Latin America: Belize


Country Profile of Belize
Belize is a tiny country in Central America with a small population of approximately 288,000. It borders the Caribbean Sea, and sits between Guatemala and Mexico. While small, Belize is the most culturally diverse nation on earth.
Belize’s history is rife with invasions of its resident Mayan civilization: first by the Spanish in the 17th century, then the British in the 18th century. The British heavily logged the country’s pristine mahogany forests, and christened the country British Honduras in 1862. Belize became an independent country in 1981, after territorial disputes with the UK and Guatemala. Guatemala did not recognize the new nation until 1992.
English is the official language of Belize, although a large group of Spanish-speaking inhabitants live mainly in the north. The population is composed of 49% Mestizo, 25% Creole, 11% Maya and 6% Garifuna.
Tourism is the principal foreign exchange earner, followed by marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments. Belize has the world’s second largest barrier reef, a favorite among divers.
Belize experienced steady GDP growth averaging 5% from 1999 through 2005, due to government expansion of monetary and fiscal policies. A sizable trade deficit and foreign debt continue to be major concerns. Poverty reduction is a short-term objective of the Belizean government, which relies on international donations.

Hemophilia in Belize
An estimated 24 people live with hemophilia in Belize. Yet only 18 of them have been identified and registered, and only 14 receive treatment. Sadly, factor concentrates, the mainstay of treatment, are expensive and beyond the reach of most Belizeans. The government purchases a little factor.
Most hemophilia patients live in extremely rural areas, and depend mainly on donated factor. Francisca Bardalez, a mother of five who wanted to educate families about proper care, founded the Belize Hemophilia Society in 1998. Thanks to her efforts, hemophilia care has improved in Belize.