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May 4, 2022

A Health Fair for Inmates at the Belize Central Prison

Hundreds of inmates had an opportunity today to seek expert advice on medical conditions that they may be suffering from behind prison walls. It’s the resumption of a health fair for prisoners to find out more about health services that are available to them, notwithstanding the fact that they are serving time for crimes committed. This afternoon, News Five’s Isani Cayetano visited the Belize Central Prison and has the following story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

With a population of one thousand men, women and youths, the medical practitioner here at the Belize Central Prison has a range of health issues to look after when it comes to these inmates.  To address these various illnesses, Kolbe Foundation has teamed up with several agencies to organize a health fair.  The last time such an event was held on the compound was in 2018.


Dr. Javier Novelo, Medical Officer, Belize Central Prison

Dr. Javier Novelo

“This health fair came about because we want to promote health, we want to promote health awareness to all the inmates.  We have over a thousand inmates here at the prison.  As the medical officer, I see males, I see females, I see youths and many times inmates have no knowledge about health services here in Belize, about health itself and that is why this health fair came about, in order to provide that awareness to the inmates.”


Among these prisoners is Chelston Arzu, who is serving time for a manslaughter conviction.


Chelston Arzu

Chelston Arzu, Inmate, Belize Central Prison

“The event is a very educational event, a very beneficial event for us inmates at the Kolbe Foundation because, like the theme said, medical education, multiple organizations quenching the thirst for medical education.  How I came up with the theme, as I said before, it was an inspiration from, I believe, the Most High who gave me the talent and the wisdom, the knowledge and the understanding to bring forth the theme.”


Beyond the premise of the health fair are the services being offered today.  Inmates are able to get tested for HIV, COVID-19 and a list of other illnesses, both communicable and non-communicable.


Dr. Javier Novelo

“The Ministry of Health and Wellness has a good collaboration with the prison, so they assisted in providing the health education booths.  But we also have NGOs, we also have BFLA, we have the cancer society, we have diabetes association, we have the kidney association.  So all of us came together in order to provide the health education to the inmates in the form of a fair.”


What is interesting about today’s event is that, as free men, many of those in attendance would not have considered getting a check up, let alone be health conscious.


Chelston Arzu

“Of course, there are a lot of distractions and especially for someone of my age, being young, you know, we don’t take the time out to slow down to look at certain things that are educational and that would help us, you know, in the near future or even when we decide to settle down and have kids and have a family. It means a whole lot because some of these individuals are on twenty-three hour lockdown and being able to come out here and interact with others, interact with people from society, it gives us a new outlook because, of course, we are dealing with people from different walks of life.  So this event means a lot to us educationally and for, I wouldn’t want to say recreational purposes, but that also.”


Most needed, according to Dr. Javier Novelo, are mental health services.  Inmates, much like others in society, should be able to access these service.


Dr. Javier Novelo

“One of the new services that we’re trying to introduce is the mental health service that is trying to gain strength in the country because in Belize it’s not very much known.  A lot of people think of health as being ill, hypertension, diabetes, asthma and don’t think about mental health.  Of course, without mental health there is no health, so we’re trying to introduce mental health.”


Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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