Over 50 Maldivian militants fighting in foreign wars, reveals Commissioner of Police

There are over 50 Maldivians fighting in foreign wars, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed has revealed.

“These people leave the country under normal procedures. So it is not easy to identify if they are traveling to go fight with foreign rebel groups,” Waheed told the press today.

“However, within a few days we hear that they have joined these groups. Our statistics estimate there are 50 Maldivians working with foreign rebel groups.”

The commissioner’s estimate dwarfs the figure suggested by Home Minister Umar Naseer to  the People’s Majlis in December. Naseer at the time said that over seven Maldivians were fighting abroad.

In the past fortnight, at least twelve Maldivians have traveled to Syria via turkey for jihad.

Responding to a question from Minivan News on mechanisms to prevent radicalisation, Waheed said police might reveal plans at a later late.

“We are working on it. Even now, we are doing a lot of work with the Islamic ministry and other relevant government institutions.”

The police do not yet know who the most vulnerable groups to radicalisation are in the Maldives, Waheed continued, pointing out recent jihadis included both genders, urban and rural areas, and people of all ages.

When asked if radicalised groups posed a domestic terrorist threat, Waheed said the police are tracking individuals associated with foreign militant groups.

“We know who the foreign militants are. We are monitoring their activities. My hope is, I believe we will be able to monitor them to the extent they are unable to [present a threat] in the Maldives.”

He appealed to the public to share any reports of individuals who may leave the Maldives for jihad.


According to reliable sources, a group of six that left the country on December 27 included two immigration officers. Others in the group include two women who are spouses of two of the men and a one year old infant.

The second group of seven all belonged to Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang. They include a suspect in the brutal murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali, Azlif Rauf.

Azlif’s group also included an individual arrested over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, one man arrested for issuing a death threat, one man classified by the police as a dangerous criminal, and three men with criminal records, local media have reported.

Waheed refused to comment on Azlif’s whereabouts.

In 2013, the former Maldivian National Defense Force officer was put under house arrest over pending terrorism charges, but the Prosecutor General’s Office withdrew charges last September.

Waheed said the police can only prevent such people from leaving the country if the force receives prior information that they may be traveling for jihad.

Maldivians are not barred from international travel, Waheed said, and so “it is not easy to figure out what motive they are traveling for”.

In November, Sri Lankan police detained three Maldivians who were allegedly preparing to travel to Syria through Turkey.

The incident followed reports of a couple from Fuvahmulah and a family of four from Meedhoo in Raa Atoll travelling to militant organisation Islamic State-held (IS) territories.

In November, a jihadist group called Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) – which describes itself as ‘Maldivians in Syria’ – revealed that a fifth Maldivian had died in Syria.

protest march took place in the capital, Malé, in September, with around 200 participants bearing the IS flag and calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.

In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a press statement condemning “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

Related to this story

Two immigration officers and Afrasheem murder suspect among group of twelve jihadis

More than seven Maldivians fighting in foreign civil wars, reveals home minister

MDN investigation implicates radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance

Police detain Maldivian jihadis caught in Sri Lanka


Doctors raise concerns over medicine shortages

Medical doctors, for the second time in 2012, have publicly expressed concern over medicine shortages in the Maldives.

In addition to official routes of raising concerns with relevant authorities, doctors have brought the issue of essential drugs shortage to the public’s attention and appealed to the government and the legislature through social media.

Dr Abdulla Niyaf, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Pediatric Consultant at ADK Hospital, has repeatedly expressed concern about the issue, specifically noting the recurrent problem of stock shortages in essential drugs such as neostigmine and phenobarbitone.

“As a paediatrician, we go in after each birth or cesarean to check on the newborn, full of concern that something might happen to the baby. If, say, the child’s heart malfunctions, and we are out of adrenaline, then there is nothing more that even us doctors can give,” explained Niyaf to Minivan News.

Niyaf said that the systematic issue of running out of stock of critical drugs was very serious, posing risks to the lives of many. He said that it is a huge concern as a doctor that he would be unable to provide immediate medication to patients who are in crucial need of specific medicines, due to complications with stock renewal.

Niyaf further said that he had previously sat down to discuss the matter with the State Trading Organisation (STO), the sole company licensed to import controlled drugs, and other relevant authorities. The answer had always been that the suppliers were facing issues of licensing, permits, delays in customs and so on.

“For how long can we, as doctors, keep listening to these justifications? All I want is for the issue to be resolved and for patients to have the chance of getting the best possible medical attention,” Niyaf said, expressing concern that the relevant authorities had so far not been able to resolve the issue.

Dr Faisal Saeed, another practicing doctor, told Minivan News that the matter was “a very real concern”.

“It is true that many medicines are often out of stock, but that doesn’t lessen the gravity of the problem. I don’t believe it is an option to be ever out of stock. What will any patient do if a critical medicine is unavailable at the time they most need it?”

Saeed further confirmed that there was a current shortage, stating: “As doctors, we worry about this. If something happens, it is we who must take responsibility. Our question is, when this country runs out of medicine, who is to be held accountable? Who will take responsibility for this?”

Dr Fathimath Nadhiya stated that the issue of shortages of even the most essential drugs has been a longstanding concern for a long period of time, further saying that if shortages were such an issue in the capital island Male’, then the loss must be felt even more harshly at remote island health facilities.

“Hospitals and health centres store the minimum required amounts of critical medicines at any given time. But we are not aware who carries the oversight responsibility to check whether this minimum is always maintained,” Nadhiya said.

She further spoke of her worry that with the lack of monitoring, island health facilities may have an even harder time to obtain many of the critical medicines. She said that in many islands, there were only one or more pharmacies run by private businessmen, who would prioritse medicine supplies not based on their medical importance, but rather on their sales statistics.

Ahmed Afaal, Managing Director of ADK, has also expressed concern on the matter on social media network, Twitter. He sent a message to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, urging him to look into the matter, stating that “tomorrow we may have to stop surgeries [because of an] injection neostigmine shortage. The only supplier is out of stock. Please help.”

Not yet a “doomsday scenario”: government

While many practicing clinicians have expressed concerns on the matter, the government denies the issue is as serious as claimed by the doctors.

“Checked with Health Minister and STO MD. There is no reason to worry about medicines,” President Waheed said,  in a short statement on Twitter.

Minister of Health, Dr Ahmed Jamsheed, backed the statement, saying at a press conference on Sunday that “although some social media messages on Twitter by practicing doctors may make the public dread a doomsday scenario, things aren’t all that bad yet”.

Jamsheed however did confirm that medicine shortages were a recurring problem in the health sector, stating that the Ministry of Health was planning to start a programme with the assistance of UNOPS and WHO to create a procurement/supply chain management system. Jamsheed said he believed that all the current concerns would be addressed and found a solution to through this programme.

“There is a common misconception that I would like to clarify. Although people usually assume otherwise, the health sector has never been involved in importing and supplying medicines. This is left to the private sector and the government-owned company STO,” Jamsheed explained.

“What we are seeing is that those responsible are not able to sufficiently supply medicines. I think we need to change this system if we are to find a solution. If we are to get a permanent solution, then we must make supplying medicines to patients the responsibility of the service provider, regardless of who imports it.”

Although some local practitioners say that the complaint is that the first choice medicines are unavailable, Jamsheed alleged that some of the complaints were because brands of medicine preferred by an individual doctor were not widely for sale.

“If there is an emergency, then the routine is that hospitals or the government flies in the medicine from neighbouring countries at the earliest,” Jamsheed said.

“If those staff in medical facilities who are responsible for these tasks are able to perform their jobs correctly, then it wouldn’t come to such a critical stage where provision of services are interrupted,” he stated.

Meanwhile, some doctors who spoke to Minivan News rejected the idea that emergency stocks were a solution, insisting that stock records ought to better kept and that patients in critical conditions do not have the option of waiting for medicine stocks to be flown in.

Legislative intervention

Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Bonda’ submitted an emergency motion to the parliament on Monday, calling on the legislature to take action to “immediately resolve” the problem of medicine shortages.

Rasheed claimed that this failure to provide critical “life-saving medicines” to patients in crucial need of them was causing loss of lives.

“When practising doctors take the initiative to raise concerns, we realised the gravity of this problem. We then researched the issue in depth,” Rasheed told Minivan News.

“Millions of rufiya worth medicines need to be disposed of due to the failure to manage stocks. The stock is still managed manually. There is also a lot of corruption involved in the procurement and supply of medicines,” he said.

“There are permanent parliament committees within whose mandate this issue will fall. The problem is there are already a large number of pending bills that need to be worked on by these committees. We are now discussing within our party to determine what the most effective course of action will be,” Rasheed said.

During the one hour debate that ensued after the submission of the motion, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP Ahmed Mohamed claimed that health services in his constituency had deteriorated, calling the condition of health care provision “regrettable”.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Adam Ahmed Shareef stated that health centres in the constituency he represented did not have the capacity for “the most basic tests”, adding that the pharmacy was managed by the women’s committee.

STO Spokesperson Ismail Sadiq was unavailable to speak to Minivan News this afternoon, and was not responding to calls.

Minivan News was not able to contact the Director General of Maldives Food and Drug Authority, Shareefa Adam, as her phone was switched off up to the time of press.


“Worst fears over HIV coming true”: Health Minister

Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed has expressed concern about the risks of HIV spreading rapidly in the Maldives, stating that “our worst fears seem to be coming true.”

Jamsheed said that although the Maldives had remained on the HIV less-prevalent category since the first HIV positive case was found in 1991, “all the habits that may lead to the spread of HIV is excessively in practice here,” stating that it was only through “incredible luck” that the disease had not already spread widely throughout the country.

At the press conference on Sunday, Jamsheed said: “What has always worried me most is that there is a large drug community, and that the virus might find its way into this group, especially the IV drug users. Once it does, it will spread like wild fire.”

“I don’t think this is too far off now. We have already identified one IV drug user who has been infected with HIV. What’s left is to see how much this has spread,” Jamsheed revealed.

Jamsheed further cautioned against assuming that the HIV virus would stay within the injecting drug user circle, pointing out that some drug users do so in secret, and that many are married to non-drug users who could just as easily be infected with the virus.

Minister of State for Health Lubna Zahir Hussain, who heads the National Drug Agency (NDA) and Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) Director Maimoona Abu Bakr said that both their departments were taking preventive measures against the spread of HIV.

Jamsheed, too, said the NDA’s efforts to help drug users out of their addiction is a preventive measure against HIV as drug users are most at risk.

Meanwhile, the CCHDC is working with civil society groups like Journey, Society for Women Against Drugs (SWAD) and regional NGOs to spread awareness about STIs and HIV, and to encourage the public to change their habits to ways that present less risk of contraction.

Practical action or the moral highground?

Jamsheed said that he believed there were issues which needed to be opened to a “national debate” in order to move forward and take stronger preventive measures.

“We can simply stay inactive and keep talking for any amount of time by assuming the moral highground,’ Jamsheed said at Sunday’s press conference.

“That is to claim that we are Muslims, and by living in a Muslim state in Muslim ways we are doubtless protected from this disease. But that is never the reality anywhere in the world,” he said.

Jamsheed said it was unrealistic to assume all Muslims to live as “perfect Muslims”, and that even if they were, there was still a chance of infection. He stated that HIV is not transferred through sexual activity or visits to prostitutes alone.

“This is an argument I do not accept,” he said. “I presume that those among us who are already infected are also Muslims, being Maldivians. Of course, there are certain protections that being in a Muslim community affords us. For example, all of us men have been circumcised, which is proven to provide protection against STIs. To put it short, we need to work on more practical forms to prevent the spread of HIV.”

Sexual promiscuity elevating risks

The minister further spoke of the risks of promiscuity in the society, referring to the 2010 case where police arrested an HIV positive prostitute. He stated that the same prostitute had been identified in the Maldives as being HIV positive in the year 2009 as well, emphasising the risks to the spreading of HIV that such events presented.

Prior to his appointment as Minister of Health, Jamsheed had written about his concerns regarding the spreading of HIV in his personal blog, speaking about the “sexually active” lifestyle of the Maldivian people, which created a higher risk of infection.

“Maldivians have always been a sexually very active and promiscuous community. We have a very high divorce and remarriage rate, which increases the number of sexual partners any individual has over their lifetime. It is also a known fact that despite being a Muslim community, a lot of Maldivians have multiple extramarital relationships,” he had written then.

CCHDC’s Maimoona Abu Bakr also highlighted that “undesired sexual acts”, prostitution, injecting drug users and homosexuality proved to be some of the greatest challenges to preventing the spread of HIV.

In 2011, a total of 18 HIV positive cases were reported, out of which one was of a local. Between 1991 and 2011, 15 HIV cases were reported among Maldivians, while 168 cases of expatriate workers were also filed. Two out of the 15 cases were female, and all patients cited heterosexual transmission as the cause of infection.


Antibiotics “most misused drug in the Maldives”: ADK COO

Over-prescription and sale of over-the-counter antibiotics is leading to a rise of resistant super-bugs, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned, with the Maldives no exception.

“Antibiotics are the most misused drugs in the country,” ADK Chief Operating Officer Ahmed Jamsheed told Minivan News today. “People are becoming resistant, and in certain cases they might not even need the antiobiotics.”

The WHO is discussing the overuse of antibiotics and growth of superbugs at the 64th meeting of the Regional Committee for South-East Asia, in Jaipur this week.

Director General Dr Margaret Chan said, “we have taken antibiotics and other antimicrobials for granted. And we have failed to handle these precious, yet fragile medicines with appropriate care. The message is clear. The world is on the brink of losing its miracle cures.”

Jamsheed said he has seen patients with headaches prescribed with powerful antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin. He says a lack of systematic supervision allows pharmacists, who are not educated in medicine, to give antibiotics to anyone who asks regardless of a prescription.

“We have a very rudimentary diagnostic capacity in the Maldives,” said Jamsheed. “Hospitals and physicians are not properly monitored, and patients have a lot of independence to choose the drug they want. There are few national guidelines.”

According to Jamsheed, hospital diagnoses are compromised by inadequate facilities. He said that as organisms  mutate, doctors are not able to keep up. Bacteria samples are usually outsourced, and communication can take weeks. “In some cases, we may not be able to recognise and diagnose a disease until we’ve already lost a few patients,” he said.

Superbugs, or super bacterium, are bacteria that carry several resistant genes and are difficult to treat. When a disease is inappropriately or excessively treated with antibiotics, the body develops an immunity which encourages the bacteria to grow stronger.

Dr Chan said many non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and cancers, are triggered by “population ageing, rapid unplanned urbanization, and the globalisation of unhealthy lifestyles.”

Chan also noted that “irrational and inappropriate use of antimicrobials is by far the biggest driver of drug resistance.” As communities become more drug resistant, treatments could become more complicated and costly.

ADK Managing Director Ahmed Affal said education was important. “There is an increasing number of antibiotics being prescribed in the Maldives, and we need to talk more. Research shows that there will be problems, as organisms become more resistant.”

Affal said that the majority of cases at ADK are fevers and infections, although heart disease, hypertension, and renal infections are on the rise. “Antibiotics are commonly used for lung infections, and sometimes are given as a preventative measure,” he said.

Speakers at the WHO conference suggested that climate change could accelerate the growth of superbugs. Jamsheed told Minivan News that Maldivians could be more at risk for dengue fever and chikungunya, as well as viral diseases. He predicted that if these diseases were to become more common, the misuse of antibiotics would increase as well and people would become more drug resistant.

“The Maldives is not isolated,” Jamsheed said. “We import almost everything, and any bacteria that is growing elsewhere in the region and the world will certainly be transmitted here.”


Daylight robbery increasing, warns Chief Inspector

Theft and robbery are crimes increasingly conducted  in daylight, said Police Chief Inspector Mohamed Jamsheed, Head of Property and Commercial Crime, during a press conference today.

Many of these crimes were committed by professional thieves known to police, he explained, including many who had been convicted and imprisoned, but had escaped from custody.

“The release of some convicted people is also a very dangerous issue for society,’’ Jamsheed said.

“Last week some people broke in to the IBS office and damaged the doors, drawers and other office property, and stole jewelry, three mobile phones and Rf 71,350 (US$5500),” he noted, adding that police had already arrested a man, Mohamed Mujthaba, in connection with the case.

‘’He was a fugitive who escaped from jail, after he was convicted in drug related case and brought to Male’ for medical treatment,’’ Jamsheed said. “He was arrested on Makunudhoo in Thaa Atoll.’’

Jamsheed said that police had discovered “a lot of items believed to be stolen” in his house, while other stolen items were believed to have been already sold to other people.

Jamsheed also disclosed information about forged dollar notes discovered in a house in Male’.

‘’Police discovered US$248,300 in forged notes inside Mahchangolhi Kuhlhafilaage,’’ he said. ‘’All the notes were printed with one serial number.’’

He said an elderly man, Hussein Ali, had been arrested in connection with the case.

‘’This person was already been arrested by police on charges in different cases,’’ he said.

Jamsheed appealed for any person with information on the cases to notify police, and urged people to prevent strangers from entering houses if they claimed to be searching for someone.


CCHD reports increase in cases of leprosy

An unusual spike in the number of leprosy cases in the Maldives this year has led the Centre for Centre for Community Health and Disease (CCHD) to issue a reminder that treatment and diagnosis for such communicable diseases is freely available.

Dr Jamsheed Mohamed from the CCHD told Minivan News that five cases of leprosy had been reported to the government in the first eight months of the year, when the average incidence was 3-4 cases annually.

“Almost all these people received diagnosis [of leprosy] abroad in a neighbouring country and were given short-term treatment,” he said. “Leprosy requires long-term treatment and in some cases this was not explained to the patients – medicine was only obtained for a short period and is not available in pharmacies [locally]. But we do maintain a supply and freely distribute it.”

“Historically diseases such as leprosy and malaria were a problem in the Maldives until the government started control programmes in the 60s,” Dr Jamsheed said.

Very few of the cases involved open skin lesions and were contagious “and there is nothing to be alarmed about,” he added, explaining that the CCHD was more concerned that people were unaware that the facilities and treatment were available locally, “including some healthcare workers.”

“Leprosy has a very long incubation period and the bacteria stays in our bodies for a long time before symptoms appear,” he said, adding that the rising number of cases was in line with a general resurgence of communicable diseases such as conjunctivitis, chicken pox and hand, foot and mouth disease.

“Until we can address population congestion and poor living conditions in crowded islands such as Male’, these diseases will remain with us and there is very little we can do to combat them effectively.”

Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. If it is untreated it can permanently damage the the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes, although contrary to its reputation the disease does not cause body parts to fall off.


Police arrest 19 suspects in Campus Didi stabbing case

Police have arrested 19 people in connection with the stabbing of Ahmed Ibrahim ‘Campus’ didi on 27 December.

Didi was badly injured in the attack and was flown to India for medical treatment, while the attackers escaped with almost US$250,000 and Rf1 million in cash.

Chief Inspector of Police Mohamed Jamsheed said the 19 suspects were arrested with variety of weapons, including knives, spears and knuckle dusters, which police believe were used in the attack on Campus Didi.

‘We suspect these weapons were used to stab Campus Didi, as some of the [forensic evidence] we needed was found on these weapons,’ said Jamsheed.

Five of the people arrested were under the age of 18, he said, adding that only a few of the suspects were cooperating with police while most were remaining silent.

‘Some amount’ of the money robbed was recovered, he said.

Jamsheed added the investigation was ongoing and that police could not yet link the attack to similar recent incidents in male’.

‘These robberies are well planned and organised. We are advising people to get help from the police when carrying a large amount of money from one place to another.’

Police said they were currently unable to question Campus Didi as he was still being treated overseas.


Authorities warn of looming AIDS pandemic

The Health Ministry has warned of the spread of AIDS in the Maldives after an expatriate prostitute tested positive for HIV.

At a press conference yesterday, Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed, senior medical officer at the centre for community health and disease control, said prostitutes from neighbouring countries were working in the Maldives on tourist visas.

“We have some evidence now that expatriate women who came to the Maldives without a work permit on a tourist visa are involved in prostitution,” he said. “We learned that one of them was HIV positive.”

While the authorities required  medical checkups for expatriates who apply for work permits, he said, foreigners on tourist visas were not tested.

246 foreigners on work permits have been sent out of the country after testing positive since 1995, an average of 15 a day.

He added the authorities discovered the expatriate prostitute was HIV positive when she applied for a work permit.

Jamsheed said it was likely that there were more prostitutes with HIV who work at massage parlours and appealed to the public to be aware of the risks of visiting local brothels.

Prostitutes from China and Russia working in Sri Lanka often come to the Maldives when their tourist visa expires, he continued, while prostitutes in the Maldives visit Sri Lanka to re-enter the country on a new tourist visa.

“There’s a rotating group between Ceylon and Maldives,” he said. “We believe there must be a lot of HIV positive people among them.”

If AIDS begins to spread in the country, he added, there was no reason to believe it could be controlled.

Jamsheed said HIV in the Maldives was like a ticking time bomb: “Everything necessary for the disease to spread exists among us.”

A recent survey on AIDS revealed all the behavioural risks contributing to the spread of HIV, such as promiscuity, prostitution, homosexuality, rape, child abuse and sharing needles, were “widespread” in the country.

Jamsheed said responsibility had to be taken at an individual, societal and government level to avoid the country “reaching that critical stage”.

Although the survey was based on a small sample of the population, since its release one Maldivian had been found HIV positive and it was likely that more would be discovered. There are over 30 Maldivians with HIV, according to estimates said Dr Jamsheed.

Of the 14 people with AIDS known to the authorities ten have passed away, three are undergoing treatment while the others’ condition had not deteriorated to require treatment.

Asked whether recommendations in the study, such promoting the use of condoms and making clean disposal syringes available to drug addicts could be implemented in the Maldives, Jamsheed said both strategies have been successfully deployed overseas.

“The question is whether they can be brought in to our society with our Islamic principles and values,” he said, adding that the National AIDS Council had to discuss the issues.

Dr Ali Nazeem, in charge of treating HIV patients, said more voluntary counselling and testing centres (VTCs) would be established in the near future, while testing was already available in regional hospitals.

Testing is currently available at ADK hospital and the police VTC.

He added the centres will maintain anonymity and the test results would be confidential.

Earlier this week, drugs NGO Journey opened a VTC with more than 20 volunteers to offer counselling.


Maldives struggles to obtain swine flu vaccine

The Maldives may have difficulty acquiring a vaccine believed to be effective against the H1N1 virus, despite it being produced nearby.

“There are a limited number of companies producing the vaccine, and global vaccine production is pretty low. There’s not enough to meet demand,” said Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed from the Centre for Community Health and Disease (CCHD).

“Neighbouring countries are producing the vaccine, but it is going to the West,” he claimed. “That’s part of a global issue that existed before swine flu, but it means there a difference between who needs and who gets the vaccine.”

The Maldives has developed a vaccine deployment plan, prioritising healthcare staff, however, nobody has yet been immunised.

There is no indication that wearing a surgical mask, now a common sight around the capital Male’, could protect people from flu infections, he said.

“If worn properly the masks can prevent transmission by people who are symptomatic because it eliminates the droplets,” he said.

“But when you walk around Male’ you see people wearing them like fashion statements, on their chin or forehead – this has no effect at all and probably adds to the problem.”

Temporary flu clinic opens

In response to a rising number of flu patients at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), the government has established a temporary hospital in Nasandhura Palace Hotel.

Jamsheed said the clinic was intended to relieve the pressure on IGMH staff with the onset of the flu season.

The clinic will provide anti-viral drug Tamiflu to patients who test positive to Influenza A, he said. Tamiflu is used to treat the virus but the drug is not an effective preventative.

“If we are suspicious that it could be the H1N1 (swine flu) virus we will start the patient on Tamiflu without delay,” Jamsheed said, adding that the country’s current stockpile of 2,500 adult doses “is sufficient”.

Thirty-four patients have tested positive for Influenza A so far, according to the ministry of health and family.

Of those patients 12 tested positive for the H1N1 ‘swine flu’ virus. One of them, a 65 year-old man from Raa Atoll, became the first Maldivian to die from the disease on 19 November.

The remaining 11 were treated and have since been released, Jamsheed said.

The World Health Organisation reports that over 1,000 people are now dying a week from the virus.

However Jamsheed noted that “the mortality rate of swine flu and seasonal flu is pretty much the same, although it depends on the country and things like socioeconomic factors.”