Maldives Aid, A U.K. based charity, has published a new report seriously criticising the state of the recovery effort made by international aid organisations and the government.
The charity, which coordinated a large chunk of aid from the U.K. after the tsunami struck two years ago, says: â€œThere are serious shortcomings in the reconstruction projects taking place in the Maldives at present. The international aid organizations and the Government of Maldives need to address these issues immediately.â€
In its report, Maldives Aid complains of a serious lack of communication with internally displaced persons (IDPs), who have lost their homes as a result of the disaster. â€œThe Government of Maldives has a duty to inform and communicate with the Islanders of the progress of the re-housing projects,â€ says the report.
It goes on to accuse Island Development Committees of corruption and says: â€œOften relatives and close friends of the island Chiefs are being given priority in situations like distribution of aid donations, food, money and even reconstruction of houses.â€
The report features an island by island analysis of the state of the recovery. Kolhufushi in Meemu Atoll is top of the list. â€œ800 plus IDPâ€™s live in temporary shelters and 50 houses were to be reconstructed by Red Cross. Reconstruction work was ongoing when Maldives Aid visited the island last year November. According to the island office, the work has been stopped and there is no news of when or whether it is going to re-commence. This situation leaves 800 or so displaced persons living in inadequate short-term temporary housing,â€ the report says.
Six other islands are mentioned in the report. The criticism comes after a rash of bad headlines for governments and international aid organisations over their recovery work, not just in the Maldives, but across the region.
Many have complained about the slow progress of redevelopment generally.
â€œConsidering that it has been two years since the tsunami, we can say that there is not enough effort being made to provide aid to those affected,â€ said Ahmed Saleem, President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives on Thursday.
â€œWe have received, and continue to receive a lot of complaints about that. We are looking into it,â€ he added. His remarks come after a barrage of criticism against the network of organisations trying to redevelop regions damaged by the tsunami.
Speaking about the general situation of recovery in all regions, United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Miloon Kothari described news that out of US$6.7bn committed by governments and charities to the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, US$3.3bn has not been spent as â€œvery disturbingâ€.
â€œIt should really not take this long to build permanent housing. I do not accept the explanation that it is going to take four to five years, in some cases, seven. I’m an architect, I know how long it takes to build a house,â€ he told the BBC.
Former US President Bill Clinton, who recently published a report on lessons learned from the tsunami recovery has said about the overall recovery effort: “Only 30 to 35% of the people have been put back into permanent housing, we have to do better than that.”
The international media has also launched a stinging attack on the charitiesâ€™ work overall. The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. wrote on December 21: â€œBureaucracy, poor planning and the cynical withholding of money by some governments and charities are believed to have caused the inordinate delays in the four countries most affected – Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives.â€
But the aid organisations are furious about the bad headlines, which they say are the product of â€œbad journalismâ€ and lack of insight. They have virulently argued back, saying the suggestion they have more money than they can use is â€œdisingenuousâ€ and â€œirresponsible.â€ They say they are working hard to â€œbuild back better,â€ and not just replace houses, but add proper infrastructure.
Joe Lowry, and IFRC spokesman, insists the overall picture is not as bad as this latest news suggests. â€œThe Maldives has shown the best progress,â€ he said in a phone conversation on Friday. â€œWe said that it would take us probably five years to complete our programmes, we are two years in and we have already spent 40% of our money, more in Maldives.â€
â€œThe headlines are disappointing for us because it shows that the message of what we are trying to achieve has not been understood,â€ he said, speaking to Minivan News.
The Planning and National Development Ministry has also reiterated that it has plans to rebuild 2 980 houses, and has said work on 1 141 is already underway, with 158 completed.
The full text of Maldives Aidâ€™s report is below:
Crisis in the Recovery following Tsunami
There are serious shortcomings in the reconstruction projects taking place in the Maldives at present. The international aid organizations and the Government of Maldives need to address these issues immediately.
Following the survey Maldives Aid conducted a year ago, few of the issues and concerns raised in the Maldives Aid report have been addressed.
There remains a serious problem with communications and the flow of information to the Internally Displace Persons (IDPsâ€™). IDPs have a right to know when and how they will be given permanent housing. The Government of Maldives has a duty to inform and communicate with the Islanders of the progress of the re-housing projects.
In some cases the IDP committees are non-functional or have issues with the IDC (Island Development Committees). Internal corruption in some islands leaves the victims frustrated and helpless. Often relatives and close friends of the island Chiefs are being given priority in situations like distribution of aid donations, food, money and even reconstruction of houses.
Meemu Atoll Kolhufushi: 800 plus IDPâ€™s live in temporary shelters and 50 houses were to be reconstructed by Red Cross. Reconstruction work was ongoing when Maldives Aid visited the island last year November. According to the island office, the work has been stopped and there is no news of when or whether it is going to re-commence. This situation leaves 800 or so displaced persons living in inadequate short-term temporary housing.
Meemu Atoll Muli: Repair work has been stopped on 103 houses in this island due to a problem with getting the funds to the relevant people. This concerns UNDP and Island Development Committee.
Meemu Atoll Dhiggaru: The reclaimed land has been washed away with the sea wall by the tsunami. Unfortunately this has resulted in houses being too close to the sea and during the monsoon season the waves will again destroy housing. There is an ongoing erosion of the island. The island office has taken up this issue with relevant authorities in the government but to no avail.
Thaa Atoll Madifushi: Among the 54 houses the British Red Cross is reconstructing, 24 houses have been handed over to the IDPsâ€™. 72 houses meant to be constructed by the government of Maldives have not yet started construction. There is widespread unhappiness with the 119 IDPsâ€™ that remain in temporary shelters, living in cramped conditions.
Thaa Atoll Omadhoo: although there are no IDPs on Omadhoo there was extensive damage to the islands electrical system when the Tsunami hit the island. Throughout the period since the Tsunami the islanders have repaired the electrical system themselves. It is believed the electrical system is now dangerous. The island community has written on numerous occasions to the relevant authorities for assistance and, after 2 years, there is still no help forthcoming.
– Laamu Atoll Kalhaidhoo: some of the IDPâ€™s from this island are living at camps in Gan. The rest are still living with families and friends. The government has promised to repopulate the whole island to Gan however there is still no news when the new houses are going to be reconstructed for them in Gan. The IDPâ€™s themselves doesnâ€™t want to repair the damages to their houses in Kalhaidhoo since it might be a waste of money if they are moved to Gan.
Haa Alif Filladhoo: Tsunami victims from 7 houses are still residing with families and friends in this island. Money to repair these houses has still not been distributed to these people and recently the community of this island held a protest at the island office shutting it down for over a week and demanded they resolve the matter and distribute the money equally and fairly.
Hulhumale: It remains of real concern to Maldives Aid the condition in which Tsunami victims are living in the temporary and inadequate housing.. There has been little improvement in their condition even though this was highlighted in the Maldives Aid Report a year ago.
Maldives Aid calls upon the Government of Maldives to get organized and address the appalling rate of recovery following the Tsunami. The Maldives is a tiny country with a tiny population of IDPsâ€™, there is no excuse for this small number of people to still be living in temporary shelters.
Maldives Aid also calls upon the International Aid Organizations and community to engage more fully with the Government of Maldives and to steer them to complete their obligations and promises with regard to re-housing the Tsunami victims.