The Millennium Development Goals provided Belize with a basis on which to track and measure its development progress. The country’s strategies have been clear, deliberate, and consistent, resulting in considerable advancement towards most of the MDG goals compared to the rest of the region.
MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – off target
None of the targets under MDG1 were achieved, since instead of trending downwards, poverty and indigence increased from 2002.
Between 2002 and 2009, the proportion of Belize population below $1.25 per day increased from 33.5 to 41.3 percent (15.8 percent of whom are classified as extremely poor). The target for halving the poverty gap ratio was also not achieved, and only negligible change was recorded within the same period, from 10.9 in 2002 to 10.8 in 2009.
The growth of GDP per worker has trended downward since 2000, and was at 3.12 percent at the end of 2007. However, the downward trend changed and increased to 4.7 percent in 2012 following increased efficiency in the use of labour coupled with a shift in the type of productive activities in the economy after Belize became a petroleum exporter in 2005.
MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education – achieved
The rate of net enrolment at the primary school level in 2000 was 90.3 percent. It the following years, it continued to fall until 2010 when it reached 81.7 percent. But in the following year (2011), net enrolment shot to 95 percent, and has continued to increase, bringing Belize closer to realising MDG2.
It is believed that the decline and sudden rise in net enrolment was due to inaccuracies in the population projections between 2000 and 2010 (estimated to be 350,000), but the actual figure according to the 2010 National Consensus placed the actual figure close to 320,000.
Male enrolment has remained higher than that of women, though there has been an increase in female enrolment in all districts. With increasing enrolment, the literacy rate has increased from 70 percent in 1992 to 76.9 percent in 2000 and 91.1 percent in 2011.
However, there are still some challenges with regard to disparity in educational access between urban and rural areas, and the need to upgrade teacher training.
MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women – off target
Between 2000 and 2009, parity was achieved when the ratio of girls to boys in primary education increased from 0.939 to 1.01, but it started to decline almost immediately. Gender parity in 2012 was 0.954, reversing the gains that had been achieved. This is attributed to the higher repetition for boys coupled with the slightly higher number of school-aged boys than girls in the country’s general population.
Despite increasing success in female educational achievement, the proportion of women in the non-agricultural sector has continued to decrease from 41.7 percent in 2007 to 35.2 percent in 2012. Furthermore, no women ran for parliamentary positions within the ruling party in the 2012 elections, and only one of the three presented by the opposition was successful. However, five women graduated won seats at the 2010 village council elections, and two women were appointed to hold ministerial positions.
MDG 4: Reduce child mortality – off target
In the period between 1990 and 2010, the under-five mortality rate decreased from 23.7 to 16.9. However, progress reversed in 2012 when it increased to 17.8 per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate followed the same trend, with a decrease from 17.6 to 13.3, and then the increase to 15.7 per 1,000 live births in 2012.
The leading causes for infant mortality between 2010 and 2012 were hypoxia, congenital anomalies, infections, birth asphyxia, and conditions originating in the perinatal period.
Although antenatal services have improved, early prenatal care (before 12 weeks gestation) is low, which has, in turn, delayed early screening for contributors to poor obstetric health.
That said, the proportion of 1 year infants immunised against measles has increased from 69 percent in 1992 to 96.9 in 2009 and 99 percent in 2012. However, cultural issues and religious-based communities are yet to achieve the country target of over 95 percent immunisation against measles.
MDG 5: Improve maternal health – off target
Between 1990 and 2010, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 increased from 41.7 to 55.3, and then reduced again to 42 deaths per 100,000 in 2012. These deaths were attributed to direct obstetric complications such as the postpartum hemorrhage disease and eclampsia, and indirectly due to heart disease and HIV. Very little progress has been made, as the current ratio is comparable to the 1990 baseline.
Over 80 percent of the fatalities occurred in rural areas where the women possessed only primary school education or no formal education at all.
Delivery by skilled health personnel increased from a baseline of 79 in 1995 to a high of 96.2 in 2011, followed by a sudden drop to 89 percent in 2012. Generally, women in urban areas have greater access to skilled birth attendance than those in rural areas, though attendance has been over 90 percent countrywide.
The use of contraceptive has declined from a baseline of 56 percent in 1999 to 53 percent in 2011, mostly due to challenges brought about by religious beliefs (opposition by family members), cultural norms (men dictate their partner’s choices), education (lack of knowledge on the types and usage), and legal barriers (lack of access due to age).
MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS at the 2009 baseline was 0.77 percent for those aged between 15 and 24 years. It reduced to 0.31 percent in 2012, though more still needs to be done, especially since condom use declined from 71.9 percent in 2009 to 68 percent in 2011.
There is increasing access for people with HIV to anti-retroviral drugs, from 70.4 percent in 2010 to 85.1 percent in 2011.
Malaria is endemic in Belize, but unlike in other developing areas like Africa, Belize has not suffered any malaria-caused deaths since 2007. The number of malaria cases has decreased significantly, with only 37 cases reported in 2012, which were imported from El Salvador.
Although the number of new cases for tuberculosis has decreased from 49 per 100,000 in 1990 to 24.7 per 100,000 in 2009, there has been no further decrease since. Mortality from TB was less than 18 per 100,000 in 2012 due to the 7.1 percent cure rate.
MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability – achieved
Although forest cover for the last three decades prior to 2010 showed slow change, there was dramatic increase in forest cover in 2012 and 2013 to 0.81 percent and 0.97 percent respectively.
The rate of deforestation in Belize is lowest in the region, though this may be affected by deforestation occurring within protected areas, which accounted for 6.4 percent of deforestation in 2012 (1489 acres). Strict enforcement of protection regulations within protected areas and enforcement of protection legislation is necessary to curb the unregulated and unsustainable timber harvest.
97.7 percent of the population had access to improved sources of drinking water in 2011, though access to clean water in rural areas is lagging behind at 89.9 percent.
MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Information for Belize is not recorded by the government or its development partners in a holistic and consistent manner, which has made it difficult to accurately estimate ODA – Official Development Assistance.
Still, Belize continues to enjoy preferential access to markets in the EU as a member of CARICOM, plus the export of petroleum has helped to diversify the country’s exports.
Summary – MDG progress of Belize
Despite gains in education enrolment, poverty in Belize remains a major problem especially at the grass roots level. The country has failed to harness its domestic capacity effectively to enable significant growth of its economy, causing poverty to be an increasingly geographic specific, generational, and gendered. But even with its high poverty rate, the country managed well against the global financial and economic turmoil, exhibiting slight growth when other countries in the region were experiencing slow or no growth.
Slow progress in the other MDGs, with the exception of MDG 7 – since Belize has one of the lowest rates of deforestation in the region and its investments for portable water access and sanitation have been fruitful – is largely due to the effects of poverty, health, and gender inequalities, which impede access to basic services especially among the poor, rural, and female populations.