Comment: Dengue fever, a problem for everyone

Although the MNDF has been drafted in to help combat the problem of dengue fever that is affecting Male and several other atolls, it is important that people don’t stand back and think that this action alone will solve the problem.

Experience in many other countries has shown that a ‘top-down’ or vertical campaign against dengue fever is only part of the solution to preventing outbreaks of the virus from getting worse.

Most people know that dengue fever is spread by a mosquito that takes the blood of an infected person. The blood contains a virus that causes dengue fever and this is passed on to a new person when they are bitten in turn by the mosquito. The mosquito seems fine – but people infected by the virus may become very seriously ill and a small proportion may die.

Most action to prevent the spread of dengue fever is aimed at the mosquito itself. If the mosquitoes are stopped from breeding then the transmission of the dengue virus from person to person will be interrupted and no new cases will occur. Often the strategy against the mosquito relies on spraying chemicals and treating water storage containers. But without having fully integrated community involvement, this strategy has failed almost everywhere in the world that it has been tried. The mosquitoes will always find ways to outwit their human adversaries unless locally tailored eradication programmes are implemented.

Community involvement is key to the success of the eradication programme and every member of the community should be involved in understanding the problem of controlling the mosquitoes (vector control). Within each community the local community leaders should be involved in forming a dedicated steering committee that can create formal task forces or community working groups that will undertake environmental management. The working groups will need to know in detail exactly what they are supposed to be doing and precise training sessions need to be organised. Every locality is different so each community task force needs to identify the exact local conditions in which their mosquitoes will be breeding. Precise local knowledge is the most important resource for beating the disease. In particular waste water needs to be evacuated efficiently; water pipelines and water storage containers must be protected and communal waste collection improved.

A research programme in Cuba compared the usual ‘top down’ ways of combating dengue fever with a community activist approach as described above. They found that the community based environmental strategy was much more effective that the usual eradication programme. You can read more about this research on:

Garbage: a special problem throughout the Maldives

The mosquitoes love little collections of water. When I was in the Maldives as a volunteer for the Friends of Maldives health programme I noticed that outside almost every house there is a little collection of garbage. This includes plastic drink containers, tins, discarded tyres, containers and invariably a pile of half coconuts. These are ideals breeding sites for the mosquitoes that carry dengue fever. Unless each and every one of these piles is cleaned up, dengue fever will continue to be a problem throughout the Maldives in urban and rural areas.

Mosquitoes love the little collections of water that form in garbage piles.

Dr Tom Heller is a Senior Lecturer in the Open University’s Faculty of Health and Social Welfare.  He has previously visited the country as a medical volunteer for the UK-based NGO, Friends of Maldives.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Cabinet to reclaim 10 islands for tourism development in Male’ atoll

Cabinet has decided to reclaim and develop 10 islands in various lagoons in Male’ atoll, in an effort to cater to interest from investors and developers for tourist facilities near Male.

“Cabinet members also noted that the opportunities available to reclaim and develop islands using environmentally friendly technologies,” the President’s office observed in a statement.

The 10 islands consist of 5-10 hectares each in Male’ atoll, although the final size and shape of the islands will be left to investors.


Island growth in Maldives may counter rising sea levels: Speigel Online

The Maldives may be growing with the rising waters, say a team of six scientists studying the sediments and growth of Maldivian islands.

“We take climate change very seriously,” says Paul Kench, a geologist from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “But in order to correctly predict the real consequences for the atolls, we first have to understand how they will actually respond to rising sea levels in the future.”

The Maldives attained their current form about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, according to the scientists’ research. Even natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami, which killed at least 82 people in the Maldives, do not destroy the islands, Kench claims. On the contrary, the Indian Ocean tsunami even added new sediments. “We’ve measured up to 30 centimeters of growth in some places,” he says.

Read more


Dhiraagu extends 3G Plus network to Fuvah Mulah

Dhiraagu has extended its 3G Plus network to Fuvah Mulah in Gnaviyani Atoll, one of the more densely populated islands in the Maldives.

The expansion gives residents of Fuvah Mulah access to high speed mobile broadband internet, the company said in a statement.

Mobile broadband, along with WiMax technology, is thought to be one of the most economical ways of connecting the scattered population of Maldives to the internet, rather than laying extensive cabling for small populations.

“We are also pleased to reveal today that the work of extending Dhiraagu 3G Plus network and Broadband service to cover more islands, is progressing rapidly,” the company said.


Pacific islands thought threatened by rising sea levels are growing

Shape-shifting islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are standing up to the effects of climate change, writes Wendy Zukerman in New Scientist.

For years, people have warned that the smallest nations on the planet – island states that barely rise out of the ocean – face being wiped off the map by rising sea levels. Now the first analysis of the data broadly suggests the opposite: most have remained stable over the last 60 years, while some have even grown.

Paul Kench at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and Arthur Webb at the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji used historical aerial photos and high-resolution satellite images to study changes in the land surface of 27 Pacific islands over the last 60 years. During that time, local sea levels have risen by 120 millimetres, or 2 millimetres per year on average.

Despite this, Kench and Webb found that just four islands have diminished in size since the 1950s. The area of the remaining 23 has either stayed the same or grown.

Read more


Cabinet creates administrative framework on land use

The Cabinet has decided on an administrative framework on land use, which was put in place yesterday.

The framework includes how the government can use and manage the country’s land, including sandbanks and lagoons.The Ministry of Housing, Transport and Environment will keep a register of all the lands in Maldivian territory.

The framework stipulates that islands given for government ministries can be given to a third party only with the Cabinet’s approval.

The Cabinet also discussed their 2007 decision to build five airports in different islands, and decided to continue to construction of all five airports.


Reefwalkers: Hiking comes to the Maldives

Ever thought you could see 80 islands in three days? And purely by hiking?

This unusual venture – a first in the Maldives – was completed by more than 100 people in the WalkMaldives event over the Eid holidays in late November.

GaafuDhaalu (Gdh) Atoll, one of the world’s biggest natural atolls, makes this possible as many of its islands are all situated in the same lagoon.

“We came up with the idea when we were discussing what sort of things people can do in the Maldives, apart from fishing, picnics and activities like that,” says Ali Shareef, from the architectural firm Tekton Design.

Tekton organised the event in conjunction with Green Tech, a local company selling environment friendly products like solar panels. The two companies often work together on sites across the Maldives. While working on working on a resort island in Thaa atoll, Mohamed Latheef of Green Tech suggested “We could hike and visit islands in my home atoll, Gdh.”

The idea took off, and the pair decided to give the public a chance to participate in the event.

Trail of Discovery

Maldivian feast
Island NGOs organised feasts for the walkers

The response was overwhelming. But the group was limited to 150 people, chosen on a first come basis, “because we wanted to have a manageable group,” says Shareef.

The organisers invited islanders from the atoll and the initial group that started the hike numbered 180. Hikers were divided into 12 groups, with each group given the chance to choose their own leader and each including islanders from the area.

The cost was only Mrf 600 per person, reasonable for such an adventure, while those who flew from Male paid for their seaplane ticket to Kaadedhoo and boat to the starting island of Madaveli.

NGOs did the ground work, arranging meals at Madaveli, Hodedhoo, Nadella, Rathafandhoo and Fiyoree where the participants finally arrived at noon on the last day.

Islanders welcome
Islanders welcomed the 180 participants

“It was amazing to see such natural beauty. It’s a sight that even most Maldivians don’t get to see,” says Zoona Naseem, a diver. Her group consisted mostly of fellow divers and water sports instructors, who were so enthusiastic they stayed on after the walk and have now visited 103 islands. While the sights were spectacular, “unfortunately we noticed a lot of erosion also,” she says.

Azim Musthag joined the walk partly to see the Gdh area, and partly for the challenge of completing the 35 kilometre hike. “It’s a very unique atoll, with all these islands in one lagoon. Sometimes it’s only five minutes’ walk between two islands.”

He says the most difficult thing was trying to avoid stepping on live coral.

“The corals are so colourful and alive, so the locals must have routes that they take. But since we were new in the area sometimes we had to swim to avoid stepping on any coral,” he says.

“Gdh is the most beautiful part of Maldives I have yet seen,” describes Aiminath Shauna. After spending the night at Keramitha and Kanandhoo, two uninhabited islands, she says “the sunrise and sunsets there put to shame the ones we see in Male.”

The ancient coral mosques and the warm welcome extended by the islanders made the trip especially memorable for Shauna. “And we had 100% visibility – it’s so amazing to see the beautiful islands and coral, and it was never tiring because of the rush of adrenalin hiking through such beauty.”

Exploring with awareness

Taking a rest
Taking a rest during the walk

Many of participants say they hope walks like this will motivate more Maldivians to take an interest in preserving nature.

“The organisers were very good, they asked people not to step on live coral or throw things in the sea,” says Zoona.

However Musthag says a lack of knowledge meant some Maldivians were not able to differentiate between live and dead coral, “so we held a briefing on the second day with the organisers on how to identify live ones.”

Shauna says most of the group had never seen such natural beauty, even growing up so close to it.

“It’s important that research is done, and it would be good if the hiking trail informed people where they should snorkel and even canoe.”

An identifiable walking trail was suggested by many participants as the best way to have a minimal impact on the environment.

“This small ecosystem of our country protects us, is a breeding ground for fish and attracts tourists, so we should take care of it,” Shauna says.

Future walks

With the resounding success of the first walk, Shareef looks forward to continuing it.

“We will do it in smaller groups so it will be easier to manage,” he says.

Protecting the environment was also one of his concerns, so the forms signed by participants had a clause to that effect.

The organisers also plan to train guides in partnership with island NGOs: “We really appreciate the help and support they gave us, and we want this to benefit the atoll as well.”

Shareef says visiting the atoll felt like stepping back in time 10 years, as it had not been developed to the extent it could have been.

It’s a wish shared by Abbas Ali, the island councillor of Nadella: “WalkMaldives is a very good initiative; we are ready to support in any way we can,” he says.

He believes the events will generate publicity for the atoll as well as enable further development, and eventually “we’d like to see tourists come here as well.”

Eighty islands, 35 kilometers and one lagoon in three days is WalkMaldives in a nutshell: perfect for those looking for adventure or simply to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the Maldives.

To contact the WalkMaldives team, visit the website