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Statement by Maldives to the Twenty-Eighth Session of the IFAD Governing Council

Statement by Hon. Abdullah Kamaludeen
Minister of Fisheries, Agriculture & Marine Resources
Republic of Maldives


Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Governors, President of IFAD, Ambassadors, representatives of international institutions, honorable delegates, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, allow me at the outset to convey to Hon. Lennart Båge, on behalf of my government, our sincere congratulations on your re-election as the President of IFAD. It is, indeed, an added pleasure for my government to see such a distinguished personality to be re-elected to lead IFAD during this important time. I wish you well in our shared endeavors and offer you our full cooperation.

I take this opportunity to express my government's sentiments of sadness and deep sorrow for the tremendous losses suffered by the victims of the tsunami on December 26, 2004. Maldives is one country whose entire population today is suffering from the tsunami's impact. Mr. Chairman, the magnitude of loss in Maldives is staggering, and its impacts are still unfolding.

Mr. Chairman, about a week before the tsunami struck, Maldives was confirmed to be graduated from the UN list of Least Developed Countries or the LDC's. The concerned world authorities decided to graduate Maldives from LDC status as a result of the country's remarkable achievements in socio economic development during the past two decades. What the international community failed to take into consideration was the environmental and economic vulnerability of the Maldives. When the tsunami struck Maldives, within a few minutes it set my country back by at least two decades as far as socio-economic development is concerned. It is my government's sincere hope that the international community will consider the current situation of Maldives and would lengthen the grace period given to Maldives after graduation.

Mr. Chairman, allow me to briefly highlight for you the scale of destruction caused by the Tsunami on the Maldives. Out of the country's 199 inhabited islands, 53 suffered severe damage, while about 20 were "totally destroyed". More than 12,500 people were displaced and made homeless. Whole communities of 14 islands had to be completely evacuated, and are presently in temporary shelter. The death toll on the islands stand at 82 people, while a further 26 people are unaccounted for. 79 islands do not have safe drinking water, 26 islands have no electricity, 24 islands have no telephones and four islands have no communication facilities. Nineteen of the country's 87 resorts were severely damaged and are now closed for reconstruction. Fishing and Agriculture, both mainstays of the local economy, have been severely disrupted. The impact on health and education infrastructure is also severe.

Within the fisheries sector, the pole and line tuna fishers and small-scale fish processors were most affected by the tsunami. Several fishing communities were displaced from their home islands. Over 140 mechanized and artisanal fishing vessels were lost or seriously damaged. This means a direct loss of productive assets and income for over 1,200 fishermen. Fishery infrastructure such as fishery island harbors, and boat sheds were damaged on several islands. Traditional fish processors, mainly women, in the most affected atolls in the central region lost all their productive assets and production stocks. Those most seriously affected will lose the high fishing season (January – April). The social and economic losses are severe, especially for the artisanal, small-scale fishers and fish processors.

Agriculture sector is among the worst hit sectors, as soil and water which are the basic natural resources of agriculture are affected by the tsunami causing temporary, semi-permanent or even permanent damage to these resources. Although, the extent of damage is not fully assessed yet, preliminary evaluation shows that it will be significant, especially in islands which were totally inundated by sea water for a considerable period. Destruction of standing crops and those around homesteads are substantial. A large portion of my country's scarce arable land was damaged, while a substantial number of farming equipment was lost. The damage caused by sea water on productive soil and ground water which is the only source of irrigation in these islands are of serious concern for any future agricultural activities.

Mr. Chairman, the devastation caused by the tsunami to Maldives may seem minor in comparison to other Asian nations but in terms of destruction of livelihoods, my country has taken a big hit. It is important to understand that while the damages caused to the Maldives by the tsunami may be less visible on a macro scale, but the disaster had, population-wide, and economy-wide, impacts. This is because the disaster caused severe damages to all our productive sectors such as fishing, agriculture and tourism, all of which generate jobs, tax revenue and foreign exchange. Additionally, government expenditure now has to be diverted from other uses.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished governors, ladies and gentlemen, the relief needs in the Maldives large and complex, and there will be a long term need for rehabilitation and reconstruction in the areas affected. Estimates suggest that total damages caused to the Maldives by the Tsunami will be well over 2 billion dollars. This is a huge amount to a country whose GDP is $ 600 million. The task before us is huge and we will not be able to do it alone. We are confident that we will recover and rebuild with the assistance and the support of the international community.

Mr. Chairman, in rehabilitating our fisheries, Maldives urgently needs international assistance in a number of areas. Among them are replacement and repair of fishing vessels and fishing gear, replacement of damaged equipment and facilities for Maldive fish production, repair to damaged fishery infrastructure and assessment and rehabilitation of impact on fishery resources. The short-term need also include micro credit arrangements for the tsunami affected cottage processors for their operational capital for rebuilding their livelihoods. In rehabilitating agricultural sector, urgent assistance is required in replacing basic production inputs and infrastructure, rehabilitation of soil and water resource in affected area, provision of extension services to facilitate recovery phase, strengthening marketing and support services such as credit facilities, agrarian services and crop insurance, and development of agricultural infrastructure in uninhabited islands.

Mr. Chairman, let me conclude by expressing my governments' appreciation to IFAD for the quick manner in which IFAD responded to assist Maldives in the aftermath of the tsunami. I am also happy to note that as I speak here an IFAD mission is in Maldives completing as assessment of the damages caused by the tsunami to Fisheries and Agricultural Sector, and developing a program of assistance to my country. It is our sincere hope that, based on the mission's recommendations, IFAD will quickly finalize a program of assistance to Maldives, which we so urgently require.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.