Latin America and the Caribbean

The Reporter, Belize
15 October 1996

$30m Social Pact To Help Children

If the Belize Government can bring about performance to match its goals, Belizean children will become the most prized possession not only of individual families, but of the nation as a whole, as more than $30 million has been set aside to invest in the welfare and protection of children over the next five years.

On Wednesday, the Government and UNICEF set their formal seal of approval upon a five-year master plan which will guarantee access to education for every child in the country, primary health care for every child and broad-based protection from abuse and neglect.

UNICEF itself is contributing more than $30 million to the program, which is only the second of its kind to be signed anywhere in the world, representing a new and enlightened approach to children's rights and citizenry.

Describing this new concept, UNICEF's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Marta Mauras, called it a custom plan designed by the people of Belize for the people of Belize.

"The management of UNICEF is pleased to work with Belize because we learn to use our resources better," she said. "We will be putting the best of our resources into this program."

The content of the master plan and the enthusiasm with which UNICEF has embraced it say a lot for the insights and forward planning of the Ministry of Human Affairs under Faith Babb. To find out about the problems of children, the Ministry organized a far-reaching consultancy with children and then distilled what they had to say into a comprehensive plan.

This is the plan which was approved on Wednesday with the formal signing of letters of understanding by Ms Mauras and Foreign Affairs Minister Dean Barrow.

Under this plan, the Government undertakes to reduce maternal and infant mortality, which today is high at 3.3 percent, eliminate anaemia and malnutrition and do away with adult illiteracy.

The plan will dovetail with existing social and education plans including training which will provide Belizeans with the ability to plan, implement and monitor programs even at district and municipal levels.

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