|© UNICEF Maldives/2005/McBride|
|Children engaging in play-based learning activities at Nooranee pre-school, Naifaru Island, Maldives.|
By Ken Maskall
MALE, Maldives, December 2005 – UNICEF Representative in the Maldives Ken Maskall speaks about the challenges facing UNICEF and its partners in helping the people of the Maldives rebuild their lives after the tsunami:
“I think undoubtedly in the Maldives every single island was affected by the wave on 26 December. The waves inundated just about every populated island in the Maldives, 200 populated islands in the Maldives, 1200 in all. But I think that had scarred the psyche of the people on these islands, who had never experienced any natural disaster of any kind before.
“The challenge for us was the very dispersed nature of the response. The islands are spread across 800 nautical miles, north to south, across the archipelago of the Maldives, so we had huge challenges in terms of mobilising logistics, but very quickly we really locked into getting kids back to school as a priority. By 26 January we had all children back in school with uniforms, books, shoes, bags, recreational materials, a lot of learning kits. That was the platform for a programme that has really built momentum.
“We have 30 schools under reconstruction at the moment, due to be finished in the spring. That has provided the anchor for a lot of other work we’re doing in the community in restoring environmental services – water and environmental. And our first response was to provide water by reverse osmosis plants on a mobile basis; very urgent rapid delivery. But we’ve moved on to rain water harvesting, initially centred on schools, which we’ve covered. And we’ve moved on further now to household rainwater harvesting.
“But the increased presence of our water here in the Maldives, our team has grown three-fold, working with a broader group of UN partners as well. Our presence has brought about a deeper understanding of some of the key problems that are affecting the children even before the tsunami, so it’s a major step forward.”
Tsunami stories from Maldives
Children and the Tsunami, A Year On:
A Draft UNICEF Summary of What Worked [PDF]