Press Release: Acting Prime Minister of Belize and IDB President sign an agreement for a $1.25 million operation, the SM2015 Initiative's first project in Belize - SAN PEDRO, Belize - Thursday, February 9, 2012, Belize joined the Salud Mesoam�rica 2015 Initiative (SM2015) for a project that aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality among the poor, benefiting more than 30,000 young women and children.

SM2015 is an innovative public-private partnership that seeks to reduce health equity gaps in Mesoamerica among the poorest populations. The Initiative works in close coordination with the Mesoamerican Public Health System (SMSP) and the Proyecto Mesoam�rica.

Acting Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon. Gaspar Vega, and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Mr. Luís Alberto Moreno, signed the agreement for the first operation for Belize during the IDB Meeting of Governors of the Central American Isthmus and the Dominican Republic in San Pedro.

Over the past few years, Belize has made great strides towards the Millennium Development Goals, but health gaps persist, especially in the poorest areas. Preventable conditions associated with infectious diseases and lack of access to, or use of health services disproportionately affect women of reproductive age and children, limiting their human development potential. These inequities can contribute to the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty. In 2006, a full 33 percent of children under five were malnourished among the poorest one-fifth of the population, compared with 18 percent at the national level.

This first SM2015 operation in the country seeks to contribute to the reduction of maternal, infant and child mortality in the poorest districts of the country. The Government of Belize -through the Ministry of Health-, and the SM2015 Initiative each pledged US$500,000 for the first 18 months of the program. If the Ministry of Health meets certain agreed upon goals, SM2015 will reimburse half of the Ministry's original investment (US$250,000) -- the reimbursed founds can then be spent on other health-related purposes.

The first of three planned operations expects to reach more than 30,000 poor young women and children between 0 and 5 years old through quality improvement of maternal, neonatal, child and reproductive health services and strengthening community based platforms to increase coverage.

"Belize has made important progress in providing health services to its people, and indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved dramatically in recent years", said Mr. Moreno during the signature event, "but these gains have yet to reach the most marginalized populations, with parts of Belize lagging behind others, so now, the Salud Mesoamerica 2015 Initiative and the IDB will work with Belize in close coordination to succeed in having a real impact in vulnerable communities".

"We are very thankful", said Mr. Vega during the event, "because with the IDB help, I'm certain that we, as a country, are going to do better, not only economically, but socially". Mr Vega also qualified the "support of the IDB� as a �very productive and transparent relationship".

Belize has been a leader in the region for Performance Based Financing, especially through its work in the National Health Insurance (NHI) and existing National Level Performance Frameworks. Now both the Ministry of Health and the SM2015 Initiative will join efforts to reduce equity gaps to meet the Millennium Development Goals in the Mesoamerican Region.