Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

The struggle to reach remote islands in the Maldives

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Maldives/2004/Shah
Homes have been completely destroyed by the tidal waves.
MALE, Maldives, 29 December 2004 - The 1,200 coral islands of the Maldives were devastated by tsunamis that struck after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake of December 26. Some of the country’s uninhabited islands were completely washed away.

Two-thirds of the Maldives population, some 300,000 people, have been affected. UNICEF Maldives reports that 14,000 children, women and men have been displaced by the tsunami, and estimates that 100,000 people could end up homeless.

Approximately 60 people are known to have died since Sunday, but that figure is expected to rise. Hundreds of people, including children, are still missing.

UNICEF provided immediate assistance to some 200 children evacuated from two islands which had been completely destroyed. The children and their families lost everything, except the clothes on their backs.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Maldives/2004/Shah
Shakiba with her four month old daughter. Shakiba has now taken refuge in a village hospital with her three children and husband after her house was completely destroyed by the tidal waves.
Communication with communities on the 200 inhabited islands is still extremely difficult, and in some cases, impossible. While information is available from 122 of the 200 islands, 78 islands are still unreachable. Efforts to evacuate victims have been hindered by structural damage to the islands themselves – planes have been unable to land.

There has been substantial damage to harbours, sewage systems and sea walls on half of the inhabited islands.

UNICEF is working with the government and other UN agencies to provide much-needed supplies, and assisting in the evacuation and recovery of victims on all islands.

There is grave concern for the 20 per cent of the inhabitants who are now without drinking water. Thirty-nine out of 200 islands have no access to clean water.

 “It is absolutely clear that the top priorities at this stage are the provision of clean drinking water, food and the protection against the impact of the weather,” said UNICEF Assistant Representative Tom Bergmann-Harris.

The first cases of diarrhoeal diseases have appeared and drinking water polluted by the sea water, rubbish and rotting animal carcasses could soon trigger cholera and other epidemics.

The government is concerned about the possibility of a cholera outbreak and is monitoring the situation. Added to this immediate crisis is the fact that food items not washed away or spoilt are dwindling fast. Maldivians are totally dependant on fishing and food imports, neither of which is currently possible.


 

 

Audio

29 December 2004: UNICEF Assistant Representative for the Maldives, Tom Bergmann-Harris gives the latest update regarding the destruction caused by the tsunamis

Related links

New enhanced search