Atoll Challenge paddles 165 kilometers, raises MVR 1 million for Thalassemia

A six-man kayak team has paddled 165 kilometers around Lhaviyani Atoll and raised over MVR 1 million (US$ 64, 840) for the Maldives Thalassemia Society.

The four-day “Atoll Challenge” visited all four inhabited islands and five resorts in the northern atoll to raise awareness on the common blood disorder and raise funds to buy 50 desferal pumps – a device that removes excess iron from Thalassemia patients’ blood.

The common genetic disorder causes severe anemia and patients require life long blood transfusions. The frequent transfusions cause iron-build up in the blood.

The Maldives has the highest incidence of Thalassemia in the world with 18 percent of the population carrying the recessive gene for the crippling disorder. One in every 120 births in the country is a Thalassemia patient.

Minister of Health Dr Mariyam Shakeela welcomed the kayakers back to Kuredhu Resort on May 8. Seaplane company Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) was the largest donator to the challenge at US$ 10,000.

The Thalassemia Society has identified insufficient screening services, shortage of desferal pumps, lack of treatment in Malé and the atolls, and lack of a standard protocol for treatment of patients as the biggest challenges patients face.