One year on, the impact of the tsunami is still felt across the country, but the spirit of unity and of communities pulling together in the face of adversity continues to define the recovery efforts in the Maldives. The spirit of cooperation has seen new partnerships forged and existing partnerships strengthened. There is a common commitment to ensure that the Maldives not only recovers from the devastating effects of the tsunami but uses the opportunities presented to make strategic investments in the future and to 'build back better'. These commitments are reflected in the preparation of the Seventh National Development Plan which will encapsulate the tsunami recovery over the next three to five years, as well as lay the foundation for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Like the efforts of the past year, this joint report reflects the high levels of cooperation of all those involved in the recovery process. The Government of the Republic of Maldives, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and members of the Red Cross family, the Government of Japan, national non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders have all come together and made this a genuinely collaborative effort.
Joint working groups provided critical inputs on the main technical sections of the report. An editorial team with representatives from the Ministry of Planning and National Development, the United Nations, the World Bank and the IFRC worked on the overall report. Comments and feedback were received from all line Ministries, external partners and the Office of the President. All the financial data in this report can be found online at http://dad.finance.gov.mv. Information relating to the recovery effort can be found at http://www.tsunamimaldives.mv/.
This report benefited from the support and valuable guidance received from H.E. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Chief Coordinator of the National Disaster Management Centre and Minister of Defence, Hon. Mr Ismail Shafeeu, the Minister of Planning and National Development, Hon. Mr Hamdun Hameed, the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Patrice Coeur-Bizot and Mr Jerry Talbot, Head of Delegation for the IFRC.
The final report represents a shared overview of the main achievements of the past year and the key challenges that lie ahead. In this collaboration, and through the setting of national priorities, the ongoing partnership between the international community and the people of the Maldives will continue to thrive.
The Asian Tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused damage and destruction on a nationwide scale in the Maldives. Over one-third of the population was directly impacted by the tsunami, and some 29,000 people had to leave their homes. The economic damage and losses alone were the equivalent of 62 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
One year on, considerable progress has been made towards easing the hardship and physical devastation that the tsunami inflicted. The vast majority of tourist resorts-the lifeblood of the economy-are once again open for business, homes are being rebuilt and livelihoods restarted. This is due in no small measure to the close cooperation between the Government, development partners and local communities, which has enabled the Maldives to look toward 2006 with renewed hope.
However, much work still lies ahead. The recovery process remains critically under-funded in certain key sectors-notably shelter, power and energy, disaster management, and infrastructure. Despite the outpouring of generosity from the public, generous contributions by donor agencies, numerous governments and international organisations, and extensive lobbying by the Government for financial assistance, the Maldives tsunami recovery programme still requires approximately US$ 145 million to bridge the funding gap. Of perhaps greater concern is the fact that the Maldives now also faces a budget deficit of around US$ 94 million for 2005. The Government has begun implementing measures to ensure a quick return to the growth path that led the United Nations to identify the Maldives as a country worthy for graduation to the ranks of middle-income countries.
The other major challenge for 2006 will be to speed up the pace of shelter reconstruction to enable around 11,000 people who remain displaced by the tsunami to return to their homes.
There is much to look forward to, however. The Maldives has embraced the challenge laid down by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to use the tragedy of the tsunami as an opportunity to invest for the future, and to 'build back better'. This has given new impetus to address long-standing issues relating to the provision of safe water and sanitation, ensuring quality health and educational services for all, the reduction of dependence on oil imports and empowerment of local communities.
These are investments that will pay dividends over the long term and are an integral part of the recovery process. However, success will be dependant on ensuring that the Maldives is able to secure the funding necessary to underwrite its ambitious rebuilding plans. If that can happen, then this country will have a much better chance of making a full recovery from the effects of the tsunami and to get back on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and sustain the impressive economic gains of the last 25 years.
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