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

Water Quality in MaldivesThe Maldives—a nation composed of over 1,000 islands and known as a tropical paradise—has a dirty little secret: the world’s largest trash island.

A few miles from the capital city, Malé, an artificial island has been built in order to solve Malé’s trash problem. However, with over 10,000 waste-producing tourists visiting the Maldives each week, the trash island has grown into a pile covering over 124 acres. While tourism has sparked a healthy economy and turned the Maldives into the richest country in South Asia, the industry is consequentially producing an environmental burden with the unsustainable creation of waste. The trash island “grows” nearly one square meter each day. The island—named Thilafushi—is concerning environmental campaigners at an alarming rate.

The waste is brought to the island on ships and taken ashore, then sifted through by hand. While some trash is incinerated, the majority of waste is buried in landfills. As a result, environmentalists are “seeing batteries, asbestos, lead, and other potentially hazardous waste mixed in with the municipal solid wastes being put into the water.” Malé environmentalist, Ali Rilwan, notes, “these wastes are a source of heavy toxic metals and it is an increasingly serious ecological and health problem in the Maldives.”

Some of the reasons Thilafushi is such a big problem are very simple. Firstly, the islands of the Maldives are small, which means so are the freshwater sources. By housing large amounts of waste, water contamination is bound to occur and according to Rilwan, it is occurring. Secondly, because of the small landmass and the large tourism industry, waste is going to be produced and it has to go somewhere. At this point, India is being paid to take some of the waste.

Fortunately, water quality in the Maldives is more of an anticipated problem than it is a present one. According to the U.N. Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water, access to drinking water is high. While water degradation due to salinity and pollution make the access challenging, the U.N. reports over 90 percent of the Maldives do have access.

In response to the call for improved quality, the nation has set forth a number of specific goals, including keeping rural water supplies functioning long-term, improving continuity of urban water supplies and rehabilitating broken public facilities. The Maldives has embraced financing a WASH program, which recognizes drinking water and sanitation as a human right.

The government is active in making the right to drinking water a reality across the islands. After taking notes from the problems of small freshwater resources and the pollution that is seemingly unavoidable as a result of tourism, the government has joined with Aquaver and Stelco—a power company—to address the problem with a new idea: desalination plants.

To better ensure good water quality in the Maldives, the partnership is seeking to build a desalination plant on every island, in order to provide a safe and reliable drinking source that also has an energy-producing capacity which capitalizes on the heat exchanges that occur during the desalination process. The plan includes distribution kiosks with reusable containers. Overall, this would reduce waste and increase access to high-quality water, which directly aids the Maldives in solving two pending problems.

With the government’s careful monitoring and proactive initiative with local businesses, the future for water in the Maldives is looking good. In the recent past, water quality in the Maldives has been a quiet topic, as it brings hidden secrets—such as Thilafushi—into the conversation. However, by revealing what is damaging the water quality and addressing the issues with innovative solutions that grow business, increase safe water access and remove one less piece of trash from the nation’s waste, the future looks nearly as crystal clear as its famous beach waters.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in MaldivesThe Maldives, a beautiful island and popular tourist destination, is located southwest of India in Southern Asia. Though it is picturesque, the country is particularly attractive to mosquitos, which transmit three of the most common diseases in the Maldives: Zika fever, dengue fever and chikugunya fever. Specifically, the mosquito species Aedes aegypti – which is particularly attracted to tropical climates like that of the Maldives – carries and transmits the viruses that cause all three of these diseases.

Most commonly, the Aedes aegypti mosquito lays eggs near houses in suburban areas, which is the primary reason why mosquito-transmitted viruses cause the most common diseases in the Maldives. Visitors are also at-risk for contracting Zika, dengue or chikugunya, because mosquitos tend to reside close to aquatic areas – which tend to be popular tourist locations.

Once they enter the body, Zika, dengue and chikugunya begin as flu-like viruses and they all share fairly similar symptoms including high fever, headache, joint pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The difficultly to distinguish each virus from each other is one of the explanations as to why many cases are left untreated or improperly treated and eventually transform into long-term diseases.

The Zika virus – which was deemed an epidemic in the United States in 2015 by the World Health Organization – was first reported in the Maldives when a man returned to Finland from traveling there in 2015. The strain of Zika virus found in the man was similar to that of other Zika virus strains found in nearby Asian countries.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) strongly advises that pregnant women do not travel to the Maldives, because the Zika virus may be spread from the mother to their fetus. Furthermore, the spread of the Zika virus may be prevented by practicing safe sex and using condoms and avoiding mosquito bites. Currently, there is no vaccination for the Zika virus.

In 2015, the Maldives government reported that 1,800 individuals had contracted the dengue virus; however, a steady decline in the dengue virus through various awareness programs has fortunately been reported as well.

Like the Zika virus, there is no vaccination for the dengue virus. However, the CDC provides preventative techniques similar to those that pertain to the Zika virus, including avoiding mosquito bites, spraying bug repellent after applying sunscreen and using a bed net.
The chikugunya virus resembles both the Zika and dengue viruses, and it is extremely difficult to discern between all three of the mosquito-transmitted viruses.

Due to the difficulty of identifying and properly treating theses three viruses, the best course of action is for residents and visitors of the Maldives to take the aforementioned precautionary steps in order to avoid illness. Only then will the prevalence of these common diseases be able to significantly decline.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

Maldives Poverty RateMaldives is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean. While the country was a life expectancy of 77 years and a literacy rate of 98.4 percent, the Maldives poverty rate still allows room for growth.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reported that by 2016, only two percent of the nation’s citizens lived under the international poverty line. Similarly, Asian Development Bank reported 2015 that 15 percent of people in Maldives lived under the national poverty line.

Though this seems a bit higher, other South Asian countries show even greater numbers for the same statistic. For example, India’s is almost 22 percent, Nepal’s is over 25 percent. Bangladesh ranks higher than all of them, coming up at over 31 percent.Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives—at 12 and 6.7 percent, respectively.

When looking at the death of infants in Maldives, 2015 data indicated that seven out of 1,000 babies die in live births. This country ranks the lowest when put side-by-side with Sri Lanka (8), Bhutan (27), Nepal (29), Bangladesh (31) and India (38).

When looking at 2012 data on the percentage of “employed population below $1.90 purchasing power parity a day,” Maldives settles in at 6.6 percent. This means that it still ranks below Bangladesh (over 73 percent), India (almost 18 percent) and Nepal (over 12 percent).

Similar to the statistic regarding the national poverty line, only Bhutan and Sri Lanka fall below Maldives in the list of six nations—both resting at slightly over four percent.

The Maldives tout an unemployment rate slightly below 12 percent, a GDP per capita at about $11,282 and tourist activities accounting for a quarter of its GDP.

However, it is important to note that a variety of issues still impact the nation.

The UNDP points out a lack of opportunities for female autonomy, a need for greater answerability within governing bodies and the dangers of environmental degradation.

Rural Poverty Portal also touches on problems the nation struggles with. It indicates that much of the country’s poverty exists on islands where fishing and farming predominate. Focusing on the less urbanized areas, it highlights that insufficient supply of natural resources, low credit and poor farming techniques all contribute.

Still, in relation to many of its counterparts, the Maldives poverty rate suggests much promise for the South Asian country. Although the nation must make improvements in a variety of aspects beyond those listed, its current status reflects its well-being.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Maldives
The top diseases in the Maldives mirror those in much of the rest of the globe. Non-communicable illnesses dominate the majority of the diseases in the Maldives. However, at 77 years, life expectancy in the Maldives is much better than the majority of the world. In addition, the annual mortality rate among healthy people in the Maldives is 578 per 100,000 people. This is with a very small population of around 400,000.

Worldwide, there needs to be more of a focus and research on cardiovascular diseases. It impacts hundreds of thousands of individuals every year, and it is the most common disease in the Maldives. Of all the major diseases, 37% of them are various types of cardiovascular disease.

The majority of the top diseases in the Maldives are non-communicable, including different cardiovascular diseases. Some of the other non-communicable diseases that impact the Maldives included chronic respiratory diseases, which have a mortality rate of just over 9%. Mortality rates for diabetes and other blood and endocrine diseases sit at just over 8%. Cancer is a major disease around the world that is receiving a lot of research, and the mortality rate in the Maldives is sitting at 7.5%.

Unintentional injuries also have a high spot on the list of mortality rates at just over 7%. Additionally, self-harm is just over 2%. Injuries seem to be a lot higher on lists than other countries around the world and are avoidable. The unintentional injuries are tough to prevent, but self-harm is preventable with proper help and care.

One of the most common communicable diseases is neonatal disorders (6% mortality rate). Additionally, diarrhea and lower respiratory diseases have a 5% mortality rate. These are rarely seen around the world.

Risk factors in the country include tobacco smoking, with 42% of current male smokers at risk and only 7% of females at risk of medical problems caused by tobacco smoking. Elevated blood pressure is also a problem, with 23% of the country having blood pressure problems. The other major risk factor in the Maldives is obesity.

Zika is still a major concern in the Maldives, so there are many precautions for individuals visiting the area. Travelers need to be aware of other diseases in the area and have their vaccinations up-to-date before entering the Maldives.

Non-communicable diseases dominate the list of top diseases in the Maldives. There needs to be more of a focus on preventing and treating cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases in this region.

Brendin Axtman
Photo: Flickr

hunger in maldives
Many experts would say the development of the 1,192-island country of the Maldives is an extraordinary success story. In the past three decades, the nation has moved from one of the world’s 20 poorest countries to a middle-income country with almost double the population it had in the early 1980s.

The tropical islands have become a destination for many travelers looking for nature adventures and a huge marine life economy. It is a nation rich in natural beauty, and ecotourism accounts for about 70 percent of employment. More than half of public revenues, almost all exports and close to 80 percent of GDP rely on the ecosystem and biodiversity-based sectors.

According to the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), rising price levels are impacting the rising poverty rates of the Maldives’ capital, Male. In 2009 and 2010, about 8 percent of the population lived on $1.25 or less a day. The good news is that this number has dropped significantly in the past few years. The nation saw its poverty rates decrease from 40 percent in 1997 to 28 percent in 2004. The World Bank is currently working to calculate the latest numbers.

In December 2016, the Maldives left the Commonwealth of Nations, after joining in 1982. A spokesperson from the Commonwealth Secretariat said the nation received developmental assistance in various ways including education, research studies and strengthening multi-party democracy. Critics of the departure claim that the government is failing the country with this decision and that it would be beneficial for the country to stay engaged with the international community so it can keep working to eradicate hunger in the Maldives.

However, the Maldives minister of foreign affairs Mohamed Asim claims that the help from the Commonwealth was not significant in any way and that the budget for aid shrinks every year. Asim claims in an article in The Independent that the Commonwealth is too preoccupied with trying to leverage its international diplomacy to help develop the smaller nation members.

In the wake of leaving the Commonwealth, the Maldives launched its first international sovereign bonds through the Singapore Stock Exchange in an attempt to boost the economy of the island country according to the Economic Times. The government is confident this will boost the overall economy and that hunger in the Maldives will soon have no significant impact on the islands’ citizens.

Emily Arnold

Photo: Flickr

Climate Refugees: Island Nations to Find New Home

The Maldivian people could soon be forced into refugee status, not by an oppressive government or violence, but by such strong climate change that in its power, will create climate refugees.

The Asian Development Bank reported that the Maldives is “hardest hit by climate change,” even though it is one of the lowest CO2 emitting nations in the world.

At this moment, less ice covers the Arctic than at any other time in history and sea levels are rising at a steady rate. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessed that the world is approaching 10-13 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. At that kind of level, the Maldives would essentially disappear.

Sea level rise is not unforeseen. Since 1992 the world has seen an average increase of three inches in sea levels, with some areas experiencing up to nine inches. Those responsible have no excuse not to act.

Residents of the Maldive islands have started informal talks of mass migration of climate refugees to Australia, Sri Lanka and India. Additionally, the Maldives established a relocation fund to help its citizens buy land overseas as the government realized that the need to relocate will occur sooner rather than later.

The Maldives is not the only country seeking refuge in Australia. Tuvalu, located in Oceania, requested that Australia prepare for the arrival of 12,000 climate refugees from the island in the near future.

Some of Tuvalu’s people have already left the islands to seek stability elsewhere, making them climate refugees. The Maldives prepare to face this same future.

Already, many villages in the islands of Oceania have been destroyed by natural disasters, displacing communities and halting, sometimes ending, people’s lives.

Those forced to relocate are in danger of losing their national and cultural identities, and many of the Maldivian people want to stay. If those in power do nothing, many will lose their homes and be forced to relocate.

Ayah Alkhars

Photo: Flickr

The Republic of Maldives is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean comprised of more than 1,000 tiny coral islands split into 26 geographical atolls. The country spans 90,000 square kilometers and is the flattest country on earth. As such, even the smallest rise in sea levels can have extensive effects on the country’s land mass, infrastructure, agriculture and water quality.

There are many reasons why there are troubles with water scarcity and poor water quality in the Maldives.

Changing climate conditions

The Maldives’ second greatest source of freshwater, after rainfall, comes from groundwater. The groundwater can be found under every island in what hydrologists call lenses. A lens refers to a curved layer of freshwater that floats on top of a denser layer of saltwater. However, as sea levels rise, groundwater becomes contaminated and salinized. Certain estimates state that if sea levels rise by one meter, it will reduce the capacity for groundwater by as much as 79 percent.Since the 1950s, the sea level in the Maldives has been rising by 0.03-0.06 inches every year and is expected to rise, at a mid-level scenario, 1.5 feet by 2100, losing 77 percent of the country’s land area. This will have a significant impact on water quality in the Maldives. Additionally, warmer temperatures continue to allow for high levels of evaporation, which reduces the amount of rainwater left to infiltrate through the ground into the aquifers.

Since the 1950s, the sea level in the Maldives has been rising by 0.03-0.06 inches every year and is expected to rise, at a mid-level scenario, 1.5 feet by 2100, losing 77 percent of the country’s land area. This will have a significant impact on water quality in the Maldives. Additionally, warmer temperatures continue to allow for high levels of evaporation, which reduces the amount of rainwater left to infiltrate through the ground into the aquifers.

Rising population and increase in water pollution

Groundwater that remains nonsalinized faces other obstacles, most notably, pollution from poor sewage systems. In the 1970s, rapid development in the capital city, Malé, caused an influx of immigrants from other islands to the capital. The quantity of water being extracted from aquifers increased tenfold, and groundwater pollution increased as well, due to more sewage in the system, causing poorer water quality in the Maldives.

Lack of government initiatives

The Maldivian government has been slow to assess the impacts of climate change and groundwater pollution and create policies around water resource management. However, many strides have been made and show positive potential future change.

The first important technique for managing quality water in the Maldives is rainwater harvesting. In 2013, in the Southern region of the Maldives, 69 percent of households had rainwater tanks, while only 36 percent of households in the South Central region had tanks. On the island of Muli, the capital of the South Central region, 80 percent of households had tanks. However, on the neighboring island of Ribudhoo, only 20 percent of households had tanks. Many islands do not have rainwater tanks whatsoever and have reported water shortages to the Maldive National Defense Forces and asked for emergency water supplies. Increasing the number of rainwater tanks could greatly improve access to clean water and overall water quality in the Maldives.

Saltwater desalination could help provide clean drinking water to not only the Maldivian islands, but to other island nations around the world. In February 2014, government officials met with from the Aquiva Foundation, Memsys, Aquaver, and STELCO, a local power company, to commission a desalination facility on the island of Gulhi. The goal was for the plant to produce up to 10 tons of quality water per day from seawater for drinking, cooking and hygiene.

Gulhi is a small island 600 meters by 300 meters with a population of 1,200 people. Seasonal rain does not provide adequately for year-round water needs, and the island has relied on imported water. Much of the population spent up to 50 percent of their income on safe water, and the rest of the population opted for cheaper, unsafe water which was causing diseases.

The new plant uses captured waste heat from energy generators and membrane distillation technology to power the desalination plants. The desalinated water is then mineralized using local coral sand. The water is distributed through taps at communal water kiosks and must be collected by citizens in reusable containers 1.5-20 liters. The water costs $0.05-$0.07 per liter, significantly lower than imported water.

In 2016, the Aquiva Foundation acknowledged the two-year anniversary of the desalination plant. Despite many bumps in the road, the plant has seen many great successes. It produces up to 10,000 liters of drinking water per day. It is energy efficient, reliable and consistent in producing high quality of water in the Maldives. The success of this plant provides hope to other island nations similar to the Maldives.

The best method to improve water quality in the Maldives is education. Thanks to ample understanding of climate change and NGOs educating citizens on the concerns of sea levels rising, there is potential for improvement. Creating sustainable irrigation to cut down on rainwater evaporation, increasing the number of rainwater tanks and building up infrastructure will all be vital in ensuring that the Maldives continues to have access to quality water.

Phoebe Cohen

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Maldives is improving. The country has grown into a middle-income country over the past 40 years. Its population has steadily increased, sitting now at nearly 410,000 people. Life expectancy at birth has also increased steadily and consistently in the Southern-Asian group of islands in the Indian Ocean over the past five decades. The Maldives life expectancy at birth was just 37 in 1960. It currently stands at more than 76 years of age.

Economically, the former British Protectorate and current climate change champion has bettered itself largely in the past decade. The country’s Gross National Income (GNI), or the sum of the value added by all resident producers, was less than $3,500 per capita in 2003. That number climbed gradually, topping out at $4,000 in 2007.

GNI per capita in the Maldives skyrocketed over the next 10 years, bounding up to $4,880 in 2008, $5,030 in 2009 and nearly $7,000 by 2015.

In reference to a more widely understood, accepted and analyzed statistic, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), poverty in the Maldives has rebounded since the turn of the century.

Annual GDP growth percentage figures fell off the cliff from 2004 to 2005, dropping more than 21 percentage points, from 12.5 percent growth to shrinking by 8.7 percent.

However, GPD growth was up 28.3 percent the following year, to 19.6 percent annual GDP growth in 2006. Since that time, growth in GDP has leveled out and remained consistent, around 3.5 percent today.

In 2009, it was estimated by the World Bank that 15.7 percent of the population lived in poverty in the Maldives. Severe poverty was 7.3 percent, measured as the proportion of those living on less than $1.90 a day.

Today more than 98 percent drink clean water, and 97.9 percent have access to improved sanitation facilities. Poverty in the Maldives is not entirely reflected in its GDP either as it currently sits at $3.4 billion and growing.

According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, poverty in the Maldives may not be improving, as the collection of Southern-Asian islands in the Indian Ocean continues to spend, dropping its gross national savings eight percent in two years (2014-2016).

Poverty in Maldives — if measured by unemployment numbers — presents a problem in that more than 11.5 percent of its 392,960 people are without work.

While some facts and figures project an improving economy, poverty in the Maldives remains an issue as the country spends more than its revenue and works to combat climate change. The region has witnessed fiscal expansion and domestic growth, yet may feel after effects of an unbalanced trade ratio in coming years.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

In 2004, a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean hit the coasts of several countries in South and Southeast Asia, resulting in massive damage and more than 100 reported casualties in the Maldives. With unwavering aid and support from internal communities and UNICEF, the island country has experienced significant achievements in its health, poverty and economic status, but particularly in the field of education.

The Maldives is the first country in South Asia labeled as an ‘MDG Plus’ country by achieving five of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals before 2015.

Because early childhood education is obligatory and free of charge, the country’s net enrollment increased from 51.2 percent in 2001 to 99.6 percent in 2016.

Higher secondary enrollment increased dramatically from 2013 to 2016 due to the successful implementation of the No Child Left Behind policy.

Student passing percentage in GCE O’Level 5-subjects rose significantly from 27 percent in 2009 to 56 percent in 2015. Goals have been set for education in the Maldives to achieve the national target of 60 percent in 2017.

As a direct response to the tsunami disaster, UNICEF brought resources to ‘hard-to-reach’ children through Teacher Resource Centers (TRCs), as a part of its Tsunami Recovery Programme. TRCs allow students to access a global e-network of teacher training and educational resources.

UNICEF ensures that education in the Maldives reaches all children with special needs. In addition, Life-Skills Based Education (LSBE) targets secondary school children and includes lessons on HIV/AIDs, civic education and vocational training to prepare Maldivian youth for adulthood.

Since the Maldives unified its education system in 1978, the literacy rate has risen from 70 percent to 98 percent.

The work of teachers and caregivers in the Maldives continues to put improved learning standards in place. Just as the nation’s overall conditions of life have reached a high since the struggles brought on by natural disaster, education in the Maldives will hopefully only advance in the future.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr