The Impact of Poverty in the Maldives

Poverty in the MaldivesThe Maldives, a South Asian country, has managed to elevate itself from a middle-income status despite facing significant geographical challenges. In the past five years, the economy has experienced an average growth rate of 4.5% per year, which is a considerable improvement mainly due to the booming tourism industry. The transport, communication and construction sectors have also contributed to this growth. The Maldives heavily relies on tourism to grow its per capita income. However, this industry is quite risky. Therefore, to maintain its growth and overcome the challenges of poverty, the country needs to have a more balanced economy. As of 2019, about 20,000 people or 5.4% of the population in Maldives, lived below the national poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Although the Maldives has one of the lowest poverty rates in South Asia, concerns remain regarding the vast differences in per capita income, literacy rates, access to health and education services, levels of industrialization and relatively high-income inequality. Separately, as a small island developing state, the effects of changing weather patterns and the risk to the tourism sector can also be a big concern if not addressed.

The Impact of the 2004 Tsunami

The impact of the 2004 tsunami was devastating. The financial damage was estimated to be around $470 million, which accounted for 44% of the country’s GDP in 2004. This estimate, however, does not include the environmental costs, such as the loss of topsoil and land that was washed away into the sea. The tourism industry was severely affected, with a 34% shrinkage and the economy as a whole shrank by 8.7%.

Despite the impacts of the tsunami and global financial crisis, the Maldives government reduced poverty by implementing the regional development policy. This helped distribute the social and economic infrastructure equally and resulted in the country bringing national poverty to 15% in 2010 from 21% in 2003. 

UNICEF’s Impact in the Maldives

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) collaborated with the National Bureau of Statistics and Oxford University to create the country’s first Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), helping the government identify vulnerable children and provide assistance. Additionally, it developed a child-focused MPI to identify issues in education, health and future living standards for children in the Maldives.

To increase children’s access to education, UNICEF has also partnered with other organizations to “educate local island councils, parents, school staff and members of other institutions to promote disabled children’s right to education.” Furthermore, the organization supports the Maldives government to research other challenges affecting children in the nation. This is in addition to providing evidence-based solutions to some issues, such as child marriage, among young people in the Maldives.

– Mayra Sahu
Photo: Flickr

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