Sunday, January 09, 2005

Malnutrition extremely high in Maldives even before tsunami struck

The government of the Maldives has told Reuters recently that 79 islands of the country are without safe drinking water. In the wake of the tsunami disaster, another issue to be concerned is malnutrition. The country had a very high rate of malnutrition even before the tsunami struck.

WHO Country Cooperation Strategy, Maldives (Report of the First Mission, 28 May 2000 -1 June 2000) – 2003 has highlighted the issue.

Malnutrition among children below five years of age is extremely high with the national figures of 1996 (Maldives Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Report) indicating 22.36% stunted, 14.5% wasted and 37.5% undernourished. There is a high prevalence of anaemia and also iodine deficiency disorders. Vitamin A deficiency is considered to be a public health problem; however, a full assessment using biochemical analysis is needed to establish the definitive situation.

The UNDP has also noted the issue:

Access to food and food security has also been a major problem in the Maldives, this is coupled with very high malnutrition in the country believed to be a result of both unavailability of nutritious foods and deficiencies in food habits. The soils of Maldives are alkaline deficient in nitrogen, potassium and several micro nutrients and of low water holding capacity. Such soil characteristics are major constraints towards the development of successful conventional agricultural production systems.

Malnutrition among children was an issue UNICEF has been addressing in the Maldives.

For Bergmann, a sign of genuine progress would be the improvement of the population’s poor diet and the reduction of child malnutrition. UNICEF is working with the government of the Maldives to enrich the country’s monotonous diet, which consists mainly of tuna, rice and roshi (a type of bread).

American Red Cross is working to provide food and safe water to areas affected by the tsunami.

The American Red Cross is partnering with the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, to provide $50 million to deliver and distribute emergency food rations for more than 2 million people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Maldives for six months. These food rations are fortified to ensure proper nutrition and are culturally appropriate.

The American Red Cross sent a water and sanitation expert to help assess the water-related needs in the Maldives. American Red Cross water and sanitation specialists are skilled at setting up systems to provide mass numbers of disaster victims with safe drinking water, water for hygiene purposes, and safe disposal of waste. Additionally, the Red Cross will help provide safe drinking water, water for sanitation purposes, and safe waste disposal systems.


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