Ending plastic pollution: the FenFulhi Launch Events in Addu City and Fuvahmulah Island
UNICEF, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Education teamed up to distribute nearly 10,000 BPA-free reusable water bottles to first-graders across Maldives as part of the new government’s 100 Days Action Plan.
Ending plastic pollution in the Maldives: the FenFulhi Launch Events in Addu City and Fuvahmulah Island
On February 21 and 22, children, parents and teachers in Addu City and Fuvahmulah joined UNICEF, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Education to rally against single-use plastics at Hithadhoo and Mohamed Jamaluddin schools.
“Plastic pollution is a huge problem in our community,” said Dr. Asiyath Mohamed Dida, the principal of Hithadhoo School. “We’re working on helping kids understand that. Many of their parents are not aware of how plastic affects us, but we think that with this knowledge, the young generation can bring change.”
The event was part of a larger campaign to reduce single-use plastics – such as water bottles, plastic bags and plastic straws – across the country, and is a piece of the government’s action plan for the administration’s first 100 days.
Since late last year, UNICEF has partnered with the Ministries of Environment and Education to distribute nearly 10,000 BPA-free reusable water bottles to grade one students. By providing families with these bottles, we are helping them reduce reliance on single-use plastic, while building awareness on the ways single-use plastic is harming their communities. The launch events at Hithadhoo and Mohamed Jamaluddin schools celebrated that initiative, and provided a platform to discuss environmental degradation through dialogue, songs and skits.
“These water bottles are a symbol of your commitment to the environment,” said Mohamed El Munir A. Safieldin, the UNICEF Representative to Maldives. “Planet earth belongs to you, but you have to take charge of protecting the environment to protect your own futures.”
More than eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the oceans every year, 50 percent of which has only been used once and thrown away. Though plastic pollution is a problem throughout the world, in the Maldives, the situation is particularly dire. The country is made up of 99 percent water and one percent land, a geographic composition that makes any damage to the oceans reverberate through the islands. Every day, 280,000 plastic bottles are used and discarded in Malé, the capital city, alone. And last year, 104 million plastic bags were imported to the Maldives. Awareness-raising initiatives are tackling this issue from a different angle, attempting to reduce single-use plastic consumption by transforming children into change agents of their communities.
“Since we are responsible for all of this, we should really try hard to fix the problems it causes,” said Ayaa Nsiyam, a 13-year-old girl in Fuvahmulah.
Safieldin was joined by Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan, Minister of the Environment, and Dr. Aishath Ali, Minister of Education. At the culmination of each event, the Ministers and Safieldin gave water bottles to representatives from the 20 primary schools in Addu and Fuvahmulah, all of whom were grade one students accompanied by their caregivers.
“We need to decide whether we want to continue living on planet earth, or end the lives of ourselves and those around us,” said Safieldin. “Do we want to continue living? Or do we want to die? I personally want to live, and I know all of you want the same. To do that, we need to protect the environment.”
This initiative builds on a number of others that came before it: in 2018, a nationwide ban on single-use plastics was implemented in schools across the Maldives. Ever since, students have become aware of the damage such products cause, and many have become involved in the fight against environmental degradation. Students from Hithadhoo School, for example, organized two cleanup events of the island in February 2019. And last year, students from Mohamed Jamaluddin wrote a proposal to increase composting in schools. Their project idea won a grant from the Ministry of Environment and will be carried out later this year.
“Each of these events makes more people aware of the problem,” said Hudhna Hussein, a teacher at Maradhoo School in Addu City. “Now it’s the kids who are teaching the adults.”
After the event in Addu City commenced, Safieldin spoke to a group of young students.
“With this knowledge, do you think you can convince the city to change?” he asked.
The students laughed. “The city?” they said. “We can convince the country.”