UNICEF is willing to help SPTC in addressing San Mateo issues

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

On October 29th and 30th a representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was in San Pedro for a two-day working visit where she took the opportunity to meet with various stakeholders including the San Pedro Town Council (SPTC). The visit is a follow-up to a previous meeting held in April 2012 with the SPTC. The purpose of the meeting is to see ways in which UNICEF can work along with the SPTC on issues affecting children and women on the island, especially in the area of San Mateo as it relates to a clean and safe environment.

The stakeholders included the Ministry of Education (MoE) representatives on the island, Belize Water Service (BWS), the Public Health Inspector, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), school principals and councilors of the San Pedro Town Council.

The San Mateo community lacks all proper basic infrastructure including electrification, water and sewer system and adequate roads and was the center of discussion. Early Childhood Development and Education Officer at UNCIEF Denise Robateau spoke with The San Pedro Sun and explained that they are willing to work with SPTC in addressing some of the issues in the area of San Mateo. “In terms of the issue of clean and safety environments; one of the trusts of the Quality Child Friendly School Imitative of the MoE is to have such a component in their framework… UNICEF had a discussion with the stakeholders in terms of how we can improve the conditions, especially in the area of San Mateo,” said Robateau. With the promotion of clean and safety environments being taught at the school, it is the hope that the children will take it into their community and practice what is taught and trigger behavioral changes.

Robateau also spoke of a campaign on global hand washing which was launched in Belize promoting safe hygiene practices. One of the main things coming out of the meeting called for the launching of a communication campaign. The campaign would look at cleaning up the island starting with garbage and going as far as crime, under a theme that will promote San Pedro as a safe and health environment for children.

“Another positive aspect of the meeting was that we looked at how the SPTC will partner with UNICEF in the future. Communication is one angle. Maybe we will look at coming back and help with actually packing up the garbage and creating garbage bins and safe spaces. We also looked at disaster preparedness for schools and are looking at other areas of technical assistance and ways in which we can support the Mayor and town council with other donors and agencies to bring in resources for San Mateo,” said Robateau who described the situation in San Mateo as “heartbreaking.”

While Robateau said that it seems that there are some commitments and slow improvement, UNICEF wants to help and support initiatives addressing San Mateo and she also called on the private sector to continue supporting the SPTC in improving San Mateo. “Children live in this environment. We want children that are clean and healthy so that they can have the quality learning that they deserve,” said Robateau, adding that the UNICEF worldwide mandate looks at situations such as those affecting San Mateo. The stakeholders agreed to work on a comprehensive plan of action before January of 2013 for the San Mateo area which UNICEF hopes to use to try and access funds.

During the stakeholders’ meeting, Robateau said that a water and sanitation assessment conducted in 2011 showed some “alarming results” and said that “there is a serious health concern countrywide. I don’t really know what the situation here is.”As part of their visit to San Pedro, the UNICEF representative as well as the Ministry of Education Representative also took the opportunity to visit schools across the island where they delivered soap and other hygienic material promoting global hand washing. The stakeholders also took the time to visit the San Mateo area.

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