In the past decade, primary medical care for children in Belize has vastly improved by way of better maternal health and universal coverage of vaccinations. As a result, more children born with severe congenital conditions are surviving in infancy but require advanced pediatric specialty care. In addition to congenital heart conditions, which are the leading congenital defect globally, babies in Belize are born with a higher rate of neural tube defects resulting in conditions such as spina bifida and anencephaly. With a large segment of the population living in rural areas without easy access to the country’s few hospitals, the newborn mortality rate remains more than double that of the United States.
Like most low resource countries, 9 out of 10 children in Belize lack access to basic surgical care. For the past 15 years, teams from World Pediatric Project have been working to make surgeries possible, giving families the best gift possible... HOPE!
Located east of Guatemala and south of Mexico, Belize is a special country home to just under 375,000 citizens made up of a multiplicity of cultures and speaking many languages. Although Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, Spanish is widely spoken as is Kriol, similar to Caribbean English. The geography of Belize is known for its extreme biodiversity and distinctive ecosystems which contribute to it being designated as a center for eco-tourism. While Belize has the second highest per capita income in Central America, the average income figure masks the disparity between rich and poor, with more than 4 out of 10 people living in poverty on less than $1.90 USD per day.
WPP's Impact In Belize
109 Children have Traveled to the United States for Care
Surgical services have included Clubfoot, Neurosurgery, Urology, Orthopedic, Plastic Surgery and more
136 Surgical and Diagnostic Teams have Visited Belize
Ten WPP volunteer medical teams are scheduled to travel to Belize this year, reaching more than 1,250 children in need of care.
6934 Evaluations and 1667 Procedures Have Been Performed By WPP Medical Teams
Mobilization of Surgical, Diagnostic & Medical Specialty Teams
WPP mobilizes pediatric specialty teams addressing the full spectrum of advanced medical care need for children in Belize.
WPP teams currently scheduled to travel to Belize include:
Orthopedic diagnostic and surgery
Developmental/diagnostic spina bifida
Patient Referral Program
For patients requiring more complex or urgent surgical care, WPP coordinates treatment through a network of United States and international partner hospitals. Approximately 10-15 Belizean children receive services through this program each year.
Children of Belize: Theeran, age 1, Orthopedic (Brachial Plexus)
15-month-old Theeran sustained an injury during birth that caused complete paralysis of his left arm. His mom, Beaulah, sought treatment for her son as soon as possible after birth but was discouraged when his progress plateaued before his first birthday. After connecting with World Pediatric Project St. Louis, Theeran received a nerve transfer surgery at Shriners Hospital St. Louis and occupational therapy to help him regain the function of his left arm. His progress will occur over time and WPP will continue to monitor his progress and follow up with his care for further treatment when the time comes.
Training programs build local infrastructure and capacity needed to build a brighter and healthier future for children. Current programs in Belize include:
National Newborn Care Training Program:
The Newborn Care Training Program works to equip doctors, nurses and midwives nationwide with the skills needed to provide urgent care to newborns, including neonatal resuscitation and stabilization training. This initiative is organized in partnership with the Ministry of Health, through funding from the European Union and the Pan-American Health Organization.
Clubfoot Casting Program:
This program includes training rural care field officers in Belize to diagnose and treat children born with clubfoot, a debilitating orthopedic deformity. Through partnership with Ponseti International and local Belizean therapy groups, Belize care providers are able to intervene with non-surgical correction to treat and correct clubfoot deformities.
Folic Acid Food Fortification Program:
World Pediatric Projected worked with the Ministry of Health of Belize to advocate for fortification of key foods with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. A folic acid supplement program, led by WPP, was carried out in one district of Belize and results were used to encourage government-led national fortification of rice with folic acid.
Partnerships in Belize
The effectiveness of WPP programs are strengthened through partnerships within the country and with other organizations committed to the goal of improving access to advanced specialty care for the children in Belize.
Ministry of Health of Belize
Friends of Pediatrics
Central Health Region
Corozal Community Hospital
Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI)
Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital
Northern Regional Hospital
Southern Regional Hospital
Western Regional Hospital
Horizons Community Church
Belize Children’s Project
Project Hope Belize / Prosthetic Hope International