Learn more about specific causes in Belize that you can get involved in.
Human RightsHuman trafficking and child labor are two human rights concerns in Belize.1 Some 1,400 children are in the Belizean workforce, primarily in the agriculture and trade industries.2 Belizean law provides for the freedom of the press, and does not restrict or censor content published by the media.3 Additionally, the governmental elections in Belize are perceived to be both free and fair.4 Prior to 2016, national authorities could legally punish citizens for same sex acts, and commit other abuses related to sexual orientation.5 Such laws were formerly shared across much of the British Commonwealth, established in the colonial era, and have only recently begun to lift in nations like Belize, Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally, there are allegations against undue violence toward the LGBT community committed by Read More security forces and authorities.6 Show Less
Education94.5 percent of school-aged children are attending school, and virtually all attendees complete primary school.1 However, only 45 percent of children attend secondary school. While school in Belize is free, there are still fees, transportation and uniforms that must be paid for by the parents of the child.2 To alleviate some of the financial burden, the Ministry of Education in Belize began distributing funds to its schools based upon each institution’s student population.3 UNICEF has sponsored a series of reform assistance programs, financially and technically backing 24 schools, particularly in rural areas. UNICEF also assisted with the efforts to provide a multilingual educational approach to indigenous children, in order to better prepare students for the multilingual environment in Belize.4
PovertyOverall, children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of poverty in Belize, as 49 percent of all Belizean children fall below the poverty line.1 41 percent of the entire Belizean population is under the poverty line, and the unemployment rate is 10.1 percent.2 Additionally, nearly 10 percent of Belize lacks access to proper sanitation facilities.3
Clean WaterIn 2011, UNICEF examined a number of schools’ water sources and determined that 27 percent of them had contaminated water,1 though only 0.5 percent of the population lacks access to water from an improved source. Additionally, 9.5 percent of the population lacks access to proper sanitation facilities.2 Tropical storms and flooding during the rainy season can cause toilet and sanitation systems to overflow into the drinking water supply, spreading E-coli and other water-related diseases. 62 percent of the population lives in areas that flood regularly.3 There is a high risk of contracting bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid.4
EconomyBelize’s economy is based primarily on tourism and the exportation of sugar, fruits, marine products and garments.1 The GDP per capita is $8,300, and bananas, cacao, sugar and citrus are some of the nation’s primary products.2 Economic growth and reform has been inconsistent and unevenly distributed, and political corruption is common.3 The bureaucracy is known to frequently slow trade and business processes; the Belizean economy scores below the international average in economic freedom.4 41 percent of the population is below the poverty line, and 10.1 percent of the population is unemployed.5 The nation’s primary economic concern is a sizable foreign debt.6
GovernmentLike many other nations in the Central American region, Belize is a parliamentary democracy and is part of the British commonwealth.1 The government is currently facing several pervasive problems such as high foreign debt, unemployment and entanglement in the South American drug trade industry. Additional issues include rising crime rates and one of the leading rates of HIV/AIDS in South America.2 Government corruption is both a national and international concern.3 Many citizens and business owners will succumb to paying fines, or bribery, to get through bureaucratic red tape.4 The judicial system is not independent, and political manipulation is prevalent.5
HealthBelize is struggling to meet a Millennium Development Goal to reduce infant and maternal mortality.1 At the current rate, the country will most likely meet the goal in 2017.2 One of the largest challenges for Belize is HIV/AIDS.3 The current leading causes of death among Belizean adults continue to be HIV/AIDs, homicide, and road traffic accidents.4 Among the elderly, diabetes and heart disease are the most common causes of death.5 The government and ministry of health recently introduced a national vaccination program that was instrumental in reducing the number of child deaths. 6
Children33.95 percent of the population is between the ages of 0 and 14.1 Belize has a relatively high birth rate, 24 births per 1000 of the population.2 Over 1,400 children in Belize are in the workforce. Some work in labor-intensive crop production with products like sugarcane, while others are forced into the sex trafficking industry.3 94.5 percent of children ages 5–14 attend school.4 49 percent of all children in Belize live below the poverty line.5 15 percent of the Belizean children are stunted, either from lack of nutrition or by other means.6
EnvironmentThe leading environmental issues in Belize include deforestation and water pollution — particularly in the Belize Barrier Reef System — that stems from both human and industrial waste. Water pollution is also an issue due to the lack of modern and properly structured sanitation and waste removal systems.1 During the rainy season, many sewage systems overflow, causing health, as well as environmental, concerns.2 The nation has significant arable land potential, as well as timber, fish and hydropower.3 The Belize Barrier Reef was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, and houses a wide array of coral, plant and animal species. Over-harvesting and onshore development are two threats to the reef system.4
FamilyBelize has a low maternal mortality rate, however, it has a somewhat high infant mortality rate at 18.9 per 1,000 live births.1 Most marriages occur within a religious context, and common-law marriages are infrequent. However, the birth of children is not restricted to marital contexts, and it is typical for one or two children to be born before a nuclear family is formed.2 In rural areas, the responsibility of raising children can often fall to the extended family as well as the nuclear unit.3 26 percent of young married women report being married before age 18, meaning that over a quarter of women studied were part of child marriages.4
ReligionThe majority of Belize is Christian, 40.1 percent are Catholic, 31.5 percent are Protestant, 1.7 percent identifies as Jehovah’s Witness, 10.5 percent is other — Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Muslim, Rastafarian, Salvation Army — 0.6 percent is unspecified, and 15.5 percent identify with none.1 Belize has laws in place to protect the freedom of religion, and generally upholds that freedom.2 Foreign religious missionary workers are allowed to enter the country, however, they must have a permit to enter.3
AnimalsBelize has a wide variety of wildlife, including jaguars, harpy eagles, tapirs, toucans, howler monkeys, Blue Morpho butterflies, frigatebirds, iguanas, crocodiles and macaws.1 The ara macao cyanoptera macaw species is at risk of becoming endangered, as it is only present in small groups in Central and South America.2 Visitors to Belize have a number of opportunities to encounter the nation’s wildlife through tourist excursions and a number of nature preserves.3 The Belize Barrier Reef System houses an array of marine life and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.4
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