Housing units from Gaza fund to be completed by end of January: Red Crescent

The Maldives Red Crescent has revealed that the housing units built in Gaza using the money collected in the Maldives through the Gaza fund will be completed by the end of January, reports local media.

CNM reported that the houses built by the Red Crescent are to home 100 families, and that they are being built near the rubble of houses destroyed during last year’s conflict with Israel.

US$1.9 million was collected from the Maldives for the Gaza fund through donation boxes set out across the islands as well as the proceeds of a media telethon.

CNM also reported that the funds have allowed for the purchase of medicine from Jordan, which has been handed over to Jordan’s Haashimee Charitable Association to be transferred to Gaza.


Maldivians to take Gaza fundraising efforts to new heights

Maldivian efforts to assist the people of Palestine will culminate in an unprecedented 33 hour telethon aired across multiple participating broadcasters.

Numerous media organisation have initiated a telethon titled ‘I will also help’ to raise funds for victims of the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. It will air from 2:30pm on Friday (August 8).

The organisers will also assist in arranging a joining of hands across the capital Malé at 5pm on Saturday, while the fundraising – with over US$350,000 already in the Help Gaza Fund – is set to grow as both state and private companies urge staff to donate wages to the fund.

All TV channels and radio stations taking part in the telethon will air the same live program with content – produced by a joint content committee – on the current situation in Gaza to be broadcast through out the programme.

Live updates of donations and details of fundraising and solidarity events organised by councils and NGOs across the country will also feature.


This week Maldives Customs Service and Maldives Ports Limited jointly opened a joint fund where employees of both institutions agreed to donate one day’s basic salary. Faafu Atoll Hospital has also decided to join this campaign.

In addition to one day salaries of their employees, newspaper Haveeru has decided to donate the total revenue generated in advertisement on their online and print news this Thursday (August 7). The paper hopes that this will allow people to donate by placing advertisements on the paper as well.

The state owned State Trading Organization (STO) has announced it will donate a percentage of its two major shops’ sales on on August 8 and 9, five percent from STO Home Improvement, and two percent from STO Super Mart.

STO is also coordinating with the media telethon group for the joining of hands event during which people will stand holding hands across Boduthakurufaanu Magu in Malé starting from the tsunami monument.

Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, an organiser and President of the Maldives Journalism Association, requested everyone dresses in black for the event to show that “we are taking part in their sorrow”.

“Remember how we felt when the tsunami hit the Maldives and how we requested foreign aid? Now our brothers and sisters in a situation where they need our help. I request everyone to donate to the best of their ability for this cause,” he said.

The telethon group is also selling fifteen ‘Help Gaza’ t-shirts for MVR100,000 each. Two have already been booked – one by the STO for President Abdulla Yameen and another by Kooddoo Fisheries Maldives Limited for the first lady.4

Joining of funds

After the Adhaalath Party endorsed the telethon, both parties have agreed to join their funds, with the party’s Help Gaza Fund being pooled with the telethon collection from Friday.

The Help Gaza Fund has received over MVR5.48million (US$355,600), the party said today. Collection of funds is on halt for now and will begin again with the the telethon on Friday, explained an Adhaalath spokesperson.

The donations from the joint fund will be handed over to the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) – chosen because they have worked with Adhaalath in previous fund raising events such as the 2010 Pakistan Relief Fund to help flood victims and the 2009 Gaza Fund.

QRCS has assured that these fund will reach the people of Gaza in the form of food and medicine through their relief efforts in area.

Meanwhile, the Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) are also raising funds in response to an emergency appeal for US$14.7 million by the Palestine Red Crescent Society on July 14. The MRC Palestine Relief Fund was established on July 20 will continue collecting until August 15.

Funds will be raised through MRC Emergency Relief Fund bank accounts, donation boxes and door-to-door collection across the country.


Red Crescent pioneers ‘Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change’ programme

The Maldivian Red Crescent yesterday evening concluded a week-long youth training camp designed to encourage young people to take a greater leadership role in society.

“In Maldives, the youth, those youngsters brimming with energy and enthusiasm at the age of 18 – 35 years take up at least 33 percent of the population,” said Secretary General of Maldivian Red Crescent Mr Abdul Razak Ibrahim.

“While this high percentage can be seen as a wealth, it poses certain challenges for the Maldivian society in terms of social services delivery, employment, urbanization and other developments directly related to youth.”

This week’s camp pioneered the International Federation of Red Crescent’s (IFRC) ‘Youth As Agents of Behavioural Change’ (YABC) programme in the Maldives, bringing 30 young people from across the atolls to Bandos Island Resort in order to develop skills that can benefit local communities.

The programme was borne from the IFRC’s strategy of focusing on non-violence, diversity, non-discrimination, mutual understanding and dialogue explained Razak.

Participants in the programme were taught how to cope with peer pressure and how to handle stressful situations with empathy and compassion.

Those trained will now be expected to return to their communities, and their respective Red Crescent branches, to pass on their new skills as peer educators.

During his speech yesterday, the secretary general highlighted the problems that unemployment, drugs, and family breakdown were having on society – and on the youth in particular.

Around 40 percent of young women, and 20 percent of young men are out of work in the country, while 46 percent of drug users in the country were aged between 16 and 25, he noted.

“Though this may not be the most becoming sentiments to express in an occasion where I have to be optimistic, I do have grave concerns for the youth of Maldives,” said Razak.

“Further, there are very few avenues and forums where youth can be involved in decision making, especially within the atolls. This is one reason why I have hopes for this 7-day training programme of YABC educators which I expect will help to catalyze youth to think more deeply in their decision making,” he added.

Yesterday’s closing ceremony included demonstrations of the skills developed from the camp’s participants, as well as individual accounts of the week’s training.

“The last seven days have been absolutely electrifying for all of us and have helped us a lot in knowing ourselves better and in finding inner peace,” explained camper Mariyam Maaha Madheeh.

“The YABC has helped in various ways and has helped us to do better and do be better. It has been a huge eye-opener and has taught us how we can bring the change the world needs,” she added.

The ceremony was also attended by Minister of State for Education Mr Adam Shareef Umar.

The current government’s youth policies have focused on discussion of a ‘Youth city’ in Hulhumalé, while the Home Ministry has organised its own police-run youth camps.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has also posited the idea of mandatory government service for school leavers in order to instill discipline into the nation’s young people.

The Red Cross/Red Crescent movement was first introduced to the people of the Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami which displace around 10 percent of the population.

After helping local communities overcome the disaster, the Maldives’ own branch of the organisation was established in 2009 and has since established 10 branches across the atolls.

The Maldives Red Crescent’s Strategic Plan 2011 – 2015 encompasses disaster management, health and social care, youth, and institutional development as the main strategic directions for the coming years.


CCHDC allays fears of disease outbreak

The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) has allayed fears of an outbreak of diseases in islands affected by flooding caused by heavy rainfall last week.

At a press conference on Sunday, Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq, officer in charge at the CCHDC, said the biggest threat was the spread of diarrhea caused by damaged sewage systems in islands hit hardest by the flooding.

She revealed that there was an outbreak of fever in the island of Kelaa in Haa Alif atoll. The centre has supplied chlorine and medicines to the island in the northernmost atoll, she added.

Nazla also appealed to the public to be wary of the spread of dengue by taking measures to prevent mosquito breeding.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Red Crescent sent teams of volunteers to Haa Alif Hoarafushi, Haa Dhaal Hanimaadhoo and Laamu Gan reportedly to provide information on prevention of communicable diseases and managing hygiene.

The teams will also participate in cleaning up efforts, the Red Crescent said in a press release, including 45 trained volunteers working at Hoarafushi to assess the cost of damages caused by severe flooding.


NGOs begin child abuse survey on Thinadhoo and Fuvahmulah

The Maldivian Red Crescent and Canadian Red Cross have begun compiling a survey on the islands of Thinadhoo and Fuvahmulah to help determine public understanding of incidents of violence against children and young people, local Media has reported.

As part of a three year Violence Prevention Project being conducted by the NGOs on the back of fears of an increase in reported cases of violence against children, the survey will be used to assist efforts on educating members of the public over abuse of young people.

According to the Sun Online news service, the survey is expected to be completed and sent to local authorities by September 30.


More than 1000 cases of child abuse reported in 2011

Between December 2010 and October 2011, 1,138 cases of child abuse were reported to the Gender Department from atoll family and children service centres.

1,005 cases involved minors while 133 cases involved victims aged 18 and above.

A majority of cases (348) involved children aged 11 to 15; 30 percent of these cases were classified as sexual abuse.

Approximately one-third of the 81 cases involving children less than one year old involved neglect. Sexual abuse was reported in a quarter of the 192 cases for age group one to five, and in a fifth of the 230 cases age group five to ten.

Acting Head of the Child and Family Protection Services Aishath Ahmed said the report said more about the record keeping system than the issue itself.

“I would say the statistics show an improvement in the reporting system because people are more aware of how to file a report. I don’t think the situation is getting better, as far as I know the number of cases is increasing,” she said, explaining the report only accounted for cases reported.

However, Ahmed said people are less hesitant about filing reports than they were five years ago.

“Back then people didn’t want to report the cases, they didn’t want to get involved in other people’s business. But now they can report anonymously,” said Ahmed, explaining that island residents were also filing reports more regularly.

“Before, some people believed that only sexual penetration constituted child abuse,” she explained. “Now, they know more about the different kinds of abuse. The definition of sexual abuse is also clearer, so they can distinguish.”

Child abuse cases are divided between four categories: sexual, physical, psychological and neglect. Statistics show that 57 percent of abuse cases reported were physical. Ahmed said the second most common form of abuse was neglect (17.4 percent).

Family problems such as domestic violence, runaways and complications due to divorce were identified in 14.1 percent of the cases. Behavioral problems including teen pregnancy, self-mutilation, attempted suicide and anger management accounted for another 14 percent of reported cases.

In it’s own report, Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM) yesterday said its offices had received 500 complaints of human rights violations in the past year, 74 of which involved the social protection of children, elderly and disadvantaged people.

HRCM is one of several organisations with which individuals may file a report on child abuse in the Maldives.

A report submitted to the United Nations by HRCM in July this year found that physical discipline in some schools qualifies as abuse.

“For instance, the investigation carried out by HRCM on Lale’ International School (2010) made apparent that number of students experienced physical and psychological abuse in the school. Some of the findings include abuses such as strangling and whipping children with belts. The findings of HRCM were further validated when the Criminal Court in August 2010 found the former principal of the school, guilty of assaulting children and sentenced him to pay Rf200 (US $12.97 ) as fine under article 126 of the Penal Code.”

Staff of Lale’ School, including the deputy principle, fled the Maldives in 2010 over allegations of child abuse and other misconducted, which was investigated by HRCM.

Article 10 of the Law on Protection of the Rights of the Child states that punishment in schools should be age-appropriate and should not affect them physically or psychologically.

According to Ahmed, child abuse has a lasting impact on the individual and the community.

The aftermath of abuse can vary by the age of the victim and the severity of the treatment. “If a child has experienced repeated sexual abuse, then as the child approaches sexual maturity she or he may have a difficult time adjusting within the age group. Physically abused children may also develop violent habits in their own marriages later in life,” said Ahmed.

Abusive behavior can also impact children’s social development. “It affects education as well. Children who have been abused sometimes can’t cope with their peers, and they might lash out or withdraw. They may have a hard time paying attention in school,” she explained.

HRCM’s report said the Ministry of Education (MoE) acknowledged that school monitoring and inspection was insufficient.

“Due to the fact that corporal punishment is existent in the education system, it is important that the MoE come up with a discipline policy where it could provide clear guidelines disciplinary actions/corrective measures in schools. It is equally significant that all staffs, including teachers are sensitized to the rights of the child and other related rights that are relevant while working in the education sector.”

HRCM’s action plan includes the public outreach campaign ‘Every Neglect is an Abuse’. The commission has also released handouts informing citizens of the United Nations’ Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), of which the Maldives is a signatory.

Last week, the Maldives recognised “World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse: Every Neglect is an Abuse“. Children’s festivals were organised by government groups and NGOs including the Child Abuse Prevention Society (CAPS), HRCM, the Ministry of Education, the Department of Gender and Family, Maldives Police Service, Care Society, Maldives Autism Association, Maldives Red Crescent and Tiny Hearts.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed, who attended both events, said the efforts to raise public awareness of child abuse was an indicator of Maldivian society’s growing concern over the issue. Listing the four categories of abuse–physical, sexual, psychological and neglect–he urged parents not be overly-critical of their children.

When asked if there were sufficient resources for the Maldivian community to address child abuse, Ahmed said the network is growing.

“People can contact the police, NGOs, HRCM, and there’s a Family Protection Unit in IGMH [Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital]. The cases are also forwarded to us, and we review them to see how best to address them,” she said.

Ahmed explained that a series of interviews, visits and follow-up reports are conducted to evaluate a claim. Sometimes the situation is not as severe as initially reported. “We may close a case when we feel there is no further assistance we can provide, but we rarely close a case.”

Child and Family Protection Services will be working to create more awareness throughout the year. A more specific action plan has not yet been drawn up.


Maldives Red Crescent gains membership of IFRC

The Maldives Red Crescent (MRC) has been recognised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as the 187th National Society of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement today.

According to a message by MRC Secretary General Rasheeda Ali, the awarding of the full membership of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) will take place on November 23 during the IFRC’s 18th General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

“On this momentous occasion, I wish to express my sincere appreciation and thank all MRC volunteers, members and staff for their valuable contribution towards this significant achievement,” reads the message.