The President of the World Bank Group, James D. Wolfensohn, visited tsunami-hit areas in the Meemu Atol of the Maldives on January 10, where he met with affected communities and saw first-hand the extent of damage to their lives, livelihoods and public infrastructure.
During his day-long visit, Mr. Wolfensohn met with President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Foreign Minister Fathulla Jameel, Finance Minister Mohamed Jaleel and other ministers and senior officials.
"Communities are demonstrating their resilience by organizing local support networks and coordinating relief operations," Mr Wolfensohn said. "It is truly impressive to see the way the Maldives has provided basic necessities to affected people, and started to lay the foundations to reconstruct the country in order to make it again one of the most successful examples of development in South Asia."
Maldives is proportionately among the countries worst affected by the disaster and will likely face the highest per capita reconstruction cost. Damage to the infrastructure of what has been the most prosperous South Asian country is substantial. Over a third of the total population of almost 300,000 was severely affected, and over 12,000 people were displaced. These figures reflect the fact that, out of a total of 199 inhabited islands, 20 were totally devastated and 53 suffered severe damage.
The rapid recovery of the tourism sector, which contributes 33 percent of the GDP and 90 percent of the foreign exchange earnings of the Maldives, is critical. In addition to tourism, livelihoods are affected due to damages to the fishery and agriculture sectors. At least a quarter of the islands lost their entire fishing fleet, which was usually the population’s only source of income.
The World Bank will make around US$12 million available to the Maldives during the next few months, and, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations will assist the government complete its needs assessment and put in place capacity to coordinate reconstruction assistance.
The Bank is opening a liaison office in Male to facilitate rapid implementation of its assistance. In the medium term, the Bank will support reconstruction and disaster mitigation efforts through lending and analytical work. The areas of immediate and medium term support will be defined on the basis of the damage and needs assessment, and in coordination with other development partners.
(China.org.cn January 12, 2005)