Social protection is a human right, recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Belize has a high rate of poverty. While 42 percent of the general population is affected, up to 50 percent of Belizean children under age 15 are classified as poor--58 percent of Belize’s youth under 18 are classified as multi-dimensionally poor.
UNICEF and ECLAC estimates that 6 out of 10 children in Belize lack at least one of these basic needs: adequate nutrition, clean drinking water, proper sanitation, adequate housing, and access to education and information.
While Belize’s social protection system takes a life cycle approach with coverage spread over various age groups, many Belizean children still do not have access to social protection due to programme coverage gaps, implementation, and/or funding levels.
There needs to be additional financing sources to:
- close the poverty gap
- anchor programs such as BOOST and the secondary school subsidy in national laws and regulations
- consolidate existing schemes into one universal child benefits system
- coordinate social assistance programs for better household support, administrative efficiency and cost effectiveness.
UNICEF defines social protection as a set of public and private policies and programmes aimed at preventing, reducing and eliminating economic and social vulnerabilities to poverty and deprivation.
Our efforts in Belize are part of a global commitment to the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.
Specific targets include social transfer “floors” or basic social protection guarantees, and the goal of reducing by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in Belize--in all its dimensions.
Social protection benefits, also called social transfers, are powerful tools to combat poverty and inequality, and serve as investments in social and economic development.
UNICEF supports ongoing efforts to fight poverty and provide social protection, include national strategies like the Belize Horizon 2030 and Growth and Sustainable Strategy – GSDS 2016-2019 which foster social cohesion and resilience, and a more holistic social protection framework.
The Children’s Agenda 2017-2030 has as one of its goals the protection of children from poverty and social exclusion.
The BOOST programme provides monthly social transfers of cash to families with demonstrated need ranging from BZ$44.00 (US$22.00) per month per beneficiary, up to a maximum of BZ$492 depending on the number of children in the home, their ages and educational status. Most recipients use the transfers to pay for school supplies or food.
Other social protection programmes include the Food Pantry, the secondary school subsidy, and the Roving Care Programme.
UNICEF invests in such Child-Sensitive Social Protection programmes because children face multiple vulnerabilities; age-related risks such as exploitation and discrimination, malnutrition and fragile livelihoods frequently overlap and compound each other.
Gaps in a child’s physical development and learning can last a lifetime, and even affect future earnings (malnutrition in pre-school children can lead to a loss of lifetime earnings of approximately 12 percent).
UNICEF has been instrumental in helping to generate much needed data and evidence through the MICS surveys, SITAN, BOOST cash transfer programme impact evaluation; currently we support data management and dissemination through the transition from BelizeInfo to Belize Data for All, a key element for adequate monitoring of the national Children’s Agenda.
In 2018 and early 2019, UNICEF joined the Ministry of Human Development, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank, to organize a series of Social Protection conferences, “Making our Social Protection System More Comprehensive & Inclusive.” This series promotes policy advocacy, capacity building and south-south exchange of experiences (with Jamaican and Colombian participation).
UNICEF supports Child-Sensitive Social Protection programmes because childhood is a special window of opportunity where we can make a real impact on physical, cognitive and social development.