By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry of Local Government, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have launched the Sustainable and Child Friendly Municipality Initiative geared toward addressing issues affecting children in different municipalities.
Ivan Yerovie, UNICEF representative, said they are working along with the Mayor’s Association of Belize to develop a strategy for mayors to collaborate with their municipality on ways to improve conditions for children in their community.
According to Yerovie, the mayor of each participating municipality will need to dialogue with residents to identify problems affecting their youth, which will then guide the direction of their strategy and policies for making the municipality more children friendly.
Yerovie added that one of the main concerns they want to target in Belize is the consistent reports of physical and sexual abuse against children. Yerovie said the UNICEF and the UNDP are willing to provide funding and technical support for the initiative.
Belmopan City Mayor Simeon Lopez, the president of the Belize Mayor’s Association, is working closely with UNICEF to implement the initiative. Lopez said his municipality will be focusing on traffic awareness as well as developing parks and playgrounds for children.
He shared that his aim is to provide a family-oriented setting for the residents of Belmopan where people feel they have a safe environment to socialize with their children.
Dangriga Mayor Gilbert Swazo said the Dangriga Town Council, in collaboration with the Social Investment Fund, has launched an after-school literacy program.
According to Swazo, they were given a $40,000 grant from UNICEF and they were able to buy 24 computers, a multi-media projector and a screen.
Swazo said there are now four venues with computers available to children who register with the program so they are able to receive support and tutoring from volunteers.
He also indicated that there would be HIV/AIDS education programs and entrepreneurship programs in Dangriga town as part of the Sustainable and Child Friendly Municipality Initiative.