The U.S. government, through the U.S. Embassy in Belize and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), announced the launch on August 6 of a $300,000 project to fund UNICEF’s work to reduce the risk and impact of COVID-19 for vulnerable children and adolescents in Belize.
Areas of intervention will focus on risk communication and community engagement; improving infection prevention and control, including with water, sanitation and hygiene services; providing critical hygiene supplies; and data collection and analysis.
The U.S. government contribution will enable UNICEF to boost critical actions, including:
– Delivering 1,200 critical hygiene packages to reach 50,000 students and support 2,400 classrooms to promote handwashing with soap and keep classrooms clean and sanitized when schools reopen.
– Reaching at least 25,000 parents, teachers, and children with health and hygiene education messages to help keep them safe from the virus.
– Training partners and young people in nine urban areas to provide accurate risk communication messages to young peers through social and traditional media.
– Providing sensitization to health personnel on protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding following hygienic measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Collecting and analyzing data in coordination with the Statistical Institute of Belize.
Even before the pandemic, about one in two children in Belize were living in poverty, and experienced disparities in access and quality of basic services. The impacts of COVID-19 further exacerbate those disparities for the most vulnerable children.
Even after schools reopen, concerns about the spread of COVID-19 remain. Handwashing with soap and water is one of the most important interventions to stem the spread of COVID-19, but in Belize one in three schools have limited or no sanitation services. The U.S. donation will allow UNICEF to provide 1,200 critical hygiene packages to reach 50,000 students. It will also support 2,400 classrooms to promote handwashing with soap and keep classrooms clean and sanitized in support of the reopening of schools.
The pandemic further threatens 15 percent of children under 5 years of age who suffer from stunting and pregnant women who do not have access to nutritious food. To help address these problems, the U.S.-funded emergency response measures will include providing sensitization to health personnel on protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding following hygienic measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Young Belizeans and their families are often among the populations most vulnerable to the social, economic, and educational upheavals created by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Keith Gilges, chargé d’Affaires, a.i. to Belize. “We know the critical role that education plays in children’s lives. As Belize’s friend and neighbor, the United States is committed to making it as safe as possible for children to return to school by reducing the risk of the virus’s spread in schools across the country.”
UNICEF’s project takes into account the many different kinds of ways that the pandemic has impacted Belize’s children, youth and their families, which is why we are honored to finance their efforts to reach as many families in need as possible,” Chargé Gilges added.
Michel Guinand, officer in charge at UNICEF in Belize further noted, “From child protection and education to health and nutrition, UNICEF has been supporting the country to slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the social and economic impacts on children and their families.”
The significant and generous contribution that we receive today from the United States government through the U.S. Embassy and USAID will enable us to build on our COVID-19 prevention and mitigation efforts in Belize to ensure that children and young people receive the protection they need,” he added.
The funds will enable UNICEF to support and supplement ongoing interventions carried out with the Belizean government and UN agencies, by ensuring critical COVID-19 prevention and mitigation across the country. The project will be implemented together with the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, and in coordination with civil society organizations and U.N. agencies.
About UNICEF’s COVID-19 response in Belize
COVID-19 is claiming lives and livelihoods. As families struggle to stay afloat, the crisis is battering essential services that secure the education and protection of our children, often with deadly costs. The most vulnerable children — such as those affected by poverty, exclusion or family violence — are facing even greater risks, cut off from existing support.
UNICEF’s COVID-19 Response Plan has two priorities: 1) to reduce COVID-19 transmission and mortality through the public health response, and 2) to mitigate the socioeconomic impacts on children and families, especially the most vulnerable. Actions range from securing critical hygiene and prevention items for use in schools, health facilities, and public spaces, to reaching children and their families through messaging on COVID-19 prevention — as well as producing and broadcasting messages for parents and caregivers to assist children at home with psychosocial support and distance learning.