diseases in Belize. While the number of reported incidents of tuberculosis have remained consistent since 2010, mortality rates from tuberculosis have more than doubled since 1990. According to a report from the Health Sector Strategic Plan, this might be a reason for concern due to the productivity of the Directly Observed Treatment Scheme.

A report from the Commonwealth Health Online found that communicable diseases in Belize, meaning diseases that can be passed along through human interaction, made up 20 percent of the deaths that occurred in 2008, in addition to maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions.

Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases have seen a decline in recent years. According to a report from the World Health Organization, the success rate for new and relapse cases of tuberculosis registered in 2014 was 35 percent.  While this rate saw a decline in recent years, its prevalence has gradually started to increase.

According to a report from the World Bank, between the fiscal years of 2012 and 2015, the International Finance Corporation expanded its role as an advisory to Belize and as an investor. As the report stands, this will help Belize with things like health services.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Belize
Water quality is Belize? Even a tropical paradise can have challenges. Belize, located just south of Mexico, is home to almost 375,000 people. Unfortunately, about 41.3 percent of these people live below the poverty line. Poverty in Belize manifests as a result of several factors, including a lack of equal opportunities to receive an education and proper healthcare. For years, the government has put a focus on addressing the poor water quality in Belize.  This lack of access to clean water makes it difficult for families to rise above the poverty line.

As of 2008, almost everyone living in urban areas was able to access safe drinking water. However, only 86 percent of the population living in the countryside have access to a clean water source. In these areas, boiling water before using it is a necessity.

Belize has historically struggled with keeping their water sources clean. Between the months of July and December, floods and hurricanes can interfere with the disposable of human waste and redirect it into sources of drinking water. As a result, bacteria can spread diseases.

Water quality in Belize faces another roadblock due to the lack access to a sewage system. As of 2014, almost 90 percent of citizens reported not having a proper place to dispose of their liquid waste. Without a latrine, the disease can quickly spread in a community through the wastewater.

Many organizations are working hard to improve the water quality in Belize. In 2015, the government created the Belize River Valley rural water system with a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank. The CDB’s primary goal is to reduce the number of people living under the poverty line through improving conditions in developing communities. The Belize River Valley rural water system provided over 3,000 people with access to clean water.

The Belize Social Investment Fund also uses the water supply to change lives. By investing in providing a clean water supply to impoverished communities, the BSIF gives the population the tools to improve their quality of life.

Access to safe drinking water is crucial in the fight against poverty and work put into the water quality in NotBelize has and will continue to result in life-changing progress.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr


Belize is perhaps best known internationally as a country of refuge for people fleeing the violence of The Northern Triangle, the area with the highest homicide rate in the world. The Northern Triangle is composed of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

It is for its welcoming and accommodating demeanor that the country of Belize has been dubbed Central America’s Sanctuary, but deep within the sanctuary lies a problem which threatens to disrupt local and international stability: hunger.

Hunger in Belize is not a new issue. Since the early 2000s, Belize has had trouble ensuring adequate nutrition for its people. With the recent spikes in violent crime in surrounding countries, Belize’s food problems are predicted to grow in response to increased immigration rates.

While the gratuitous violence of The Northern Triangle tends to dominate the Central American media stage, hunger in Belize poses a real threat to the stability of the nation and its propensity for economic growth and expansion. Below are 10 facts which provide a quick, illustrative snapshot of how hunger is more than a physical pain: it is also an inhibitor of progress and a force unparalleled in its pervasive destructiveness.

  1. The Depth of Hunger Index for Belize jumped from 150 calories to over 400 calories in 2007. (Depth of Hunger is measured as a deficit, meaning that, in 2007, individuals in Belize were lacking on average 400 calories of nutrition every day). For reference, a depth of hunger index score of 200 is cause for concern, demonstrating that a 400-calorie deficit is a cause for alarm.
  2. Food quality is also poor in Belize. Thirty-five percent of children under the age of five in Belize are anemic, which means that their red blood cell count is low. A low red blood cell count can lead to fatigue, which may seem trivial, but can have serious repercussions on a child’s early brain development.
  3. Hunger is not only a physical pain; it is also a social ailment. Over eight percent of Belizean women surveyed in a 2013 study said a husband has the right to beat his wife for burning the food, neglecting the children or arguing with their husband. While spousal disagreements and child neglect are not synonymous with hunger, there are potential overlaps between the above-listed categories. For example, a domestic assault may arise from an argument about how to ration food, exemplifying how hunger can permeate every sphere of social life and fuel social unrest.
  4. The Depth of Hunger in Belize is currently at 170 calories per person per day, which shows that overall hunger has decreased in recent years. However, whether or not the Depth of Hunger in Belize will continue to improve is a source of great debate among nutrition experts. Prevailing sentiments suggest that Belize’s hunger problems stem from the tumultuous political states of its neighboring countries, which means that stability must be restored in Belize’s neighboring countries in order for the Belizean government to shift its focus from providing protection to refugees to reducing hunger.
  5. The Depth of the Food Deficit is another hunger unit of measurement that indicates how many calories would be needed to improve the nutritional health of a country’s population from one hunger bracket to the next. For example, in Belize, the Depth of the Food Deficit is 40 calories per person per day, which means that the severely malnourished need 40 calories more per day in order to be considered only moderately malnourished.
  6. The food inflation rate in Belize is -1.7 percent, which means that food is currently relatively cheap. However, an extended food deflation rate could cause the agricultural economy to collapse leaving families to fend for themselves on small farms. Sustenance farming is somewhat common among rural families, but for those without arable land, deflating food prices are a bad omen.
  7. Because of inadequate nutrition, 19.3 percent of children ages 12 and under are stunted in growth or suffer from moderate malnutrition, which could leave them predisposed to illnesses in later life.
  8. Funds to minimize Belizean hunger are frequently funneled into border security programs in order to reduce violent crimes. Often times, however, these programs are ineffectual and serve solely as a sieve on limited national funds.
  9. Social safety net programs like the Food Pantry and Conditional Cash Transfer programs are new initiatives to reduce poverty and hunger in Belize. While the initiatives themselves purport huge successes, the tangible benefits of these programs have yet to be seen.
  10. While hunger in Belize has been on the decline since 2007, it remains an ominous threat to the continued development of Belize’s economy. Many school nutritional programs have been introduced in order to ensure that children have the energy to succeed in school and thus secure a fruitful professional career.

Belize is known as the refuge for the violence which plagues The Northern Triangle of Central America, and there is little doubt that the influx of crime and nefarious activities has augmented the country’s struggle to establish universal nutrition for its people. However, with the unveiling of a number of food and poverty programs in 2016, hunger in Belize seems well on its way to being satiated.

Spencer Linford

Photo: Flickr


Belize, located south of Mexico in Central America, was the center of the Mayan civilization thousands of years ago. Since then, Belize has developed into an independent, democratic country with English as its official language. The Belizean economy remains small, depending mainly on agriculture, merchandising and tourism. The sugar and banana industries make up two of the biggest sources of economic production. The developing nation has become an attractive travel destination for people around the world, but the rate of poverty in Belize remains very high.

As of September 2016, the rate of poverty in Belize stood at 41.3 percent, which meant that 380,010 people lived in conditions below the poverty line. People living in rural areas suffer more from poverty than those living in Belize City. This occurs because federal revenue is distributed to all the districts disproportionately.

When compared to other countries in the Caribbean, the rate of poverty in Belize ranks second-highest after Haiti. Reducing this statistic has proven to be a challenge for the Belizean government, as poverty in Belize often results from many factors, including lack of access to education, sanitary drinking water and medical attention.

While poverty in Belize cannot be eradicated overnight, the government of Belize has made significant steps in recent years. Belizean politicians have pursued legislation and programs to tackle the challenges faced by the people living below the poverty rate. The Belize Social Investment Fund, established in 1996, assists groups within communities in their efforts to help the poor.

The National Integrated Water Resources Act, approved by the government in 2010, will eventually result in access to clean water. When safe drinking water is brought in, communities see increased economic growth without fail, and Belize has been no exception.

Other pushes towards a decrease in poverty include the Quality School Initiative, resulting in increased school enrollment. Gender equality has also increased, with access to education, literacy rates and employment rates rising over the past 10 years. In 2015, the infant mortality rate had decreased by two-thirds. With increased efforts to attack the roots of poverty in Belize, the nation is sure to see a decrease in the poverty rate.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

drop_of_water
Water is essential to all life, a phrase often repeated, yet the fact remains that over 800 million people cannot access potable water every day. 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation increasing the likelihood of disease not just in that region but globally, an issue that goes hand in hand with poor access to water. Every year, 3.4 million die of water related diseases, equivalent to the population of Los Angeles.

When successful potable water projects enter a community, it has been shown to have beneficial impacts across many aspects of that communities life. In truth, it lies at the heart of the most cost effective and efficient solutions to global health, population growth, poverty, disease and climate change. The World Health Organization estimates a return of 3-34$ for every dollar invested in a clean water project, given the technology and region.

With such powerful ramifications, the debate on how best to approach this problem is an important one. Over the past 20 years, there have been two main approaches, that of charity/micro-finance projects, and the privatization model, the most famous case taking place in Cochamamba, Belize. Both have their critics.

There is now a third approach, a more holistic one, that considers unique environmental and cultural factors. Overall it has been coined as the Investment in Watershed Services strategy, and it combines tactics from the previous two long standing frameworks for improving access to potable water.

With the latest solution, initial capital for a given project is invested directly to farmers, or potential land owners in the natural watersheds of a given area. The money is used to clean up and maintain the natural functions of the watershed, which perform the same functions of treatment plants or ‘grey’ technologies without the expensive equipment.

Nonprofits and communities all over the world are recognizing the value in this framework as it  creates a co-dependent and cyclical dynamic with downstream water users and polluters funding and investing in the upstream maintenance. The headliner project of this nature is New York ongoing investment in the Catskills Mountains. New York municipality pays for riverbank protection and maintenance that have allowed it to save billions on costly filtration plants. However, there are projects all over the world at all different scales using the very same framework.

By not having environmental damage and natural resources as an externality in the financing of the project, many positive side effects occur wherever these projects are enacted. Aside from addressing the initial issue of access to clean water. The enhanced environmental and farming practices that make up the foundation of this approach, increase food yields and improve the natural habitat.

For more information on the overall framework of the strategy, ongoing projects or how to become involved, go to the Watershed Connect website.

– Tyler Shafsky

Sources: Watershed Connect, USAID, Huffington Post
Photo: Wanah Fong

elrington_belize
On September 30, Foreign Minister Wilfred Erlington of Belize reprimanded developed countries for abandoning goal eight of the Millennium Development Goals– a global partnership for development. The Millennium Development Goals were agreed upon by world leaders at a UN Summit in 2000, aiming to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty through eight different steps by 2015. The United Nations and many developed countries have been criticized for their apparent slack in achievement.

“We note with disappointment, that the rich countries have not even been able to bring themselves to honor their commitment to contribute even the 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product as official domestic assistance to poor countries,” said Mr. Erlington.

In terms of other assistance, the resources being provided by the international community, other financial institutions and private donors are not nearly enough of what is needed by poor countries to attain the Millennium Development Goals. Now, 13 years later, only a minority of countries are proving successful in attaining the Goals. Unfortunately, the vast majority shows very few signs of development.

Pressure has continually been put on the developed countries to finally step up, once and for all, and put their best foot forward. The battle against global poverty cannot be fought without their leadership, and it is a constant source of frustration for many of the developing nations.

Alva Romanus Baptise, Minister of external fairs of Saint Lucia stressed that global interdependence demands that “the strong help the weak so that everyone gets strong.” Belize’s expression of this omnipresent issue serves as just one voice for the hundreds of abandoned nations.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: UN News Centre, Scoop
Photo: Caribbean 360

Belize_Poverty
Belize has experienced a peaceful transition to a democratic government since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The country’s global comparative advantage is derived from its natural resources, which supports the tourism and agriculture sectors, as well as its close geographical proximity to major markets. Challenges like poverty in Belize are due to high vulnerability to external shocks, including natural hazards, impacts of climate change, and terms of trade. The government’s ability to face these challenges is limited due to high debt levels and limited fiscal space.

As a lower middle-income country, Belize experienced a slowdown in growth and an increase in poverty after the global economic crisis, which accompanied increases in the prices of food and fuel price in 2008.  The most recent Country Poverty Assessment indicates that between 2002 and 2009, the overall poverty rate increased from 34% to 41%, while extreme poverty increased from 11% to 16%. In 2010, the country resumed growth, with GDP growth reaching 2.9%. Although Belize’s economy has traditionally relied on agriculture, the services sector grew in importance during the 1990s. According to the World Bank, it is now the country’s largest contributor, accounting for 60% of GDP.

Data indicates that the overall economic growth experienced by the country might have failed to translate into an equal distribution of wealth and well-being. The Country Poverty Assessment states that, “inequality is therefore the manifestation of the central structural problem, which development policy in Belize must address”. The government of Belize continues to put the primary focus of its strategies on the fight against poverty.

Recently, the State Department through the U.S. Mission to Belize made plans to spend $500,000 to create jobs for youth and reduce poverty in Belize. The grant announcement said, “Marginalized youth are empowered when given a voice and opportunities. Equipping marginalized youth and their communities with economic opportunities and/or business training can help them reach their true potential as entrepreneurs and improve citizen security.”

The purpose of the grant proposal is to “confront the root causes of violence and crime in a creative and effective way and seek to create positive cultural and social conditions.” The U.S. Embassy may award up to 10 grants, which do not exceed a total of $500,000 USD. Eligible applicants are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profit organizations (NPOs), International Government Organizations (IGOs), educational institutions, and individuals.

– Ali Warlich

Sources: World Bank, CNS News, Grants.gov
Photo: WordPress