Minister Oscar Requena and Chief Executive Officer Valentino Shal in the Ministry of Rural Development have made several visits to the remote villages in the Toledo. In speaking with CEO Valentino Shal, he expressed concerns to Love News on the neglect of the residents in the south. He noted that even the alcaldes and village councils are not given the respect or recognition deserved.
Valentino Chal, CEO, Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labor and Local Government: “I think for about a decade or a little bit more than a decade there has been a clear turning away from rural areas nationally and of course for Toledo this is nothing new. It seems to have always been a place where they are an after thought, they are forgotten even and you see a trickle of activity here and there but nothing major, no real, serious attention and for the last thirteen years or so the neglect became even more extreme especially for the Toledo district on a whole. This means that village streets were never attended to, never maintained. Farmers’ roads became overtaken by bush no more machines to clear and keep and maintain them for the accessibility of farmers to their farms and a lot of several issues in terms of Alcades not receiving their stipends and village councils being left to operate on their own and water boards being left to operate on their own. Generally the needs of the people and what they want and what they want addressed just has been left unattended and so when we show up now and tell them that we’re going to correct that they’re very welcoming, very happy for this new attention that we’re providing for them. I think it feels like a fresh rain after a long dry spell and everybody is hopeful and that is exactly what we want because in order to move the district forward we have to give people hope and so for us that is important and while we are towards the end of the financial year for the government we’re trying to scrape every penny that we can and redirect those pennies and resources to where it is most needed at the moment. So hopefully in the new fiscal year we’ll have a bit more resources and we’ll continue to channel those resources in rural areas not just in Toledo but across the country.”
CEO Shal went on to speak on the road infrastructure, particularly for those in villages like Machakilha.
Valentino Chal, CEO, Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labor and Local Government: “I think a lot of people and a lot of Belizeans are not aware of the severe challenges a lot of the rural communities in Toledo face. For instance this community in Machakilha, you can’t drive all the way there you drive a certain point and you walk the rest of the way and when we were there the health worker or the community health worker was explaining to us the importance of completing that road and finishing the road to get all the way to the village because she said that sometimes when they have persons who are deceased and they need to bring the body out to the morgue for a post mortem or something of that sort they have to carry that body, the corpse, on their backs all the way until they can get to the main road and of course when you get to the main road it’s not like there’s a bus terminal where you can go look for transport you’d be lucky if you find someone there with a vehicle; and then when the post mortem is over and you’re taking the person for burial you have to repeat the process as well. Similarly with expecting mothers he said there has been an incident once or twice where babies were delivered on the way simply because they couldn’t make it in time to the hospital. And students, especially students we have students living in these remote communities who go to high school or they have to wake up at four in the morning, walk for miles for hours then take a bus then go by the bus for hours and then get to school and then repeat the process again in the evening and repeat the process for the entire week, for the entire month, for the entire school year and of course they don’t have electricity and so when they get back home it’s late, it’s very difficult to do their work so it is under these conditions that we have children, Belizean children, who have to compete with the rest of the country and I think it’s very unfair it’s very inequitable and these are the people we’re going to serve and we’re going to improve their conditions. Of course other communities who have been neglected as well whether Sarteneja in Corozal or Machakilha in Toledo we are going to do our best to reach all of them and improve the lives of rural residents of the country.”