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At a Glance: Health and Nutrition in the Maldives

At a Glance: Health and Nutrition in the Maldives

  • 15 per 1000 infant mortality rate  
  • 31% prevalence of children under five underweight (weight/age)
  • 24.8% of children under five stunted (height/age)
  • 13.2% of children under five wasted (weight/height)
  • 18% of children exclusively breast-fed (<6 months)
  • 97% DPT 3 coverage rate

Situation of Health and Nutrition in the Maldives
Infant mortality in the Maldives has fallen from 34 per 1000 in 1990 to 15 in 2004, and under-five mortality has declined from 44 per 1000 to 22 in the same period. Two key issues stand out above all the improving numbers: the increasing disparity between the capital city, Malé, and the far flung islands that make up the rest of the nation; and the persistently high undernutrition rates.

In 2004, under-five mortality in the atolls was 30 per 1000, compared with 11 per 1000 in Malé, and the rates of wasted, stunted, and underweight children are particularly high for a country at the current level of economic and social development. Some of the factors that have been identified as possible causes for undernutrition are dietary habits and preferences, inadequate healthcare access, poor infant feeding, childcare, and hygiene practices, and the high cost of imported food.

UNICEF's Response
In the Maldives, where 21% of atoll-based hospitals face problems getting medicine (in comparison with 9% of hospitals in Malé), and where 38% of inhabited islands have no health centre, hospital or private clinic, it is critical to develop policies and systems to ensure more equitable delivery of services. At the same time, with so many islands lacking health facilities, it is equally critical to build health and nutrition skills among family health workers and members of the community.

UNICEF is working to ensure that high standards of care are offered at health care facilities across the 20 atolls; to provide mobile emergency services for remote islands; to increase the levels of training and visibility of healthcare workers; and to develop community and internet-based solutions to the challenges of creating a nationwide health and nutrition network, through four key strategies:

  • Ensuring properly equipped, supplied and staffed health centres in all atolls
  • Developing a National Nutrition Strategy
  • Creating a web-based nutrition and child health surveillance system to identify children in need of attention
  • Mobilizing communities and family health workers to share knowledge and improve household- level care practices for early   childhood development

The Future of Health and Nutrition
UNICEF's interventions beyond the tsunami response will build on the foundation provided by the nationwide web-based child health and nutrition surveillance system and support provided to the health centres, Integrated Early Childhood Development Verandas and positive deviance strategies. Further advocacy-based initiatives will support health services for children, address the root causes of undernutrition, and ensure that communities are aware of health behavior choices into the future. The health and nutrition surveillance system will be an advocacy tool for identifying gaps in health and nutrition services which will help the government with better programme planning and implementation. The programme’s aim for 2008-2010 is to ensure that all children under five and pregnant mothers have sustained access to quality health services, and that 50% of caregivers of children under three apply community- and household-based care and feeding practices.

Our Partners in Health and Nutrition
World Health Organization, UNFPA, and the Ministry of Health and Department of Public Health

Resources for Health and Nutrition
To carry out planned Health and Nutrition activities in  2008-2010, UNICEF requires US$590,000 (pending UNICEF Exec. Board approval).


Key Achievements since December 2004

  • 8 destroyed / heavily tsunami-damaged health facilities rebuilt with UNICEF assistance
  • 66 health facilities adopting the new Online Child Health and Nutrition Tracking System
  • 56 healthcare facilities adopting IECD strategy of Positive Deviance
  • Primary immunization rates maintained, despite tsunami, at 97%
  • National cold chain management system improved through new equipment and training
  • 30 Early Childhood Development Verandas in planning and construction phase




For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection