After working for decades in Belize, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is removing its physical presence from Belize and closing its offices. Today, the organization held a halfday session that zoomed in on the last ten years and the outputs of the support they had given in the fight against HIV in Belize. Dr Daniel Muralles of USAID spoke more on today’s event.
DR DANIEL MURALLES
“Today we are going to present our last 10 years work here in Belize with our partners from the USA and we want to present all the good practices and the good results we have done here in Belize. Now the next step is we are going to pass the work from the local authorities and the local NGOs to continue the good work they have already done in Belize. We are not leaving, we will continue working through the regional board for example from the COMISCA board we are continuing our work with Belize but we are going to work in very punctual activities. Now we have a presence in the country we will continue to work with Belize, we are not leaving at all. We continue working because we thought that these activities could be done from the regional platform. In Belize we have the global fund grant working here and we think we can support better if we don’t have a step between us and we can give them more space to work and we can give them just technical support.”
As you may have noted, Dr Muralles did say that they will continue working with agencies in Belize but that they will be doing it from a regional platform as opposed to having an office presence in Belize. We asked Director of Health Services, Dr Marvin Manzanero of the possible effects this could have.
DR MARVIN MANZANERO
“When we look at the prevention aspect that they have been investing a lot particularly in the last two or three years through agencies such as PASMO, PASCA there can be a potential hit if we can’t identify as a national AIDS commission for example who is going to do that prevention strategy. I know that we at the Ministry of Health are cognizant of what we can and can’t do. So I think that there are some issues that we would have to be dealing with in the immediate future because I don’t think that we have done enough planning as a country in doing prevention strategies particularly for more vulnerable population such as men having sex with men and female sex workers. In terms of the work they were doing in health I think we have planned for this the infection control measures which were what we were working with them is being subsumed now as part of our infection control measures in the different community and regional hospitals.”
Keiron Cacho who was attached to PASMO for the last nine years has had first hand experience in working with USAID. Today he spoke with us on what that experience was like.
“Interesting I will say the least. We’ve had a very wonderful relationship but difficult to some extent because the program was tailored for a central american region platform type of thing. The difference is that we had to make it clear that the context of Belize is relatively different from the Central American countries, we speak a different language, we also take up a Caribbean vibe and so one of the interesting things was making sure that we were able to communicate that difference and then tailor our interventions to meet the means. There was a generalized methodology we had to conceptualize it and tweak it to make sure that we met our Belize context. The good news is that we had a conducive environment for that change to be made and for us to be more relevant I think that was one of the main reasons PASMO Belize and the other platforms very successful in our country, the fact that we have been relevant the fact that we have been reaching, the fact that we were grassroots to be honest. I hope that what we’ve done will be used as best practice and also documented in this fight against HIV.”
The US Embassy issued a press release that reads, in part, quote, “As USAID programming concludes in Belize, PEPFAR, USAID, and other U.S. Government agencies will continue to provide assistance to the HIV response in Belize through regional mechanisms such as the Regional Coordinating Mechanism (RCM), and the Council of Central American Ministers of Health (COMISCA).” End of quote.