A program to improve children’s health and nutrition in poor Mayan communities in Toledo will be funded by a grant from the Japan Social Development Fund Grant through the World Bank. A ceremony was held earlier today in Belmopan. Alejandro Vernon is the Chair of the Toledo District Health Council.

Alejandro Vernon – Chair, Toledo District Health Council

“This transcendental event will go down in the history of health care in Belize because from this singular platform in addressing malnutrition in children five and under, and encouraging quality health services and the pursuit of healthy lifestyle in communities, this will result in proper habits conducive to good health for generations to come.”

Carmen Carpio is the Public Health Specialist for the World Bank.

Carmen Carpio – Public Health Specialist, World Bank

“So we first start with prenatal interventions and then you move to promoting nutrition and height and weight monitoring in young children and then you complement that by rolling out healthy lifestyles programs in schools, in primary school aged children, working directly with the primary schools in the district. This is one of the key innovative approach is looking at this as a holistic approach. The second innovative approach is to directly involve the beneficiaries in the project and this goes from planning, to implementation to monitoring and most importantly it is really to give voice to the community to say here is where our challenges are, here is where we need improvement in order to have health services that are effective and reaching the community.”

Ambassador of Japan to Belize Hiroshi Yamaguchi said his country is happy to contribute to this very vital sector.

Hiroshi Yamaguchi - Ambassador of Japan to Belize

“The issue of health and wellness is a fundamental commitment of the government of Japan. The continuous desire to keep our children healthy is vital to Belize’s future progress. This grant is a testimony to a shared commitment of both of our countries to this belief. Ladies and gentlemen it is a fact that proper health and nutrition is critical for a child’s survival. Proper nutrition in childhood can reinforce lifelong eating habits that contribute to children’s overall wellbeing and help them grow to their full potential and lead a healthy life for the rest of their life.”

Minister of Health Pablo Marin said it is only right that the program be done in the Toledo District.

Pablo Marin – Minister of Health

“We do recognize that there is a problem when it comes to under nutrition in children. As such we are paying special attention to those with more needs. Considering all these factors we have been working towards strengthening the nutrition related intervention with a risk based approach. From the moment we knew of the opportunity for this project, without any doubt, Toledo was made a priority.”

The grant is for two point 75 million U-S dollars.