Title: Belize

Population: 405,633

Population Change: 1.86

National Average Age: 25

Urban Percentage: 46

Christian Population: 247,000

Christian Percentage: 76.7

Introduction: Belize is a nation on the eastern coast of Central America with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west. Offshore the massive Belize Barrier Reef dotted with hundreds of low-lying islands called cayes hosts rich marine life. Belize’s jungle areas are home to Mayan ruins like Caracol renowned for its towering pyramid; lagoon-side Lamanai; and Altun Ha just outside Belize City.

Overview: Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden high unemployment growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade high crime rates and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Central America.