The Probitas Foundation and UNICEF sign a new collaboration agreement for a project in Belize following the successful program in the Amazon rainforest of Peru

The Probitas Foundation and UNICEF sign a new collaboration agreement for a project in Belize following the successful program in the Amazon rainforest of Peru

On Monday 19th of December, a new collaboration agreement was signed between the Probitas Foundation and UNICEF to ensure the viability of a joint project design to improve health care in the most vulnerable rural areas, this time in the Central American country of Belize for an initial period of two years.

The Foundation, through its program call Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI) and in partnership with UNICEF, will carry out the training of local personnel and the improvement of infrastructures and equipment in two clinical diagnostic laboratories located in the districts of Toledo and Stann Creek in Belize.  The GLI is a sustainable model that works with the aim of reinforcing the capacities of clinical diagnostic laboratories in the most vulnerable regions and hard-to-reach areas to address diseases that are a global public health problem.

Context

Belize, located between Mexico and Guatemala, has a 41.3% of the population living under extreme poverty. The rural areas are the ones most depressed, with the double percent of poor people regarding to urban areas. Poor road conditions, remote communities, poverty and a high transport costs are the main difficulties in the access of public services for the people who live in rural areas. 

In Stann Creek, a district prioritized by the project, the under-5 mortality rate stands at 34 deaths per 1,000 live births, above countries like Guatemala or El Salvador. Even more alarming is the 33.2% number of children with chronic malnutrition residing in the district of Toledo, also prioritized in the project due to its high vulnerability (chronic malnutrition in children living in rural areas is 17.5%).

Currently there are a total of 9 clinical laboratories spread throughout the country, while only one operates as a reference laboratory in the Ministry of Health, performing the most complex analytical and confirming positive samples from other laboratories. Analyzes related to diseases transmitted primarily by vectors such as Dengue, Chikungunya or XIK-V are not carried out at the national level but are sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) located in Trinidad and Tobago, thus slowing down the diagnosis of these diseases due to the delay in sending samples and results.

The project

The GLI-Belize project has the aim to solve the problems of space, equipment, capacities and access of rural populations to these two laboratories that have been prioritized: Dangriga Regional Hospital in the Stann Creek district and Punta Gorda Hospital in the district of Toledo. The mail objective is to improve the country's capacities in early diagnosis and disease management that most frequently affect the Belizean population, especially pregnant women, mothers and children living in rural areas that are difficult to access. 

Therefore, the two laboratories are expected to be strengthened to respond to the health needs of this population, while improving maternal and child health programs through appropriate diagnosis. Two multidisciplinary teams will be created to implement biosafety standards in the treatment of patients and samples for the diagnosis of diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis, Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and others. Finally, the protocols and processes for the management of samples sent to other laboratories and the reporting of results in an agile and effective way will be improved.

Dr. Marta Segú, Executive Director of the Probitas Foundation, say that "This new agreement reinforces the solid relationship existing between the two entities and goes one step further in the Probitas model of cooperation in which in addition to financial support for the project, the Foundation is involved in the technical component through the training of staff and the participation of a multidisciplinary team that ensures the project is effective and efficient, guaranteeing access to health care for the most vulnerable populations".