Belize joined the United Nations four days after independence in 1981 and since then has been an active participant in the work of the umbrella organization of nations. Several pan-national organizing bodies of the UN have made their home here and contributed to national development in key ways, and the heads of those bodies such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) the World Health Organization and the regional subsidiary Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and several others met with the press in Belize City this morning to put a human face on the organization and update on their respective organizations’ work in Belize. Dr. Catherine Israel is the Acting Representative for PAHO/WHO.
“We provide support to define the national health agenda and to ensure that that health agenda is defined and designed in such a way to support universal coverage and asses to health care. One of the concerns we have in program design and address the needs of people who are less served. So we work with the Ministry of Health, that’s our principal partner of PAHO, to identify those groups at risk, those groups that are vulnerable and to design the health program in such a way that no one would be excluded. Everyone will have access. “
UNICEF is perhaps the most recognizable of the UN’s organizations here, and its representative, Ivan Yerovi, discussed two issues near and dear to its heart: violence against children and early childhood development.
“The issue of violence within several occasions in talking about this issue and we will continue talking about violence against children for one simple reason;sSometimes violence is perceived as normal and we have to make sure that these issues are being discussed. These issues are being considered and everybody talks about it, because that’s the only way to recognize that we have a problem in the country. The other one is on early childhood development. Less than 40% of kids, 0-4 [years old], have access to early childhood development services. It is proved scientifically that whatever you do in the first four years of a child changes their whole lives. We are currently working with the Ministries of Health, Education and Human Development to try to provide more access for children and to create an integrated model of fixing these services.”
The UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative is Stefano Pezzinato, who discusses that agency’s work in Belize.
“One of them is, as mentioned, democratic governance and citizens security with an emphasis on access to law, access to justice. We can strengthen the justice system, but if we don’t promote the citizens access, particularly women’s access but not only women’s and men’s access to justice services, we would have failed. This is part of a democratic process that we need to enforce. we also work a lot with youth and try to engage youths in programs such as our South Side Belize program that we work on with other agencies on this system and with the government. One other area that I would like to mention is our work to fight HIV/AIDS at the national level. We partner with the government and with other civil society institutions in the fight against aids, which is proceeding well fortunately in Belize as a country. We have seen a reduction in the incidents. Finally, on environmental sustainability and resilience. Here, Belize is one of the most vulnerable countries. It leads to natural disasters and environmental disasters in climate change. We try to work, also there, with the government and civil society organizations to act as we work with them to improve their livelihood, for instance in coastal areas from traditional fishing to seaweed farming and other activities. As we do that, we try to increase community level resilience. We try to heavily engage women in the productive process so that also a part of the development of their families and communities. “