UNICEF says Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey shows gains and shortfalls for children in Belize Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 June 2017 00:00

The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) in collaboration with the Government of Belize and UNICEF conducted a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey between 2015 and 2016 (MICS 5). During the survey trained interviewers visited 5,242 households of which 4,900 were occupied and individuals from 4,636 homes agreed to grant interviews. 8,272 men and women were interviewed during the survey. According to Jacqueline Small who is a demographer with the SIB, the survey is key to ensure that national and international development goals which the Government of Belize has signed on to can be tracked. She adds that findings from the MICS looks at where we are in the development goals and what has been achieved from the last time the exercise was done; that was in 2011. “It’s a development tool providing a base line to see how much progress is made and to determine how much more is needed to achieve the goal,” says Small.

For UNICEF who hosted the media to a soft launch of the numbers, the MICS 5 is integral for them to look at children’s development. And the report does have significant data which will guide government and non-governmental organizations targeting of resources. Some of the key indicators are as follows: 33% of children in Belize are exclusively breastfed; 77.5% of children have received full immunization; 17% of households in Belize operate without soap or cleaning products; 96% of boys and 97% of girls are attending primary school. Meanwhile data shows a dramatic drop of attendance to secondary school with 57% boys and 63% girls being enrolled. More alarming is that data suggests that 48% of children suffer physical punishment and 52% suffer from psychological aggression with 65% suffering from some form of violent discipline. A marginal 26% of children receive non-violent discipline. In the area of HIV and AIDS 37% of sexually active young women know their status while 25% of males know their status.

As UNICEF analyzes the data from the survey, the organization’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Paulette Wade, says that there are some concerns and progress that the survey points to. She said that as a child-protection agency the level of corporal punishment in the home is concerning. There is also concern that there is an increase in teenage or adolescent fertility rates. From the perspective of nutrition she adds that the country is doing well; in particular it is encouraging that 33% of mothers exclusively breastfeed their children which gives the child their first boost in development. It is also good news that 96% of children are registered shortly after birth. Some of the improvements according to Wade is directly as a result of partnerships forged between UNICEF and government as well as other agencies to promote better practices. She points to UNICEF’s support in areas to improve stunting and malnutrition where work by the Ministry of Health to promote programs to deliver better nutrition to children is supported. There are other areas of support also where Baby Friendly Hospitals are also encouraged. Currently all government hospitals have received this certification and there are moves to have clinics as well as private hospitals meet this certification. Among the prerequisite for this is to have mothers breastfeed their babies.

All told the MICS 5 is still being looked at by various agencies and it does tell the story of strides that have been made as well as shortfalls and areas where improvements need to be made.