Belize response in emergencies
Women, children and people in vulnerable situations are disproportionately affected by disasters; in fact, children make up 50%half of those displaced by emergencies and account for 70% of all deaths during and after these events.
Natural and man-made disaster risks have increased globally, with potential impacts to global economies, cultural, social and natural environments.
All over the world, millions of children living in the path of hurricanes have been affected; thousands have been evacuated from their homes and many more have lost access to basic services such as safe water and sanitation, education, health, electricity and telecommunications, among others.
While Belize is on the Central American mainland, it too is in a hurricane-prone zone. In fact, Belize ranks 8th out of 167 countries for climate risk and records show that the temperature is rising faster than the global average.
Most recently, Hurricane Earl made landfall in Belize in August 2016 as a Category 1 hurricane, with estimated maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and recorded storm surge up to 9 feet.
Hurricane Earl had a wide area of influence affecting the Belize, Orange Walk, Cayo, and Stann Creek Districts. Thankfully, there were no recorded deaths; however, a total of 3,109 households, comprised of 6,733 adults and 5,454 children, were impacted.
This constant threat, especially to Belize’s youngest, most vulnerable citizens highlights the need for a Protocol for Integrated Protection of Children and Adolescents during Disasters, and close collaboration between UNICEF and the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in Belize with support from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) for the region.
The development of the Protocol for the Integrated Protection of Children and Adolescents in Disaster Situations which will be piloted in Belize and then expanded elsewhere in Caribbean, involves the review of existing documents such as the Guidelines for Child-Friendly Disaster Management and Response developed in Jamaica, the Brazilian National Protocol for Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents in Disaster Situations, UNICEF protocols and guidelines, national legislations and programs.
New guidelines will include women and persons with disabilities and will review recent agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai Framework, the Paris Climate Agreement into Disaster Relief planning.
It will also adhere to the Caribbean Comprehensive Disaster Management strategy for 2014-2024, particularly Priority Area 2—Knowledge Management the CDEMA Corporate Plan 2014-17 and UNICEF’s Core Commitments to Children (CCCs).
The new protocol is guided by a commitment to:
- Child-friendly guidelines and focus
- Children’s protection in the different sectors such as education, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, ending violence, etc. as a core principal in post-disaster relief
- Broadening “Safe Schools” beyond the Eastern Caribbean coverage of 12 countries through coordination of CDEMA and UNICEF Panama.
- Aiming for Caribbean-wide, multisectoral participation and partnership
- Developing a Regional Roadmap for child protection
UNICEF Belize, supported by LACRO, has already completed several key activities for developing the protocol and the team has already met with regional counterparts in Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados.
In January 2019, UNICEF Belize hosted a national consultation with key disaster and relief personnel from the Ministries of Health, Human Development and Local Government, and civil society groups such as Belize Red Cross and Search and Rescue. The forum had the support of NEMO and its municipal counterparts.
UNICEF Belize has been using experts in disaster management from Latin America and the Caribbean who have vast experience in disaster risk management, preparedness and resilience to help work on this much needed Protocol.
In 2018 UNICEF Belize held a simulation exercise to help with disaster preparedness within its partners and preparations for future disasters include agreements with local providers for the provision of several basic supplies, including hygiene kits which will be distributed to families who lost their own emergency supplies for sanitation and hygiene.
In July 2018, UNICEF was approached by the City Emergency Management Organization (CEMO) to conduct training to build the capacity of shelter managers on the protection of children, women and other vulnerable populations. In partnership with UNFPA, and CEMO, UNICEF hosted a 2-day training sessions for approximately 80 shelter managers
The dangers of storms like Hurricane Earl never go away. When the next one hits Belize, UNICEF will once more work to help restore access to basic services of clean water, sanitation and hygiene for children and families who have been cut off from basic services.