Yameen bring changes to state institutions following Nazim dismissal

President Abdulla Yameen has brought changes to a number of ministries and state institutions in the aftermath of Colonel (ret.) Mohamed Nazim’s dismissal as defence minister.

Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee was today appointed to the vacated acting health minister’s position, while Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has been appointed president of the Local Government Association (LGA).

Additionally, the Department of Immigration and Emigration – under Nazim’s remit as part of the defence ministry since December 2012 – has been reallocated to the Ministry of Economic Development.

Meanwhile, the President’s Office has revealed that Ibrahim ‘Bandhu’ Saleem has been removed from the post of Maldives Airports Company Limited’s managing director. Saleem confirmed this to Minivan News stating that no reason had been given for his dismissal.

President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz explained that the president has the power and authority to appoint and dismiss political appointees and that specific reasons for a decision would be shared with the media when they were available.

Yesterday’s dismissal of Nazim came as a result of a police investigation into illegal weapons being kept in the minister’s home. He had been in the position since February 2012 – one of the first appointments made by President Dr Mohamed Waheed following the controversial resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nazim had been given the health portfolio after pro-government MPs blocked the renomination of Dr Mariyam Shakeela to the cabinet in August last year. Shakeela later alleged a conspiracy and smear campaign to remove her from office.

At the time of his dismissal, Nazim was also facing challenges from within the Local Government Authority, to which President Yameen had appointed him in November 2013. Last week fellow board members voted to remove him from the position of president following a contested vote of no-confidence.

Meanwhile, Haveeru has published corruption allegations against Nazim’s brother, State Trading Organisation Managing Director Adam Azim.

The paper reported that it has obtained a copy of an Anti-Corruption Commission report which says Azim attempted to use the state-owned company’s money to influence the Football Association of Maldives’ congress.

Haveeru suggested the report revealed attempts to have a relative appointed to the post of FAM president through sponsorship money given to football clubs with voting rights in the congress.

Elsewhere, the Judicial Services Commission today elected Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed as its chair.

Hameed was appointed to the judicial watchdog by President Abdulla Yameen yesterday after the commissions Supreme Court representative Adam Mohamed resigned from the commission on Sunday (January 18) citing personal reasons.

Related to this story

Nazim dismissed as defence minister, replaced by Moosa Ali Jaleel


Japan donates medical equipment worth MVR26 million

Japan has donated medical equipment worth ¥200 million (MVR 25.94 million) to the Maldives, reports Sun Online.

The donation – said to be part of the ¥100 million (US$840,000) non-project grant aid agreement signed yesterday – was announced at the Ministry of Health today.

Acting Minister of Health Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim accepted the donation from the Japanese International Cooperation System, reported Sun.

Source: Sun Online


One-third of first graders have oral health problems, finds Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education has released findings of a health screening programme, revealing that 35.2 percent of first graders have oral health problems.

The screening of 6,331 Grade 1 students, aged between 6 and 7, concluded that 1,650 students have had extensive oral and dental problems, such as tooth infections.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Minister of Defence and acting health minister Mohamed Nazim said that, though there were no serious and alarming issues with the screenings, the majority of current problems are caused by malnutrition.

“Increasing number of underweight children indicate the presence of malnutrition,” said Nazim. “We have to determine whether the problem is hereditary or due to our behavior. We have to try and find an immediate solution to the issue.”

The report showed that the majority of the oral health cases were from Malé, Thaa Atoll, Laamu Atoll, and Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

The screenings – conducted in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Gender and the Maldives National Defense Force – showed ear related issues as the next biggest health problem faced by the children with 950 such cases.

The health screenings in Malé were conducted at Senehiyaa Hospital under the Ministry of Defense and National Security while the screenings in the atolls were done by various health centers in the atolls coming under the Ministry of Health.

Speaking at the launching ceremony of the report today, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed stated that one of the most important aspects of the government’s health policy is establishing mechanisms which will ensure the prevention of diseases in the country.

Jameel also said that such reports would fuel the efforts of all Maldivians to live a healthier lifestyle, while also aiding in the prevention and better understanding of major diseases in their early stages.

Speaking to Haveeru Dr Ali Shaahid from Senehiyaa Hospital noted that, even if major health problems were not discovered in the screenings, some parents were able to identify previously undiagnosed health problems with the children.

“Some parents were not aware of the fact their children had eyesight problems. Those parents found out only after the survey,” explained Shaahid.

Related to this story

Maldives “lagging behind” on tackling malnutrition

Nutrition awareness a “huge challenge” for Maldivian authorities: Children’s NGO

“Significant changes” brought to education sector, says minister


PPM MPs to hold secret vote on health minister reappointment

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) on Wednesday decided to hold a secret vote to determine the party’s parliamentary group’s stand on reappointing Dr Mariyam Shakeela as health minister.

Shakeela is up for Majlis approval for a second time after President Abdulla Yameen modified her initial portfolio as Minister of Health and Gender.

The gender department was transferred on July 1 to the new Ministry of Law and Gender to be headed by Attorney General Mohamed Anil.

According to local media, 21 of the 24 PPM MPs present at a parliamentary group meeting decided on a secret ballot following a dispute between MPs over reappointing Shakeela.

The vote will be held at a PPM parliamentary group meeting on Monday at 12:30pm.

In response, Shakeela told the press she has no issue with failing to gain the required votes if MPs do not see her work in strengthening the health sector.

“What can I say? Every day, there is a lot of work underway at this ministry [to strengthen the health sector]. If [MPs] do not see this effort, then I have no problem if they don’t vote,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

Local news agency Haveeru has claimed 21 out of 35 MPs present at a meeting in late July voted against approving Shakeela for the position.  MPs are reportedly dissatisfied with Shakeela’s performance in the past eight months.

The Health Ministry has been under fire following a series of protests over regional health care services and health mishaps in Malé.

The state owned Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) – long criticised for lack of qualified doctors, adequate medical facilities, and medicine – transfused HIV positive blood to a patient due to an alleged technical error.

In June, councilors of southern Fuvahmulah Island called for Shakeela’s resignation after a case of stillbirth, an interrupted caesarean, and the death of a soldier on the island. A few weeks later, over 300 protestors demonstrated in front of northern Kulhudhuffushi Island over deteriorating conditions at the regional hospital on the island.

Shakeela was first appointed to the cabinet by former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan in May 2012. At the time, she held the Environment and Energy portfolio. President Abdulla Yameen reappointed Shakeela to the cabinet in November 2013 with the health portfolio.

The former 77-member Majlis approved Shakeela to the position with 43 votes in favor.

PPM’s parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan was not responding at the time of press.

The ruling party holds a majority in the People’s Majlis with 43 of the 85-member house. PPM’s ally the Maldives Development Alliance controls an additional five seats.


President creates Ministry of Law and Gender

President Abdulla Yameen has today created the Ministry of Law and Gender, which is set to oversee all government functions related to families, children, women, people with special needs, and human rights.

These functions, previously under the remit of the Ministry of Health, have resulted in the change of this ministry’s title to the Ministry of Health. Dr Mariyam Shakeela was today sworn in as head of this department.

Among the new ministry’s areas of oversight are the Attorney General’s Office, the special needs facility in Kaafu Guraidhoo, and the Villingili orphanage.

“The Ministry of Law and Gender will further be mandated with tackling the issue of domestic violence, apart from those responsibilities of the Courts and the Maldives Police Service,” explained a President’s Office press release.

The President’s Office revealed that the renamed Ministry of Health will be responsible for all regional hospitals and health centres, the Food and Drug Authority, and blood services.

The minister of health will also oversee the Social Protection Agency, the ‎National Drug Agency, and the Health Protection Agency.‎


A National Enquiry on Access to Education for Children with Disabilities to commence hearings on Thursday

The National Inquiry on Access to Education for Children with Disabilities (AECD) along with the Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM) will be holding a hearing at the National Art Gallery from May 8 – 13th from 09:00 – 23:00.

The purpose of this inquiry is to look in to the practices, policies and laws related to the education for children with disabilities and to determine the States role in providing for people with disabilities in a non-discriminatory manner, with a special focus on the educational needs of children with disabilities.

The meetings will be used to collect statements from parents of children with disabilities. The AECD will then compile these into a report which they will present to the relevant Ministries, and the AECD will monitor how they are followed.

Representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education will also be present, said a member of the AECD.


Health Ministry seeks to protect mothers and infants from HIV “time bomb”

New guidelines on preventing the transfer of HIV from mother to child will come into effect from Wednesday (May 7 2014), Ministry of Health and Gender has said.

The national guideline on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV is underpinned by a need to equip the Maldives for what the Health Protection Agency has termed an HIV “time bomb.”

Programme Coordinator for the Reproductive Health Unit Naseera Nazeed has urged all pregnant women to get tested in their first semester.

“There is very high chance of saving the baby – 90% – if they are checked,” she said.

The guidelines aim to protect women of childbearing age from HIV, advise women with HIV against pregnancy, protect HIV positive mothers from infecting their children and providing support to HIV positive mothers and their families.

The Maldives identified the first infant with HIV in 2012. In February this year, the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) transfused a pregnant women with HIV positive blood due to a technical error. Meanwhile, local media have alleged a 19-year-old HIV patient had given birth at IGMH in early April.

Programme Manager for the National HIV AIDS programme Abdul Hameed said the spate of HIV incidents this year had raised awareness on HIV and provided a boost to healthcare efforts.

“We are sending out the public a clear message, always to be sure of their status. HIV is everywhere, you don’t have to give your name, you just have to go and get tested. The result will be in 10 minutes,” he urged.

Not prepared

Lack of prevention programmes and specialized care for population groups at risk facilitate an HIV outbreak in the Maldives, Hameed said. Sex workers, gay men and intravenous drug users are particularly at risk, he said.

“We are sitting on a time bomb. We know those key populations exist [in Maldives],” stated Hameed. “At any time it can explode.”

The Maldives does not offer prevention services for gay men or sex workers, he said.

HIV patients prefer treatment abroad due to high levels of stigma and discrimination, he said, adding: “Even in the healthcare system itself there is ingrained discriminations.”

The healthcare system is ready for an outbreak, Hameed claimed, but said there are deficiencies that could hinder response to a crisis.

“The health system is ready, but we don’t have the civil society or organization networks. We may not be prepared,” he said.

A prevention workshop—the second of its kind—is underway from Tuesday to Wednesday (May 4 to May 6) to train health professionals on the new guidelines. A total of 31 participants from regional hospitals, populous atolls, Malé, Villimalé and Hulhumalé are taking part.

The Ministry also plans to hold a series of phone conferences to all atolls to further disseminate the information.

Former Minister of Health Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed said it was only through “incredible luck” the HIV virus had not spread throughout the country.

“All the habits that may lead to the spread of HIV is excessively in practice,” he claimed referring to sexual promiscuity and intravenous drug use in the Maldives.

Since the first case of HIV was detected in the country in 1991, 19 cases of HIV have been reported among Maldivians. However, the Health Ministry estimates numbers of HIV positive persons could be between 70 and 100.


“Once a year is not enough”: Tiny Hearts holds annual camp for children with heart defects

Around 100 children and their parents will travel to Malé this week for the ‘Care for Tiny Hearts’ camp which seeks specialised treatment and detection for congenital heart defects.

An estimated 80% of these patients will have travelled long distances from the atolls for this rare opportunity for local treatment.

This is the sixth camp organised by local NGO Tiny Hearts of Maldives, running until March 26 at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

Held just once a year, the event seeks to provide children registered with Tiny Hearts of Maldives the opportunity to consult pediatric cardiologists without travelling abroad.

“We have proved something is viable,” co-founder Ali Muaz told Minivan News. “Once a year is not enough, but it’s the most we can give.”

Tending to the patients over the course of the event is one local doctor, alongside two Indian doctors specialised in paediatric cardiology.

In addition to this, a special Fetal Echo workshop will also be conducted tomorrow for radiologists working in Malé. The purpose of this workshop is to assist in early detection and timely treatment of any defect present in the baby’s heart during pregnancy.

Tiny Hearts of Maldives was founded in 2009 by Ali Muaz and Fathimath Hishmath Faiz, in memory of their son Keyaan, who was born with a congenital heart condition and died at just 2 and a half months.

The experience of their son’s condition lead them to realise the critical need for access to information and assistance in dealing with specific health issues that affect newborns, infants, and young children in general, in the Maldives.

There are now 320 children registered with the organisation, with most coming from the sparsely scattered atolls outside the capital.

Unfortunately, there are only 1-2 cardiologists working all year round in the Maldives, according to Fiunaz Waheed of Tiny Hearts.

“It’s very difficult to get an appointment most of the time,” she added, “so they [parents] find it very difficult.”

When asked by Minivan News how the government could support a wider network of local treatment, Fuinaz preferred not to comment.

Muaz explained that around 80% of the patients who visited the camp came from atolls, with some travelling hours to attend. Regardimg the distribution of healthcare available to local islands he noted, “I’m hoping for it to get better,” though Muaz was also reluctant to comment on the ways in which the government could implement this.

One of the many issues faced by a centralised healthcare system is the lack of contact between doctors and patients, with Muaz explaining that the main method of contact is individual telephone calls and texts.

Another major problem is the long and costly journeys faced by families to reach specialist treatment – a well-documented problem for the country’s numerous citizens living with Thalassemia which requires regular visits to the capital, at great financial and physical cost to patients and their families.

The deficiencies in local healthcare often mean that families will look to travel abroad to get the essential treatment they need.

However, Fiunaz of Tiny Hearts explains that “sometimes its very difficult to send them abroad also, because its very costly.” She added that the Tiny Hearts camp is a rare opportunity for families to get the “proper treatment in the proper time”.

When asked about the possibility of expansion for Tiny Hearts, Muaz stated that they have signed an MoU with the ministry of education, and they hope to continue with their valuable work.

Minivan News was unable to gain a response from officials at the Ministry of Health at the time of press.


State to cover all expenses of HIV infected woman’s children: Health Minister

Minister of Health and Family Dr Mariyam Shakeela has said the state will cover all expenses of all children of the woman infected with HIV due to the negligence of state hospital IGMH up until the completion of their studies.

However, details of how many children the woman has or to what standard the government will sponsor their studies and livelihood were not provided.

Shakeela further stated that the unborn child of the pregnant woman is of “good health” and that the baby is “showing a good response” to medication.

“God willing the baby’s progress is good, and is under continued supervision,” she told media after a press conference held together with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

Shakeela confirmed that the baby is receiving the “best treatment for HIV that is given by the WHO”, adding that the organisation’s head office in Geneva and the Health Ministry is continuing to hold daily teleconferences on the status of the mother and her unborn baby.

WHO Regional Director for South East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh reiterated that the organisation is extending assistance, and applauded the Maldives government for having taken “productive action” following the incident.

“As a result of the investigation launched by the government, other such issues in the Health Sector will come to light and incidents like this can be avoided in future. Together with this, the capacity of the laboratory can be increased,” Singh said, mentioning that she had visited the IGMH laboratory on Tuesday.

WHO pledges assistance to the health sector

Today’s press conference was officially held to mark the end of Dr Singh’s two day visit to the Maldives. Dr Singh commended the government for its “commitment and vision for universal health coverage for all its citizens”.

Last week, President Abdulla Yameen’s administration announced the introduction of universal healthcare, maintaining that the enhanced coverage – previously capped at MVR100,000 – was financially sustainable.

“The most major challenges faced by the Maldives, like many other countries in the region, is the issue of having sufficient human resources, and the procurement of medicine,” Singh noted.

She said that the WHO was currently working with the government to explore ways in which to ease the procurement of medicines, adding that some initiatives include purchasing generic medicine instead of patented ones, and promoting bulk purchase of medicines – both of which would bring down costs considerably.

Health Minister Shakeela further stated that the government is paying special attention to training more locals to work as nurses and doctors, stating that this would bring down the number of foreign nationals working in the health sector.

Singh further noted that the Maldives has achieved much on the front of strengthening its disease surveillance, response,and case management capacity for dengue control.

“Despite challenges such as high turnover of doctors in the islands, and difficulty in retaining experience and expertise, Maldives has maintained a low case-fatality rate for dengue.”

“This is a country whose collective efforts and strong determination have successfully eliminated malaria and has sustained this remarkable achievement. Maldives is the only country in WHO’s South- East Asia Region to achieve this goal,” she continued.

“We would like Maldives to reflect on the malaria experience and use their expertise to prevent dengue which poses a major public health risk to its citizens.”

Dr Singh also met with Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed on Tuesday and congratulated him on Maldives’ achievements made towards the Millenium Development Goals and what she termed as “gains in public health more broadly over the past decade”.