Video Link system set up at Kolbe Foundation Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00

Over USD $387,000 of equipment and infrastructure were handed over from the US Embassy to Belize’s judicial system, more specifically, the Kolbe Foundation/Belize Central Prison on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. At the Central Prison in Hattieville, now sits a Prison Courthouse as well as a Video Link System which is meant to modernize the operation of our current criminal justice system. The new facilities will provide video conferencing between select courts in Belize City and the Belize Central Prison and will also have space dedicated to attorney-client consultation. The ability to video conference will allow for safe and more expedient processing of routine matters before the courts involving the inmates.

Signing of an official certificate took place between Chief Justice Hon. Kenneth Benjamin, Charge d’Affaires a.i. Keith Gilges, and Chief Executive Officer at the Kolbe Foundation, Virgilio Murillo. In his address, CEO Murillo considered the event very “historic”, referencing the Foundation’s excitement about the benefits of the Video Link System. It will benefit the entirety of the criminal justice system, specifically the judiciary, police, prosecution, and prison, in tremendous ways. It will be as effective as it is efficient and will enhance security and safety by eliminating the need to transport inmates to and from the prison for hearings. When they are transported, multiple risks become likely including but not limited to traffic accidents, escapes, escorting officers being overpowered, and the like. The system will also eliminate the need for additional expenses including fuel, vehicle maintenance and repairs, and personnel demands. The CEO added that by eradicating the need to transport prisoners in and out of the prison, the system will also cause cases of contraband inside the prison to decline significantly. “It will certainly reduce contraband, particularly drugs, from entering the prison.”

The development of the infrastructure and equipment certainly marked a new milestone in Belize-US security cooperation, a partnership forged many years ago that seeks citizen security, justice, good governance and economic prosperity. With these in mind, according to Charge Gilges, four justice sector advisors were brought into Belize to assist  to improve the efficiency and ethics of our judicial system to meet regional and international standards. They have worked tirelessly over the course of their visit to offer technical advice and one of the results of their hard work has come to fruition. The Video Link System has been one of the first projects between the US Embassy and Belize’s judicial system. It offers direct communication between the prison and four courtrooms in Belize City and allows for more efficiency and highlights the right to attain counsel with the private room for attorneys and inmates to meet.

Chief Justice Hon. Kenneth Benjamin delivered the keynote address which highlighted the cooperation between the Government of Belize and that of the US since 2009. That established the intention to address citizen and border security and economic prosperity. This encompasses the criminal justice systems and its reforms. Since then, a number of initiatives have been successfully executed including criminal justice advisors who have been instrumental in achieving the Video Link System and the Prison Courthouse. In preparation for the development, inspections at both locations were conducted and have been successful. The facility, which was constructed by Kolbe personnel and inmates, is equipped with a backup generator as well as internet services involving the tower at the Queen Street Police Station and a tower at the Kolbe Foundation to allow for uninterrupted internet link between the courts and prison. CJ Benjamin did make mention that the Video Link System will only be utilized for hearings, not including trials and sentencings. “In the context of criminal justice reforms, it beholds me to point out that no criminal justice system can remain static,” he said.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 May 2019 11:24
Better Sheep and Goats in Belize thanks to Taiwan Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00

By Alfonso Noble

In December 2015, the Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan- ICDF, entered into a four-year program to Genetically improve Sheep and Goat stocks in Belize. Costing some 4.6 million dollars, the program is comprehensively looking at having an increased and improved stock of the small ruminants. The objective of the Ministry of Agriculture is to diversify the availability of meat to include mutton. At latest count in 2017, there were only about 14,000 heads of sheep and goats in Belize. These numbers reflect the need for increased production. But more than just an increase in numbers, the survey showed that the genetic stock of the two animals were of inferior quality. This was caused largely by inbreeding creating animals that are low producers of meat.

As for the numbers, if those were to be compared to the ½ million heads of pigs, it shows the great disparity between the production of mutton and pork in Belize.

The Guardian got the opportunity to sit with Donald Wang, who is the project manager and specialist, Zac Hsu to get an idea of the impact that the project has had so far in the production of sheep and goat meat. They were quick to admit that because of the nature of the project, which is dealing with livestock, the impact will not be felt immediately. Hsu explains that the current state of sheep production is where it is at because farmers were inbreeding their animals. This leads to a significant deterioration of meat quality and quantity. He says that farmers were simply not investing in breeding. Wang interjected that there was also a problem with the management of the animals. Often the animals were not being properly fed and were not being treated for improved nutrients and for parasites.

Having had a general idea of what was taking place on the ground, the project moved to its first phase which concentrated on two areas, building of infrastructure and training farmers on animal husbandry. So far the project has been able to establish sheep and goat barns at Central Farm to accommodate as many as 300 sheep at a time. From there the project moved to the importation of superior genetic stocks and there is now a concentration on breeding of the two animals. A breeding facility has been established in Central Farm and the stocks are now being made available to farmers at affordable prices.

Donald Wang tells us that the breeding center ensures that when farmers get the animals that there is a register to ensure pedigree. Additionally, farmers are being trained to improve management and reduce in-breeding. He says that whenever there are these types of trainings there are some 120 farmers who attend or express interest. For the time being however the program is concentrating on 12 ‘core farmers’ who will benefit from the entirety of the program.

The first phase of the program will be completed by December of this year and there is hope and expectation that finances will be made available for the second phase which includes marketing and the strengthening of cooperatives and associations of sheep and goat production. For now, however, the ground work is almost nearing completion, scheduled for the end of this year.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 May 2019 11:25
A new resources center for the Alberts Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00

It was an emotional moment for Hon. Tracy Panton as she accepted a 30-thousand-dollar contribution from the Republic of China on Taiwan, presented by Ambassador to Belize Remus Chen. The finances will see the upgrading of the Albert Care Center. Speaking to those gathered, Minister Panton explained that the location was her family home and that her parents had served the Belizean public from that location, both being doctors. She noted that it was her father, Dr. Leroy Taegar’s wish, before he died, that the location at some point be used in the service of the community. Minister Panton said that she made the commitment that the family would somehow find a way to have his wishes fulfilled. She explained that having the center opened was then, a meaningful gesture as Dr. Taegar’s wishes were being fulfilled.

With seven schools in the area, Minister Panton explained that the new Albert CARE Centre will offer a safe space for primary and secondary students to do home work, research, have access to tutoring, mentorship, counselling services and whatever support that can be given to young persons in their personal academic life.

The project had been submitted to the Taiwanese embassy a year ago and will see the equipping of the center for its proper functioning. Minister Panton explained that they are now actively making proposals for repairs to be done to the building to ensure that the center can be used for many years to come.

He re-stated that the government of Taiwan was open to support the project as it will benefit the young people of the community.

Stepping up the anti-Measles campaign in Belize Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00

The Belize Ministry of Health is currently working towards ensuring that 95% of children under ten years of age get their two doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) Vaccine. We have observed over the last few weeks numerous nurses actively seeking out babies, who have been absent from their regular Maternal and Child Health Care clinics.

Nurse Sharon Espinoza, Nurse Administrator at the Ministry of Health is now warning all those who have never been vaccinated to get their MMR fifteen days before they travel to countries that have been listed with measles such as the United States, Canada and nations in Europe.

The Ministry of Health has also been sensitizing children at primary schools in the hope that they would go back to their parents with information on measles. At the same time, brochures and pamphlets on measles have also been produced.

The good news is that Belize has no reported cases of measles at this time.

Measles is passed easily from person to person and anyone who is unvaccinated is at risk of getting the disease. Measles starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough and “Pink Eye”. The rash appears three to four days after the fever starts, usually spreading from head to toe.

The public is reminded to:

Report any cases of persons with fever and rash to the nearest health center; and practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently with clean, running water and soap.  Unvaccinated children under age ten years or those with no proof of vaccination should visit their nearest health center and get vaccinated. The measles vaccine is available free of cost at all public health facilities countrywide.

Before vaccination, measles infected more than 95 percent of all children and was responsible for more than four million deaths worldwide each year. After the introduction of the measles vaccine in the 1960s, childhood deaths from not just measles but a wide range of infectious diseases dropped substantially. Measles seems to erase immune protections that the child has from other infectious diseases.

The World Health Organization had hoped to eliminate measles worldwide by 2020. Measles is one of the leading causes of death for children, according to the World Health Organization, which estimates that 450 die each day worldwide due to the illness.

Infants are vulnerable to complications of measles, so they are best protected by herd immunity, advises the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Herd immunity is achieved when at least 95% of the total population of a country gets the recommended two doses of vaccine.

New basketball court in Corozal Bay Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2019 00:00

Minister of Health and Area Representative for Corozal Bay, Hon. Pablo Marin has undertaken a project to upgrade a basketball court in the White Cocal Area of the town. According to Minister Marin, the project will take a month to be completed and by the time it is finished, it will see the reconstruction and marking of the basketball court and replacement of the rims. All told, the project will cost some 30 thousand dollars.


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