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Ministry of Agriculture and Fyffes Join Forces to Combat Childhood Malnutrition in Belize

Posted: Wednesday, November 22, 2023. 4:44 pm CST.

Government of Belize Press Release

The Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with Fyffes, is proud to announce the signing of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) on November 22nd, 2023, marking a significant milestone in the ongoing effort to address malnutrition among school-aged children in Southern Belize. This partnership is dedicated to supporting the Bella Vista Community and Community Feeding Program, with a specific focus on Bella Vista Primary School.

Malnutrition, particularly in the form of stunting and underweight, has reached alarming prevalence rates within the Stann Creek and Toledo districts, neighboring communities to Fyffes farms in Belize. According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) of 2015 by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, almost 37% of children under age 5 in Stann Creek were malnourished, amounting to 904 children suffering from stunting, wasting or being underweight.

Recent Ministry of Health data from 2020 reveals that 330 children in Bella Vista and Red Bank are being monitored case by case for stunting and underweight conditions. Additionally, childhood obesity poses a significant concern, with rates of 7% in the Toledo district and 6% in Stann Creek.

The cycle of malnutrition is perpetuated by a lack of food or an improper diet, resulting in increased susceptibility to common childhood ailments and hindering proper growth and development. Recognizing the severity of the issue, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fyffes are committed to breaking this cycle through the Bella Vista School and Community Feeding Program.

School-based feeding programs have proven to be effective social safety nets, delivering positive outcomes such as improved school attendance, enhanced academic performance, and overall better health for participating children. The collaboration between Fyffes and the Ministry of Agriculture aims to extend these benefits not only to students but also to their families and the wider community.

In November 2021, Fyffes, the Ministry of Agriculture (Agro-processing Unit), the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá (INCAP), and the Bella Vista School signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding. This marked the commencement of a school-based pilot program utilizing local bananas to provide nutritious meals to school-age children.

Building on the success of the second phase of the program, which ran from January 1st to May 15th, 2023, Fyffes, in collaboration with the Agro-processing unit, will continue producing a banana flour product made from local bananas. This nutrient-rich supplement will be distributed by Fyffes to local communities, contributing to the sustained improvement of the nutritional status of school-age children.

For Hon. Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprises of the Government of Belize, malnutrition is a formidable adversary, a vicious cycle that jeopardizes the very essence of childhood. “Our children, grappling with physical ailments, compromised growth, and recurring sicknesses, face challenges in their development and learning abilities. Today, we collectively shoulder the responsibility to break this cycle and pave the way for a brighter and healthier future for our youth. The partnership we formalize today between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fyffes is not just an agreement; it is a commitment to change lives.” he stated.

Talking about this initiative, Caoimhe Buckley, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Fyffes said “As the largest employer in Belize we want to enrich the lives of the people who work for us, their families and communities. Today’s signing marks our commitment to improve and expand access to nutrition for the children and families of our communities, using our health-giving bananas.”

 

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