Since 1978, UNICEF has supported children’s rights in the Maldives.
UNICEF in the Maldives
Around the world, UNICEF is working to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfill their potentials. We have been in the Maldives since 1978, when we responded to a cholera outbreak that spun out of control. At the time, only 15 percent of Maldivian children were enrolled in primary schools, and one in five children died before their first birthday.
In the four decades since, the Maldives has become a development success story. Today, the country has one of the lowest poverty rates in South Asia. Nearly all Maldivian children are enrolled in primary schools. And the average life expectancy has increased by more than 30 years. Such successes, along with the rapid growth of infrastructure, the sprawl of the tourism industry, and the expansion of public services, propelled the Maldives into middle-income country status in 2011. Unfortunately, however, these improvements did not happen in a vacuum. As pockets of the country improved, others – particularly remote, far-flung islands – lagged behind.
All children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential – in the Maldives and around the world.
Throughout the years, UNICEF has altered its strategy to reflect the country’s progress, shifting our programs to address children’s most pressing needs. In the early 1980s, for example, we directly intervened in children’s lives, driving health boats around the islands to ensure every child had access to quality care. Today, we focus on strengthening the national and local systems that effect children, working with governments, civil society organizations, and youth themselves to create impact. In addition, we amplify children’s voices by engaging in policy and advocacy work, ensuring children and adolescents are constantly at the forefront of conversation.
We have also responded to floods, storms and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunamis, boosted knowledge and awareness through communications campaigns, and empowered young Maldivians through our volunteer program and other youth-focused initiatives. We strengthen systems and inform dialogue on topics that concern children, including health, nutrition, education, child protection, climate change, and social inclusion, among others.
Partnerships: at the heart of our work
The UNICEF Maldives Office works with several partners to improve children’s lives. We join forces with other UN agencies and contribute to shared projects, including the development of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), the National Human Rights Framework under the Attorney General’s Office, and the development of the UN Inter-Agency Contingency and Preparedness Plan. We collaborated with the World Health Organization to ensure that the global polio switch was successfully implemented in the Maldives, contributing to a larger global polio eradication plan. And, we work with non-governmental organizations to push for the inclusion of children with disabilities in national education plans. We also work with the Ministries of Health; Education; Higher Education; Gender, Family, and Social Services; Youth, Sports, and Community Empowerment; Environment; Attorney General Office; Prosecutor General Office; Maldives Police Service; the National Disaster Management Authority, and other national bodies, including academia, to improve the lives of children.
A few of our most recent partnerships are highlighted below.
UNICEF has partnered with local airline Manta Air, to collaborate on promoting children’s rights and to support skills development of young people for employment in the aviation industry. Through this partnership groups of young Maldivian women and men will benefit from an internship opportunity with Manta Air. This internship programme will certainly offer these young women and men creative and unique learning and skill development experiences that may open for them exiting future work opportunities.
UNICEF is partnering with Dhiraagu, the largest telecommunications company in the Maldives, to push for environmental protection and road safety. We will soon be providing water filtration equipment to promote the use of reusable water bottles, which were donated by UNICEF in 2018 and 2019 as an alternative to single-use plastic. We will draw on Dhiraagu’s wide reach to educate children, young people and families on road safety. The company has 500,000 customers country-wide – and by tapping into Dhiraagu’s SMS network, we will engage thousands on the most pressing issues facing Maldivian children.
University of Milano-Bicocca
UNICEF and the University of Milano-Bicocca are working together to promote and strengthen research, education and training on health systems and health outcomes in Maldives. We are investigating the health status and nutritional habits of Maldivian youth and children, boosting public awareness on the use of drug abuse in the Maldives, and pushing for further investigation into children’s health issues. The university is also supporting UNICEF’s efforts to establish Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) on islands throughout the country, increasing communities’ ability to plan and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.
National Bureau of Statistics
UNICEF worked with the National Bureau of Statistics to develop the first-ever Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in the Maldives. The MPI encompasses data on household income, consumption, and the complexities of deprivation and inequality among communities, and sheds light on how these factors impact children. It also assists with the identification of vulnerable children, facilitating targeted interventions to ensure no child is left behind.