Human Trafficking in Maldives
The Maldives is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean that is known for its luxurious vacations. Behind its image of pristine waters and resorts, the country fights against the human trafficking of its people and foreigners. Since 2012, when the Maldives became a member of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the government has increased efforts to meet international standards in eliminating human trafficking in the Maldives. In 2013, it built on this initiative by passing a bill that criminalized human trafficking and identified fraudulent recruitment, forced labor and sex trafficking as human trafficking.

Human traffickers in the Maldives target and exploit both domestic and foreign workers. Nearly one-third of the Maldives’ population are migrant workers, mainly from Bangladesh and India, who serve in the construction and service sectors. The fraudulent recruitment of undocumented and documented migrant workers leads to the confiscation of identity and travel documents and debt. These false recruitment agencies work with employers and agents in the Maldives to force migrant workers to work with little to no pay. Other victims of human trafficking include Maldivian children and women. They end up in criminal enterprises in which criminal gangs use them to transport drugs. Maldivian and other South Asian women end up in the Maldives under the false pretense of tourism experience.

The Effects of COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit the Maldives in 2020, the inhumane working conditions and treatment of migrant workers worsened. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Trafficking In Persons report, there were approximately more than 230,000 migrant workers in the Maldives in 2020. Migrant workers often live in cramped collective living accommodations with limited access to water, sanitation and health care. One of those shared accommodation blocks in the capital of Malé experienced 95 positive COVID-19 cases all at once.

As COVID-19 relief rolled out, the government redirected financial and personnel resources away from anti-trafficking efforts as operations focused on the pandemic. This delayed the prosecution of trafficking crimes and the Maldivian government did not convict any traffickers for the second consecutive year. According to the 2022 Trafficking In Persons Report, 27 recruitment agencies were under investigation by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). Maldivian authorities are working now with fewer resources due to the pandemic. Hence, foreign and national companies have been called upon to support human rights and stop human trafficking in the Maldives.

A New Action Plan

On March 30, 2020, the Maldives designed the Anti-Human Trafficking National Action Plan to adapt to the reduced resources and accelerate efforts to eliminate human trafficking in the Maldives. The National Anti-Human Trafficking Steering Committee (NAHTSC) oversees the national action plan and focuses on coordinating with the government in its efforts to combat human trafficking. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United States government are both international partners to the NAHTSC. These organizations provided technical assistance and guidance in the formulation of the Anti-Human Trafficking National Action Plan. The action plan’s goal is to achieve three outcomes:

  1. Enhance Anti-Trafficking in Persons Legislation & Policies
  2. Enhance Anti-Trafficking in Persons Sensitization & Awareness
  3. Enhance Anti-Trafficking in Persons Monitoring, Enforcement & Training

Status as of 2022

The U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons categorizes the Maldives as a Tier 2 country. This means that although the government is making significant efforts to eliminate trafficking, it still has not met minimum standards. The Government of Maldives’ efforts during the year 2022 includes criminalizing all forms of sex and labor trafficking, increasing prosecutions of government officials and regulating the presence of foreign workers in the Maldives.

The Maldivian government remains dedicated to implementing anti-trafficking and prevention efforts. However, they still have work to do as the number of foreign workers (specifically the Bangladeshi and Indian workers) trafficked to the Maldives remains high. This persists despite a decrease in the number of overall trafficking investigations and zero reported convictions for the second consecutive year. In addition, a shelter for trafficking victims created in 2021 remains inoperable with no official standard operating procedures (SOPs) to refer victims for support and care services.

Moving Forward

In the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report for the Maldives, the U.S. Department of State laid out recommendations to further reduce human trafficking in the Maldives. Currently, the areas of victim identification and protection remain weak. It recommends establishing a working trafficking victim shelter with consistent protection services and support for foreign victims. Recommendations include anti-trafficking materials and the availability of support in appropriate languages for migrant workers. Other recommendations for 2023 also involve identifying indicators of human trafficking and holding employers and recruitment agencies accountable for labor violations. Some have also asked the government to increase its cooperation with migrant source countries by establishing memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and monitoring resort and guest homes.

The laws that are already in place serve as a solid foundation for increasing preventative, protective and prosecutive measures that the U.S. Department of State recommends. In addition to these laws, the government’s work is also supported by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like Mission for Migrant Workers Maldives (MMWM), the first NGO to work exclusively with migrant workers experiencing human-rights violations. With the foundational laws, the incorporation of recommendations and the work of local NGOs, the Maldives can make significant moves toward eliminating human trafficking.

 – Arden Schraff
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Pollution in the MaldivesThe island nation of the Maldives is famous for crystalline waters and vibrant coral reefs. However, rampant plastic pollution threatens these core features of the Maldives. One women’s group, however, is working to alter that trajectory by reducing plastic pollution in the Maldives.

An Island Nation

The Maldives, a nation comprising 185 islands, is intimately connected with the ocean that surrounds it. Beaches and oceans form the backbone of the Maldives’ tourism sector. With tourism being the main driver of economic growth and business profits in the Maldives, the well-being of the Maldivian tourism industry is directly linked to the well-being of the Maldivian economy.

In addition to being vital to the popularity of Maldivian tourism, the ocean fuels the fishing industry in the Maldives. Of poor households in the Maldives, 26% make their livings by fishing and nationally, 11% of Maldivians find their employment at fisheries.

Plastic Pollution in the Maldives

Growing plastic pollution in the Maldives, however, threatens both the tourism and fishing industries. The World Bank estimates that the Maldives produces 365,000 tons of solid waste a year, with the bulk of that waste that resort islands generate. As a result of plastic pollution, plastic has been washing up on beaches in the Maldives and destroying coral reefs. These beaches and coral reefs are fundamental to both the tourism and fishing industries in the Maldives. As plastic pollution threatens to damage the Maldives’ beaches and reefs, it threatens to cripple two of the industries most vital to the Maldivian economy.

Plastic waste also endangers the health of those living in or visiting the Maldives. The Maldives lacks sufficient resources to address with the volume of waste there, with people burning much of the plastic waste or dumping it in the sea. When plastic is burning, it releases toxic and carcinogenic gasses, posing a health threat to Maldivians who breathe the polluted air.

The Maldives Authentic Crafts Cooperative Society

Maldivians have been all but complacent when it comes to the problem of plastic pollution. One group tackling the issue is the Maldives Authentic Crafts Cooperative Society (MACCS). MACCS started its journey in 2011 with the original intention of preserving traditional artistic practices. After witnessing the declining practice of traditional artforms as imported counterfeit versions gained popularity among tourists, a group of 10 women created MACCS with the goal of reviving traditional art forms.

One of its first projects was to revitalize marshlands where reed grass grows, grass that is used for traditional mat weaving. Seeing the close connection between traditional Maldivian artforms and the island nation’s environment, MACCS decided to broaden its focus to encompass protecting the Maldives’ natural assets, as well as its cultural artforms.

In 2021, MACCS worked in partnership with the World Bank and other Maldivian organizations to educate households about how to improve waste sorting and reduce waste production. As part of the project, MACCS worked with residents on 20 islands to improve their waste management approaches and divert plastic pollution from the ocean.

To address the root of the Maldives’ plastic pollution, MACCS has been working to reduce the use of plastic grocery bags. With support from the UNDP, MACCS completed a pilot project in June 2022. For the pilot project, participants could scan a chip on their reusable bag each time they used the bag. When participants scanned the chip, they would earn points that they could save up to receive rewards to incentivize the use of reusable bags. The pilot project started with 500 bags, but MACCS is hopeful to expand in the future and further its efforts to reduce plastic pollution in the Maldives.

– Anna Inghram
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in the Maldives
Many best know the Maldives, a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, for its beautiful beaches that draw many travelers. However, the sunshine and sparkling water often overshadow many Maldivians’ issues. For instance, mental health in the Maldives is a topic that not everyone knows about. Yet, many people in the Maldives have struggled with mental health for a long time. Furthermore, the link between mental disorders and poverty makes these struggles even more concerning.

A Unique Layout

Since a chain of islands across more than 900 kilometers forms the country of the Maldives, the cost of delivering health and social services is higher. In addition, the unique geographical nature of the island has resulted in a widely dispersed population, with some of the islands becoming too densely populated to sustain their communities due to rising sea levels. All of these factors have contributed to mental health problems in the Maldives.

Lack of Strategy

Coordinating a unified effort to combat increasing rates of mental disorders in the Maldives has been an issue. With evidence showing that mental health disorders are on the rise, Maldivians are in need of an effective mental health system. However, mental health services in the Maldives are limited and poorly organized. Since most mental health services reside in the capital, Malé, few resources exist on the outer islands. Additionally, psychiatric medication is inconsistent and institutional facilities deal with overcrowding.

Another barrier to implementing a strong mental health policy in the Maldives is social stigma. There is significant stigma and discrimination toward people with mental disorders in the Maldives, with many openly expressing negative attitudes about mental health, according to an article published in SAGE Journals.

Mental health disorders pose many risks, including the threat of increased poverty. Since there is a link between mental health and poverty, the rising rates of mental health disorders in the Maldives present a significant threat to the already high poverty gaps in the country.

New Reason for Hope

A promising new future in improving mental health in the Maldives lies in the National Mental Health Policy (NMHP). According to the Ministry of Health, some of the objectives of the NMHP include a new structure for mental health care with proper financing, mental health services that integrate community-based and general health services, promotion of mental health in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and advocacy for improved treatment of individuals with mental disorders.

Even further, NMHP will ensure that welfare assistance is available to those with significant disabilities relating to mental disorders, alleviating some financial burdens in order to counter poverty, the Ministry of Health reports.

The NMHP has a long history of development. The Ministry of Health first initiated the policy in June 2005 in the wake of the 2004 Asian tsunami. Still, work on the policy remained untouched until 2011, when the Ministry of Health revised the policy. However, political changes hindered its endorsement. Later, in 2015, the process started again when the World Health Organization (WHO) assisted in the policy’s revision. Now, the NMHP is in effect until at least 2025.

According to the Ministry of Health, new changes from the NMHP include:

  • Screening for mental health disorders from a young age.
  • Adding more school counselors.
  • Implementing mental health strategies at work.
  • Educating religious scholars on mental health.

The implementation of the NMHP is a long-awaited step in the right direction for the people of the Maldives. People are dealing with a disorganized mental health system as well as a social stigma for so long. However, the NMHP offers up the prospect of a more positive future for those in the Maldives who are struggling with mental health.

– Sarah DiLuzio
Photo: Pixabay

Women’s Rights in MaldivesIn recent years, the Republic of Maldives established itself as an upper-middle-income country with a booming tourism sector. The nation’s islands, spread across many atolls, have become a popular destination for luxury stays in overwater bungalows. International visitors provide half of the Maldives’ revenue. With jobs and opportunities on non-native islands, women have been stepping out of traditional domestic roles and are migrating to urban areas for greater economic independence. This shines a light on women’s rights in the Maldives.

Obstacles to Women’s Rights in the Maldives

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on the citizens of this island nation. Tourism and related services affect standards of living and lifestyles significantly. In 2019, poverty in the Maldives had fallen to 2.1%. In 2020, the World Bank estimated that poverty rates would rise to 7.2%.

The pandemic has impacted women’s rights in the Maldives in two significant ways. Firstly, women experienced income losses more severely than men, and secondly, women reported an increase in gender-based violence and domestic violence.

Women in the Workforce

In the Maldives, which has a historically patriarchal culture, many women rely on informal employment and financial contributions from others to make a living. This disqualifies them from unemployment and other forms of COVID-19 assistance. Although many men also engage in informal work, 54% of women have seen their income decline during the pandemic compared to only 40% of men.

As a result of the pandemic, many women are not only earning less and receiving less from family or friends but are also unable to qualify for assistance. Government support and charity remain the only stable resources during the pandemic. However, women benefit less from both forms of aid on average.

With the economic success of tourism and related fields, many women migrate to the capital city of Malé where opportunities for formal work and economic independence abound. Still, only 59% of women make a living from paid employment relative to 70% of men.

When the COVID-19 virus began to spread, tourism in the Maldives came to a halt and women were the first to lose their jobs. As the economy suffered, the cost of living in Malé forced many to return home to rural communities and resort to informal work. The implication is that many of these women may never return to the city or to formal employment.

Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence

COVID-19 brought financial stress and upheaval to many homes in the Maldives. In a U.N. Women survey, 68% of Maldives women reported increased mental and emotional stress since the onset of the pandemic. The study identified likely stressors to include economic strain and the rise in gender-based violence.

A surge in gender-based violence and domestic violence reports occurred after the nation’s lockdown and again when the Maldives lifted its COVID-19-related restrictions. During the lockdown, welfare services were secondary to the pandemic response and there was also a relatively low number of reports. However, the instances of violence may be higher. Lockdown and restrictions place the affected women in constant, close proximity with perpetrators while financial stress and lifestyle changes compound instances of violence. In the Maldives, societal norms dictate the authority of men and shame women for coming forward with reports of gender-based violence.

Moving Forward

Despite these recent setbacks, the country is making progress in improving women’s rights in the Maldives. Women have made strides for gender parity in education and are building a sense of empowerment through financial security. The nation has set an example for other countries with an equal ratio of boys to girls enrolling in and completing primary and secondary school.

The Maldives’ Strategic Action Plan for 2019 to 2023 notes women’s economic participation, representation in government, sexual harassment and domestic violence as policy priorities. The planning document also recognizes that additional resources are necessary to follow through on important gender equality legislation. The Maldives introduced it recently to address these disparities.

Within the past decade, the Maldivian government has introduced the following legislation to advance women’s rights in the Maldives: the Gender Equality Act (2016), the Sexual Harassment and Prevention Act (2014), the Sexual Offenses Act (2014) and the Domestic Violence Act (2012).

COVID-19 presents a challenge to the momentum building for women’s rights in the Maldives, but with the return of international tourism, projections determine that the economy will rebound. Looking forward, women’s economic empowerment should remain a priority for the Maldives to continue making significant gains in gender equality.

– Angela Basinger
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in the MaldivesAs of June 29, 2021, the Maldives has reported more than 73,000 cases of COVID-19. The Maldives has a population of more than 515,000 with one of the country’s main sources of income stemming from tourism. The program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives is not only protecting citizens but is also playing a significant role in post-pandemic economic recovery.

The Maldives in Numbers

In 2009, The rate of people living on less than $5.50 a day in the Maldives was 42.7%. Just seven years later, the poverty rate dropped to 3.4%. In recent years, the Maldives has made many improvements, contributing to the stability of the country. This includes infrastructure improvements and investments in health and education. The country boasts a close to 100% literacy rate and a life year expectancy of more than 78 years.

Through these developments, the Maldives has attained the status of an upper-middle-income country. In terms of economic growth, the country significantly relies on tourism revenue. In 2019, the tourism industry accounted for 21% of the country’s gross domestic product as more than 1.7 million people vacationed to the Maldives.

The Impact of COVID-19

In March 2020, the Maldives began to experience the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry came to an abrupt halt and borders remained closed until mid-July 2020. Even as travel into the country re-opened, the Maldives reported only one-third of visiting tourists compared to the number of tourists visiting in 2019.

The decrease in tourism has contributed to the 28% decline in gross domestic product in 2020 and an increase in poverty to 7.2%. The pandemic has affected employees in the tourism industry more than any other industry in the Maldives. The JobCenter reports that within the tourism industry in the Maldives, only 74% of employees remained employed in 2020, with 30% on “no pay leave.”

With the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives, the country has the opportunity to protect its citizens and simultaneously bring its tourism rates back up.

The Maldives Vaccine Rollout

As of April 14, 2021, the Maldives has vaccinated 53% of its population with first doses. The country prioritized “90% of its frontline tourism workers” with a first dose. The vaccine is available at no cost to residents and migrant workers and is approved for anyone 16 or older. With the help of other countries and partnerships, the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives has seen success so far.

Factors that play an important role in this vaccine success include India’s donation of 100,000 Covishield vaccines on January 20, 2021. The Maldives has also purchased 700,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses straight from the manufacturer. The Maldives expects to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility as well. The country has also received vaccine supplies from Singapore.

Because of the small Maldivian population and the allocation of vaccines the Maldives is receiving from various allies and organizations, there are currently no supply shortage concerns. The United States has also committed to donating roughly seven million vaccines to Asia by the end of June 2021. The U.S. vaccine donation will be distributed to several Asian countries, including the Maldives.

Visit, Vaccinate and Vacation

COVID-19 vaccinations in the Maldives will soon be open to tourists. The Maldives hopes to enact a “3V” strategy, “visit, vaccinate and vacation.” This approach will begin only after the remaining unvaccinated residents of the Maldives receive both doses of the vaccine. Once the Maldives meets this goal, it will have the ability to vaccinate tourists upon entry.

Leaders hope this initiative will help restore the hard-hit tourism industry and promote the health and safety of all people. Many tourists work remotely from the Maldives on so-called “workations.” The Maldives’ leaders believe the initiative will appeal to people desiring a holiday with the incentive of also getting access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Increased tourism will allow the employment rate to rise as demand in resorts, restaurants and shops expands with more visitors.

Tourism is steadily increasing throughout the country. With a creative solution, the Maldives aims to restore pre-pandemic tourism levels and the economy while prioritizing the health of citizens and travelers.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr

Domestic violence in the Maldives
In July, the Maldives’ Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services introduced a nationwide campaign to combat domestic violence and encourage women’s empowerment. The campaign is intended to last for a three month period and raise awareness on domestic violence in the Maldives.

The Maldives is considered a “development success” by the World Bank. In the last few decades, the Maldives’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita multiplied by more than fifty. The average life expectancy is the Maldives is now 78 years it has almost achieved full literacy across the nation. Now, the country is turning its attention to women’s rights and domestic violence.

Women’s Rights in the Maldives

The Maldives has improved its Gender Inequality Index score significantly in the last two decades from 0.649 to 0.367. The GII takes into account a variety of factors to measure equality between genders, with nations closer to 0 being the most equal. Women contribute to the nation’s economic and political progress through leadership roles and participation in the workforce.

However, the Maldives today still grapples with structural forms of gender inequality. A byproduct of this is the prevalence of domestic violence. According to data collected by the U.N. in 2017, 56% of women ranging from ages 15 to 49 had experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners in the last 12 months.

To continue furthering socio-economic progress in the Maldives, women’s rights and gender equality must not be sidelined. Recognizing this, the government has begun to make a stronger effort to combat domestic violence.

Women’s Rights and Poverty

Economic inequality between the genders is also a persistent social issue in the Maldives. According to research done by the UNDP, Maldivian women’s Gross National Income is lower than men’s by a staggering 48%.

As of 2016, 8.2% of Maldivians live below the nation’s poverty line. Due to structural inequalities that exclude women from major sectors of the economy, such as tourism and agriculture, women are more vulnerable to poverty in the Maldives. For example, the tourism industry indirectly accounts for nearly 60% of the Maldivian economy, but only three percent of women contribute to this sector, in contrast with nearly 50% of men.

Greater women’s empowerment and gender equality have been shown to boost nations’ economic growth. Gender gaps in employment and access to equal opportunity can cost approximately 15% of a nation’s GDP. Allowing women to access the same employment as men in the Maldives would not only benefit the nations’ path of economic growth but help to lift the Maldives’ most vulnerable from extreme poverty.

Furthermore, women’s economic empowerment can be linked to domestic violence. While it is not the only factor, when women can financially support themselves, they are more likely to be able to leave their abusers. Improving women’s rights and helping raise them out of poverty can improve the overall economy and help women escape domestic violence.

The ‘Geveshi Gulhun’ Campaign

The president of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, participated in the inauguration of the Maldives’ anti-domestic violence campaign on July 15, 2020. This campaign comes after public demands from individuals and civil society groups that the government fulfill its promises to address issues like sexual violence and domestic violence.

The campaign aims to raise further national awareness about gender inequality and change long-standing stereotypes about women. The ‘Geveshi Gelhun’ campaign is a necessary first step to what is hopefully a more equitable future in the Maldives.

At the event, President Solih announced that the government would almost double the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services budget to develop resources to address gender-based violence against women in the nation. In addition, he promised that the government would make legislative changes to further punish cases of sexual violence.

The three-month campaign is mostly administered through various forms of media. This has consisted of live television programming, social media posts and billboards to raise awareness. The Ministry is working with local businesses and artists to develop the campaign’s messaging.

Moving Forward

The ‘Geveshi Gelhun’ campaign is a great step in the right direction. Raising awareness and enacting stronger legislation will hopefully have a significant impact on women’s rights. To continue combatting domestic violence in the Maldives, the government and other humanitarian organizations must make this issue a focus of their efforts.

Leina Gabra
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in maldivesThe Maldives, a series of islands bordering both India and Sri Lanka, has faced increased obstacles with food security and hunger. With a population of 515,696 citizens, it is estimated that over 10.3% are battling with hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in the Maldives.

Problem in Numbers

With various scattered islands in the Maldives, it must be noted that a majority of citizens live in urban areas. However, despite this setting, 17.3% of children in the Maldives are underweight while 10.6% are wasted — a condition where a child’s muscle and fat tissues dissolve away to the bone.

It is also estimated that 36% of babies are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life, leading many to not receive the necessary nutrients to develop. This heavily contributes to serious health problems in the future.

In addition to the youth being affected by malnutrition, it must be noted that the adult population is also facing a malnutrition burden, with 42.6% of women of reproductive age having anemia.

Causes of Hunger and Poverty

Food insecurity in the Maldives points towards a variety of factors. A recent cause is resultant poverty caused by a lack of tourists. It is estimated that tourism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. However, recent border closures due to COVID-19 have severely impacted citizens on a national scale. With one-third of adult males and a quarter of females engaged in tourism-related occupations, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for people to provide food and other basic necessities for their families.

Climate change, environmental degradation and declining ocean health severely threaten food security in the Maldives. Rapid changes in temperatures, flooding and drought, impact agricultural yields, reducing the ability to locally produce food.

Another factor that contributes to hardships is the decline of exports in the fish sector. With fishery accounting for another large portion of the nation’s GDP, many families who depend on fisheries as their main source of income have experienced serious financial impacts.

Road to Change

Despite the increased rates of hunger among the Maldivian population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has dedicated itself to developing both fisheries and agriculture in the Maldives.

The main course of action for the FAO was to reassess the situation in the Maldives and open opportunities to grow the fishery and agriculture sector. Through promoting a stable framework, the organization enabled thousands to enter new jobs in the agriculture industry while accelerating demand for certain goods.

Another course of action was teaching sustainable practices to hundreds of Maldivian farmers. By helping with smaller-scale farms, FAO was able to heavily accelerate growth, boosting production in underprivileged communities. The FAO also helped equip farmers to thrive during climate change. The organization provided farmers with knowledge and methods to increase the productivity of their crops, livestock and fisheries in the face of adverse climatic conditions.

Despite great aid from the FAO, the Maldives continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. Organizations like the FAO can help in the short-term but the Maldives needs government assistance to see long-term change. For the Maldives to see a reduced hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to increase food security in the country. With the help of NGOs and the Maldivian government, the overall hunger rate in the Maldives can be reduced.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: UNDP

Healthcare in Maldives
People know the Maldives internationally for its beautiful beaches and remote atolls. This south Asian nation has a unique healthcare system with a design specific for an island. Here are seven facts about healthcare in the Maldives.

7 Facts About Healthcare in the Maldives

  1. Universal Healthcare: The Maldives has universal health insurance that covers a plethora of primary care services. The country’s health scheme is called Husnuvaa Aasandha and the state-owned company Aasandha runs it. Husnuvaa Aasandha means “healthcare for all without a ceiling protection limit” according to the Aasandha website, and it receives funding from the Maldives’ government. Notably, the plan pays for citizens to go abroad for certain medical treatments if the treatments are not available in the Maldives.
  2. Tier-based System: The Maldives has a “tier-based” healthcare system. Every inhabited island, even the most sparsely populated, has a primary care facility. Every inhabited atoll, or island chain, has a secondary care facility. Larger urban areas also have tertiary care centers.
  3. Government Spending: According to a 2018 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), 9% of the Maldives’ GDP goes toward healthcare. The country spends a higher percentage of its GDP on healthcare than any country in Southeast Asia, where the average expenditure for the region is 3.46%.
  4. Operation: Primary medical facilities often struggle to operate effectively. A report from 2019 revealed that a lack of supplies and equipment is a major factor hampering the Maldives’ primary health facilities. These facilities also have high staff turnover rates and are expensive to operate.
  5. Medicine: Medicine can be unusually expensive in the Maldives. Importing pharmaceuticals is often costly, as the Maldives is a fairly remote island nation. Furthermore, an analysis from 2014 found that price controls on medicine did not experience enforcement. Some pharmaceuticals cost patients more than 100% of their importation costs.
  6. Disease: Noncommunicable diseases such as respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases cause the most deaths in the Maldives. Noncommunicable diseases such as these cause almost 80% of deaths in the country according to a 2018 WHO report.
  7. Life Expectancy: The Maldives has an above-average life expectancy. The life expectancy in the Maldives was 78.6 years in 2019, while the world average the same year was 72.6.

Healthcare in the Maldives is rapidly improving, with the country having an above-average life expectancy and basic health services on all inhabited islands. However, some areas of the nation struggle to receive essential medical supplies and medicine can be expensive. Overall, these seven facts about healthcare in the Maldives show that the country is making progress a priority and heading towards promising results.

– Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in the Maldives
People might know the Maldives for its clean blue waters, luxurious resorts and the millions of tourists who visit the archipelago but may not know that the small island nation continues to tussle for its economy and against poverty. Poverty in the Maldives dates back to the early 1980s when it became part of a list of the 20 poorest countries in the world. The 2004 tsunami further weakened the economy of the island nation, which consists of 1,192 tropical islands. A global financial crisis emerged in 2008, putting the country in a vulnerable position.

Current Scenario

Statistics from the World Bank state that the GDP in the Maldives rose to $5.3 billion in 2018 from a mere $42.46 million in 1980. Wealth inequality does not persist in the Maldives and poverty rates vary across geographic locations. The GDP growth slowed down from 8% in 2018 to 6.8% in 2019. Poverty in the Maldives is no longer a crisis, but the risks remain high.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The country has had some success in achieving a few of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The tourism industry, fisheries and other sources have played a significant role in strengthening the economy and employment rate. Half of the economy of the island nation comes from tourism and another 12% comes from the fisheries across the islands.

There might be people with very low incomes but there are no urban beggars or slum dwellers, even with an increase in the rural-urban migration rates. Recently, literacy rates in the Maldives have reached around 100%. There are no major causes of diseases and infections in the Maldives. The starvation rate is zero as well.

Unemployment

In 2018, the unemployment rate was 5.9%, with youth unemployment making up 15.5%. More than half of the working strata of people are employees in the tourism sector or fisheries, which often makes them fall sick. About 8.2% of the total population falls below the national poverty line.

Life Span

The life spans of citizens have increased considerably thanks to the rapid and drastic expansion in the economy and infrastructure. According to the World Bank, the Maldives’ life expectancy in 2018 reached 77.2 years. Meanwhile, life expectancy was only 69.2 years in the year 2000. The increase in life expectancy has been considerable. However, there is a certain limitation to that as well since the island nation has limited infrastructure and resources.

Although the GDP increases every year, this pattern in economic growth is quite irregular. New establishments in the tourism industry and infrastructure should bring the GDP to 5.5% in 2020.

There is no denying that the country has made drastic improvements to help the situation of poverty in the Maldives. However, the situation continues to be fragile and vulnerable. If the Maldives continues to grow its tourism industry and infrastructure, it should be able to continue to reduce poverty in the future.

Astha Mamtani
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Maldives
The Republic of Maldives is a prime example of a nation that has seen tremendous development and a transformation in the quality of life over the last half-century. Formerly among the least developed countries in the world, the Maldives has achieved upper-middle-class status with one of the highest life expectancies at birth worldwide. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Maldives demonstrate the achievements of the cooperation and efforts of many sources:

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Maldives

  1. The Maldives is one of only five countries to graduate from the U.N.’s least developed countries (LDC) designation, achieving upper-middle-class status in 2011 in part because of its eradication of extreme poverty and vastly improved rates of life expectancy.
  2. The Maldives has seen the greatest increase in life expectancy at birth of any country over the last 59 years. According to the World Bank, Maldivians’ life expectancy has risen from 37 years in 1960 to 77 years in 2016. That’s one year lower than the United States, at 78, and above the worldwide average of 72 years. The 40-year improvement is well above the 19 year increase worldwide over the same period.
  3. The Maldives met five out of eight of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as of 2011 and is on track to meet its Sustained Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. The SDGs are an extension of the health, financial and infrastructure MDGs set by the U.N. to equalize global development by 2000. Millennium goals to conquer poverty, hunger, child mortality, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, as well as to achieve universal primary education and improve women’s health are considered fully achieved. Sustained health goals are a focus for the Maldivian government, including implementing successful initiatives to improve health, end hunger, improve nutrition, food security and apply sustainable agricultural practices.
  4. Foreign aid efforts by the World Bank, AusAID and the EU and the governments of several individual nations have played a vital role. Aid began in the 1980s with infrastructure improvements to Maldives’ fisheries and central airport, providing income for 20 percent of the population involved in fishing and improving the transport of aid and foreign resources by air. Education and training projects totaled $39.2 million by 2000 and aid increased after the 2004 tsunami to include $14 million in emergency funds.
  5. The United States has provided long-term aid to the Maldives since 2005. Projects sponsored by USAID helped restore water supply systems, upgrade sewage systems and power facilities and improve financial operations. Other United States aid efforts from the CDC are currently helping the Maldivian Ministry of Health monitor and treat communicable diseases like influenza across the country.
  6. Investments in health initiatives and the availability of care have dramatically improved life expectancy in the Maldives. The Maldivian government spent 7.5 percent of its gross national product on healthcare in 2004 and 13.7 percent in 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The nation has had a universal healthcare system since 2011,  and with help from WHO, eradicated Lymphatic Filariasis in 2016 and Measles in 2017. Mass drug administration, preventive chemotherapy and a political commitment to vaccinate children helped achieve eradication, with 99 percent of children under 12 having received a Measles vaccine as of 2017.
  7. Significant improvements in the health of women and children have been reported since 1990. In 2017, the fertility rate was at an all-time low, with only 2.1 births per woman rather than six in 1990. This drop contributed greatly to improvements in maternal health and quality of life for Maldivian children. Mortality rates for children under 5 years old dropped to eight in 1,000 births, helped by the increase in births attended by a healthcare professional from 70 percent in 2000 to 96 percent in 2017. Early childhood malnutrition, however, remains a serious threat to future life expectancy in the Maldives.
  8. Improved water quality and sanitation have decreased infectious disease outbreaks. At least 99 percent of Maldivians had access to improved water sources in 2015, with 98 percent reporting improved sanitation. However, inadequate waste disposal has continued to lead to water stagnation, worsening outbreaks of Dengue in certain areas.
  9. Maldives status as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) put it at risk of devastation from environmental change. The lowest-lying nation in the world, Maldives highest point is six feet above sea level, with several islands having already been evacuated due to flooding caused by rising oceans. Increasing numbers of young Maldivians migrating to urban centers face overcrowding, increased drug use and strained resources, as well as economic difficulties resulting from an unemployment rate of 23.5 percent in 2016. Health consequences arising from urban lifestyles, namely malnutrition and obesity and increased rates of heart disease, cancer and other non-communicable diseases, threaten future life expectancy in the Maldives.
  10. Current and proposed initiatives hold promise for overcoming environmental and health challenges. Five current World Bank projects are targeting preservation of the nation’s marine ecosystems, while five programs in the pipeline aim to diversify a Maldivian economy threatened by dependence on fishing. At the same time, health providers are focusing on mental health and contraceptive services, while policymakers tackle gender-based violence and public hygiene.

Progress in health and sanitation, as well as investment and aid from international NGOs, have enabled Maldivians to live 40 years longer than they would have two generations ago. As a Small Island Developing State, however, Maldives faces threats from climate change. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Maldives show incredible progress, yet it is unclear whether the nation has now achieved the self-sufficiency to meet these challenges without further international assistance.

– Marissa Field
Photo: Pixabay