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How United States and UNICEF are assisting Belize’s COVID-19 response

Posted: Friday, August 7, 2020. 6:25 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: A joint project between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Belize and the Government of the United States of America, through its United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is putting US$300,000 in grant funds toward reduce the risk and impact of COVID19 for vulnerable children and adolescents in Belize.

Among other things, the project intends to: deliver 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; reach at least 25,000 parents, teachers and children with health and hygiene education messages to help keep them safe from the virus; train partners and young people in nine urban areas to provide accurate risk communication messages to young peers through social and traditional media; provide sensitization to health personnel on protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding following hygienic measures in response to COVID-19; and collect and analyze data in coordination with the Statistical Institute of Belize.

These goals, according to Chargé d’affaires, a.i. Keith Gilges, were reached after consultation with Belizean authorities and the Belize UNICEF office. “Rather than saying from back in Washington, ‘Hey, here’s $300,000 (U.S.) dollars and we know how you should spend it,’ we work with our partners on the ground; so working with the Ministry of Health, working with the Ministry of Education, we said, ‘where can we fill in a gap? Where can we provide something that is not otherwise around?’ We want to make sure we are not duplicating efforts or services.’

UNICEF, Gilges added, is already working on some aspects of the program and is not waiting for schools to be formally reopened.

And for the States, it remains critical to support key allies around the world, including Belmopan: “A Belize that is healthy, prosperous and strong is a great partner to the U.S.”

Chief Executive Officer Deborah Domingo of the Ministry of Education states that per UNICEF’s Country Plan, the Ministry will submit for its portion of the funds which are usually distributed every three months. An estimated $121,000 will go toward supporting sanitation supplies to schools beyond the initial support to schools (gotten through other donations), as plans move apace to return to schools opening – the latest date given being the more traditional first week of September.


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