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Sep 24, 2004

UNICEF, GOB review progress on children

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If the number of media reports are any indication, then there would be no doubt that Belize’s children are the most heavily studied and subsidized group in the country. And while that point is debatable, what isn’t is that under the prodding of UNICEF and the local agencies it funds, the nation’s young people are never far from the public’s consciousness. Today I was on hand for the latest evaluation and initiative.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“I believe that much has been achieved over the first two and a half years or so, but much more remains to be done and indeed many challenges remain.”

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Prime Minister Said Musa speaking at the mid term review on the 2002?2006 Country Program Action Plan signed between the Government of Belize and The United Nation?s Children?s Fund. The goal is to reduce poverty and improve the overall human development conditions of children. So what has been accomplished? As explained by the Chairperson of the National Committee for Families and Children, Sandra Hall, the Legislative framework has been strengthened through the reinforcement of the Families and Children Act of 1998 including the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

Sandra Hall, Chairperson, NCFC

“The juvenile justice reforms in community sentencing: we have the penal reform act of 2001 and the special anti-trafficking law. This is especially in regards to women and children and we have the trafficking in persons prohibition act of 2003.”

“Also we have the institutional care protocols; those were developed and approved this year. So those became effective this year. Then there was the sexual and reproductive health policy that was finalised and adopted in 2002. We?ve had recent census and surveys: family, health, labour force, child activity, and living standards. Those are really important to inform our programmes.”

Today, the NCFC has a stronger foundation and there was also the creation of the post of Ambassador and Special Envoy for Children. Some tangible benefits for children include close to universal immunization and the detection and reporting of child abuse cases. Today GOB and UNICEF signed an agreement to renew their mutual commitment.

Said Musa

“The relationship between Belize and UNICEF has been long and fruitful and becomes stronger every year. I wish to acknowledge and commend the work that UNICEF has been undertaking in Belize in facilitating and enabling environment for the development of policies and programmes that benefit children and their families.”

The review also highlighted a number of critical issues that need urgent attention. The growing number of children orphaned and made vulnerable because of AIDS, the way children are inequitably impacted by poverty, and the persistent problem of children failing to complete even the minimum educational requirements.

In his address Musa assured the gathering that even though his government is presently engaged in an exercise to cut expenses in the public sector it will not be done to detriment of the children.

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