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We Need to Acknowledge Structural Violence in Belize

Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2015. 5:32 am CST.

By Charles Leslie Jr.

charles-leslie-jrBefore I get to my main point I take this opportunity to denote how our psychological wiring and thought process often times have us inaccurately prioritizing issues that affect our lives:  The Availability Heuristic says that we will react to what is most available to us and easy for us to mentally process/digest.  In this case, I am speaking about Belize being branded by the United Nations as the third most ‘dangerous’ country in the world due to our murder rate per 100,000 people, and how we reacted to it.

We must also take into consideration our Arbitrary Coherence, which says that once we get something established in our minds, that ‘something’ will shape how we react and mentally process it today and in the future.  Buzz words such as  murder, dangerous, violence…make the UN report ‘Coherent’, it sends us in a frenzy, we get emotional, we get mad, we feel ashamed of the accolade…and the media feeds this frenzy, since often times the media naturally gravitate towards stories due to their Availability Heuristics.

Let’s look at some facts.   Do you know what the top ten causes of death of Belizeans are?

1.   Diabetes Mellitus

2.   Coronary Heart Disease

3.   Road Traffic Accidents

4.   Stroke

5.   Hypertension


7.   Influenza & Pneumonia

8.   Violence

9.   Other Injuries

10. Liver Disease

When we hear the word ‘violence,’ we think of stabbings, beatings, shootings.  That’s behavioral violence.  What we don’t hear about enough is inequality and how it is killing us.  It’s like an odorless, colorless, highly toxic gas that we’re just not aware of.

Meta-analysis are now finding that the main causes of deaths worldwide stems from inequality, now more popularly being referred to as Structural Violence – which is a form of violence where some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs – example, when the Western Regional Hospital don’t have a fully functional ambulance that is unable to reach a road traffic accident victim in time due to mechanical difficulties or in one case, a flat and no spare tire, and the victims bleeds out and diet, that can be considered structural violence . Structural violence also kills us from the usual diseases: Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, since inequality inhibits us from being able to afford proper medical care.  It’s the structure of our society, the gap between the rich and the poor, that creates the inequality that kills us from all the usual diseases.

As a Belizean you are statistically susceptible to 7 other ways you are more likely to die before an act of behavioral violence.   And these 7 other ways are directly linked to our health.  We have a serious health problem in Belize, and there is not enough public education, outcry and mitigation.

I implore the Government to prioritize attention and allocation of resources towards the health system and thus the health of Belizeans.

Structural violence kills far more Belizeans than the behavioral variety. That’s what we need to change.

Winston Churchill once said, “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any nation can have.”

Charles Leslie Jr.  is the Chairman of the Belize Unity Alliance and the former independent Chairman of Placencia Village (2010 – 2013). He holds an Associates degree in business, accounting and economics and has over 20 years business experience.


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