Health and Nutrition
Recurrent Problems of Disparity and Undernutrition: The Maldives has made considerable progress in maternal and child health over the last decade. According to Government data, the infant mortality rate has fallen from 34 (per 1000 live births) in 1990 to 15 in 2004. Under-five mortality has also significantly declined, from 44 (per 1000 live births) in 1990 to 22 in 2004.
Although child survival has improved over the years, two issues threaten this laudable progress: increasing disparity and persistently high undernutrition rates.
Despite gains in mortality rates, the disparity between the atolls and Male’ has actually increased over the last 10 years, with atolls currently enduring an under-five mortality rate of 30 compared to 11 in Male’ (2004). In addition, reduced undernutrition has not been commensurate with health developments. Among countries with comparable rates of under-five mortality, the Maldives shows alarmingly high and persistent levels of undernutrition in all three indicators of nutrition status.
Many factors are responsible for the high levels of undernutrition in the country. These include dietary habits and preferences for staple foods like rice and fish; inadequate access to health care; poor infant feeding, childcare, and hygiene practices; and the high incidence of certain infections. The significant proportion of imported food, high in cost and irregularly supplied, restricts the consumption of vitamin and mineral rich foods. Among all the fruit and vegetables imported into the Maldives, the largest proportion goes to the tourist resorts and the second largest to Male’. Very few, if any, imported fresh foods arrive at the islands. This leads to high food insecurity and corresponding undernutriton rates.