Belmopan, Belize, May 3, 2022 (PAHO) – This morning, on the occasion of a working visit to Belize, Mr. Aniceto Rodriguez-Ruiz, European Union (EU) Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the EU to Jamaica, Belize and The Bahamas, visited Community Health Workers (CHWs) at the Belmopan site and handed over supplies. The recipients are benefiting from the reorientation of funds from the four-year project, “Health Sector Support Programme Belize,” funded by the EU and being implemented by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW).
At the start of the pandemic, 500,000 Euros were reallocated towards enhancing the MoHW’s capacity to respond to COVID-19 by conducting decentralized testing, improving infection prevention and control (IPC) and supporting the delivery of health services at the community level. In response to surges in cases, the country was sometimes forced to redistribute doctors and nurses, which could have contributed to the interruption of screening and monitoring of patients who have noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like Diabetes and Hypertension.
EU Head of Cooperation, Mr. Aniceto Rodriguez-Ruiz, explained that the “Community Health Workers are the backbone of the community even in these difficult times with the pandemic.” He further stated, “Belize is a regional champion in containing the pandemic and in vaccination. The event today is a good illustration of the remarkable work that was and is still being done. The EU will continue to assist the MoHW through its “Health Sector Support Programme” that will be running out until 2025.”
Not only did the CHWs receive various supplies, but they also participated in training on Community-Based Health Care during COVID-19, which included such topics as IPC, Self-Care and the Management of Diabetes and Hypertension.
PAHO/WHO Health Systems and Services Advisor, Dr. Edwin Bolastig explained the important role the CHWs have played as first-line workers in their communities:
“Today, we honor the heroism of our frontline health workers who are our unsound heroes. We thank not only the doctors, nurses, and other health workers in the hospitals and health clinics for their response to COVID-19. But let us not forget to celebrate the contribution of the CHWs. It is high time that we recognize our CHWs as an integral part of the interdisciplinary workforce in Belize and the essential role they play in primary care and essential public health functions.”
Hon. Kevin Bernard, Minister of the MoHW, also shared his appreciation for the CHWs and added:
“Because of their use in community-based programs to communicate key health messages and in broader health promotion programs, our CHWs are now an integral part of the global effort to enhance access to health services. Though the role of our CHWs is ever-evolving, the goal remains the same – to make basic healthcare more responsive and more accessible in every sense to those who need it the most. We continue to thank you (CHWs) for the efforts you have done and played in this community and continue to play in this community. On behalf of myself, our CEO and members of staff, we give you our heartfelt thank you.”
Considering the expanded role of CHWs during the pandemic, it is very clear that they form part of this interdisciplinary health workforce in Belize. The visibility event was followed by a walkthrough and demo of the work of the CHWs who also support the triage booth at vaccination centers across the country.
“Community Health Workers are the backbone of the health system,” said Ms. Elma Morales, CHW of Cotton Tree Village. “The COVID-19 pandemic caused a big shift in how CHWs did their home visits to community members suffering from NCDs. It was not easy because to monitor patients we had to have physical contact with them, but because we were properly trained and received donated equipment the work continued. On behalf of the CHWs, I thank the EU, PAHO, and the MoHW for their continued support.”