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Belize - People

Today Belize's population is estimated to be approximately 300,000. The country is a melting pot of many races and over the years the muliti-racial make-up has risen through the influx of many people from Central America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. Males outnumber the female population only by 1%.

Belize is the most sparsely populated nation in Central America. It is larger than El Salvador and compares in size to the State of Massachusetts. Slightly more than half of the population lives in rural areas. About one-fifth live in Belize City, the principal port, commercial center, and former capital.

The main ethnic groups are the: Mestizo, Creole, Ketchi, Yucatec and Mopan Mayas, Garifunas and East Indians who maintain a large percentage of Belize’s population. Other ethnic groups include: German and Dutch Mennonites, Chinese, Arabs and Africans who account for a small percentage of the population The ethnic groups, however, are heavily intermixed.

Most Belizeans are of multiracial descent. About 43.7% of the population is of mixed Mayan and European descent (mestizo); 29.8% are of African and Afro-European (Creole) ancestry; about 11.0% are Mayan; and about 6.6% are Afro-Amerindian (Garifuna). The remainder, about 8.9%, includes European, East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and North American groups.

English, the official language, is spoken by virtually all except the refugees who arrived during the past decades. Spanish is the native tongue of about 50% of the people and is spoken as a second language by another 20%. The various Mayan groups still speak their indigenous languages, and an English-Creole dialect similar to the Creole dialects of the English-speaking Caribbean Islands is spoken by most. English Creole is widely spoken and remains a distinctive part of everyday conversations for most Belizeans. Spanish is taught in primary and secondary schools in order to further develop bi-lingualism. Spanish is spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the people in the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts, north of Belize and the Cayo District in the west, In the southern Districts: Stann Creek and Toledo, there are people whose first language is Garifuna or Maya. The rate of functional literacy is 76%. About 50% of the population is Roman Catholic; the Anglican Church and other Protestant Christian groups account for most of the remaining 50%. Mennonite settlers number about 8,500.

Belmopan is the capital of the country. Built in 1970, it is the seat of Government and has been classified as the Garden City of the country. It was created following extensive damage to the former capital Belize City, caused by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Belmopan is geographically located at the centre of the country, some 80 kilometers to the south-west of Belize City on higher ground. It serves as a hurricane refuge for Belizeans and has the largest number of hurricane shelters in the country. Its population today is estimated at 11,100 and is increasing as more people relocate to the Capital. However, Belize City still remains the hub of commercial activity and one of the most urbanized centers of Belize with a population of 78,000 people.

More than one-third of the population is comprised of persons younger than 14 years of age.

Overall health conditions in Belize compare favourably with neighbouring Central American countries, though still poor. The government is the main provider of health services which include the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, a national referral hospital in Belize City, three regional and three district/community hospitals, approximately 40 health centres, 30 health posts and a mental health facility. A major reform of the health sector, including reorganisation of services, infrastructure development and financing is currently underway designed to improve the efficiency, equity and quality of health care services and to promote healthier lifestyles. Services provided by these facilities are complemented by national programmes for maternal and child health, environmental public health and water safety inspection, health promotion education and nutrition, dental health, communicable disease control and HIV/AIDS. The leading cause(s) of death in Belize is (are) heart disease, secondary to diabetes, hypertension and road traffic accidents, followed by high blood pressure and HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed in Belize in 1986. Since then, there has been an increase in incidence (rates) every year, and has now reached epidemic proportions. UNAIDS estimates there is a 2.1% prevalence rate of HIV in Belize – the third highest in the Caribbean -. and that there are approximately 3,600 people living with HIV/AIDS in Belize. In 2000, Belize established a National AIDS Commission to co-ordinate a national multi-sectoral strategy to respond to the challenge of HIV/AIDS in the country.





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Page last modified: 31-03-2021 10:58:49 ZULU