Southern Belize communities better prepared for natural disasters

Source(s): Pan American Development Foundation

Thousands of residents of coastal Belize are better prepared for extreme weather and the effects of climate change after a yearlong program funded by Taiwan and implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).

Through the Community Preparedness and Resilience initiative, launched in July 2015, PADF assisted over 14,000 residents of Belize’s Stann Creek District in preparing for and responding to disasters.

“We have engaged both communities through capacity building, contingency planning and ecological restoration efforts and increased awareness about disaster preparedness and climate change,” says Dr. Minerva Pinelo, PADF Belize Project Director. “It has been a great experience seeing residents take ownership of the project, become involved in building resilience within their communities and understand how climate change adaptation is key to the preservation of their livelihoods.”

PADF collaborated with communities and partners to carry out the following activities:

  • Trained and equipped local emergency response teams in Dangriga and Hopkins
  • Engaged students and teachers at seven schools with programs on climate change and disaster risk reduction
  • Launched eight public awareness campaigns aimed at protecting fragile ecosystems
  • Created hazard maps, flood gauges and strengthened early warning systems in each community
  • Partnered with the University of Belize to expand its Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Center and engage students in field work
  • Is collaborating with Hamanasi Adventure Dive Resort to plant mangrove trees to mitigate coastal erosion

Through a partnership with the University of Belize, PADF Belize facilitated a course on global positioning system (GPS) tracking and mapping. With support from Taiwan, the university received thousands of dollars’ worth of technical equipment, tools and software in order to build the capacity of its GIS Center. Using the software, the team was able to map vulnerable areas of coastline and create hazard maps listing evacuation routes.

“Working with PADF has been an educational experience,” says Veronica Escalante, a Natural Resource Management student at the University of Belize. “The hazard maps produced as a result of our data collection help make decisions and plan support systems to mitigate disaster that may occur in highly vulnerable coastal areas.  It has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Belize is a low-lying coastal nation that is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, erosion, flooding and the degradation of valuable marine environments threaten local residents, as well as ecosystems that many Belizeans rely on for their livelihoods in the fishing and tourism industries.

“We must all prepare for climate change,” says H.E. Benjamin Ho, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Belize. “We are pleased that this partnership between Taiwan, PADF and Belize has given coastal communities a head start.”

PADF and Taiwan have been collaborating with countries throughout the region to address emergencies and natural disasters. The Taiwan-PADF Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Fundis a five-year partnership to foster preparedness and mitigation programs. Community-based disaster preparedness projects have been carried out in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Fund has delivered assistance to more than 282,000 people in Latin America & the Caribbean since 2012.

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