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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Caring for the children of uninhabitable Gemendhoo

© UNICEF Maldives/2005
A Unicef staff member in Kudahuvadhoo, Maldives helps a young tsunami survivor after her entire island was evacuated.

GEMENDHOO, Maldives, 14 January 2005 – On the approach to the Maldivian island of Gemendhoo, the first sign of the tsunami’s impact is a phone booth, resting on its side in the shallow water about 70 meters from shore.

The second sign is that nobody lives on this once-postcard-perfect island anymore – in fact, nobody can live here – because the island resembles a war zone where a thousand bombs exploded, leaving no structure untouched.

Entire buildings are now rubble. At one house, the only object that survived intact is the toilet, which now stands alone on the cement foundation.

All around, walls are missing from structures, and the cracked wells that once provided drinking water are now full of debris and salt water.

The entire island was underwater at one point after the tsunami hit. So it’s surprising that, out of about 460 people who live here, only five are confirmed dead and two remain missing.

The survivors were evacuated to the island of Kudahuvadhoo, which appears much as it did before the tsunami.

Brothers Iqbal and Riyaz Latif, nine and 11 years old, lost their older sister, who was carried out to sea.

Today they’re talking with UNICEF staff members about the tsunami and the coming school year, which begins in just one week.

Riyaz wants to talk about the wave that still gives him nightmares.

“I climbed onto a roof when the tsunami hit,” he says. “That roof fell down, so I climbed onto another roof with my relatives and friends.”
It's still too early to say how long it will be before children like Iqbal and Riyaz can return home, but UNICEF is doing everything it can to make sure they will be as healthy as possible when that day finally arrives.




14 January 2005: UNICEF’s Thomas Nybo reports from Gemendhoo on child survivors in the Maldives.
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14 January 2005: UNICEF’s Assistant Representative for the Republic of Maldives Tom Bergmann-Harris discusses the future for children in the country.

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