Life expectancy at birth in Maldives
in 1994 was 63.2 years for males, 66.1 for females, and 64.7
overall. The death rate was estimated at seven per 1,000 in
1994. Infant mortality was estimated at 53.8 per 1,000 live
births in 1994, a dramatic decrease from the rate of 120 per
1,000 in the 1970s. Nutrition is an important factor affecting
health. In the 1980s, the daily average intake of calories
was estimated at 1,781.
Waterborne and tropical communicable
diseases are prevalent as the result of an inadequate drinking
water supply. In Maldives the freshwater table is shallow
and easily contaminated by organic and human waste. To combat
these problems, the Male Water Supply and Sewerage Project
was launched in 1985. Its completion in 1988 allowed sewer
pipes to collect sewage for pumping into the sea. However,
in the outer islands no such sewage systems exist. The government
has promoted the construction of ferrocement rainwater tanks
in recent years to help ensure safe drinking water in the
outer islands. Major diseases include gastroenteritis, typhoid,
and cholera. Malaria, tuberculosis, filariasis, eye infections,
poliomyelitis, venereal diseases, and leprosy are also reported.
Since the late 1970s, a number of disease-eradication projects
have been organized with assistance from the WHO.
Data as of August 1994
In Maldives the Ministry of Health is
responsible for the delivery of health services. Despite government
efforts, a major constraint facing the health sector in the
early 1990s is a shortage of skilled personnel and health
facilities. The WHO reported in 1989 that the population per
physician was 7,723. However, when the ratio for Male was
separated from that for the atolls, the acute shortage of
physicians for the majority of Maldivians became even more
obvious. Whereas the population per doctor in Male in 1989
was 2,673, in the atolls it was 35,498. These ratios were
derived from a 1989 total of sixteen physicians: twelve in
Male and four in the atolls. Also, in 1989 only one dentist
was located in Male.
Maldives' medical establishment in the
early 1990s consisted of the Male Central Hospital, four regional
hospitals, two in the north and two in the south, and twenty-one
primary health care centers. The Central Hospital maintains
ninety-five beds, and the four regional hospitals have a combined
total of sixty-one beds. In 1992 thirty physicians and seventeen
medical specialists worked in the Central Hospital. Furthermore,
the government opened the Institute for Health Sciences in
1992, and the 200-bed Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital was
scheduled to open in 1994.
Each administrative atoll has at least
one health center staffed by community health workers. Most
of the inhabited islands also have traditional medical practitioners.
However, it was reported in the early 1990s that the atoll
hospitals and health centers could only treat minor illnesses.
Routine operations could be performed only in Male Central
Hospital, which had Russian physicians.
To provide better health facilities in
the outer islands, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF),
in collaboration with the Maldives government, outfitted two
boats to be used by mobile health teams. In 1985 two mobile
health teams were dispatched from Male, one to the north and
one to the south. Each team included a primary health care
worker, a nurse, a family health worker, a malaria fieldworker,
three community health workers, and a government official.
The services they provided included immunization, communicable
disease control, family health, nutrition, and health education.
In the late 1980s, a third team was added.
Data as of August 1994