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Belize Celebrates World Health Day Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Willaims   
Thursday, 10 April 2014 15:59

World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7 in commemoration of the World Health Organization being founded in 1948. This year Belize joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Health Day under the slogan “Small Bites, Big Threat”. The specific focus during this year’s World Health Day activities is on vector bourne diseases; a topic on which Belize has reasons to celebrate since the country has significantly reduced its cases of vector borne illnesses since the start of the millennium.

The European Union recently approved a grant of €750,000 for the Ministry of Health to continue its combat against vector bourne illnesses. Kim Bautista, Vector Control Chief of Operations in the Ministry of Health, organized a health fair on Monday, April 7th, at the Lions Club Parking Lot in Belize City to highlight some of the initiatives that the unit has undertaken to reduce vector bourne illnesses across the country. Vector borne diseases refer to diseases that are spread by organisms such as mosquitoes, ticks and sand flies that transmit viruses, parasites and bacteria to humans. 

The Vector Control Unit is known for its spray trucks that are disturbing to the nostrils of most Belizeans. However, according to Bautista, there is much more that must be done to effectively combat vector bourne diseases. The activities of the unit will increase from basic surveillance and spraying campaigns to community education and systematic approaches. Using the funds from the European Union, the unit will be working with local authorities and communities to identify neighbourhood hazards and promote best practices. Bautista said surveillance will be intensified over the next 20 months. He said there will be a focus on community drainage systems and solid waste management, among others.

The heightened surveillance will only compliment the efforts being made recently by the unit, which has overseen a significant reduction in vector bourne illnesses. Since the year 2000, Belize has surpassed its target set in the Millennium Development Goals. The two main vector bourne illnesses of concern in this region are malaria and dengue. The goal set for the reduction of malaria is 75 percent by 2015. As of 2013, Belize has reduced its cases of malaria infections by 98 percent. In the mid 90s there were over 10,000 cases of malaria. In 2013 there were only 26. Dengue has been more difficult to get under control. Of about 2000 people tested for dengue in 2013, about 12 percent were positive. Most of the cases were concentrated in the Belize, Cayo and Orange Walk Districts. Bautista says the Ministry will continue its public education campaign and prevention efforts. He says it appears that 2014 will be less active, in terms of dengue infections.     

Minister of Health, Hon. Pablo Marin, is extremely proud of the vector control teams across the country for their excellent work. Now that Belize is in the pre-elimination phase of malaria, Minister Marin says the unit must continue to work towards total eradication while thriving for similar results against dengue. He also thanks the European Union for supporting the project entitled, “The Strengthening of the Prevention and Control of Dengue and Malaria in Belize”.
According to the World Health Organization, every year more than one billion people are infected and more than one million die from vector-bourne diseases.