UNFPA in the Maldives
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is the world's largest source of population assistance, with programmes in over 140 countries. UNFPA supports the right of individuals and couples to decide freely the number and spacing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so.
UNFPA helps women, men and young people plan their families and avoid undesired pregnancies; undergo pregnancy and childbirth safely; avoid sexually transmitted infections - including HIV/AIDS; combat discrimination and violence against women and formulate population policies and strategies in support of sustainable development.
UNFPA's role in the Maldives expanded dramatically in the early 1980s with the launching of national programmes on family planning and population. During this period, priority was given to develop national capacity in the area of expertise and institutional structure. To assist this process, a series of projects was implemented throughout the 1980s while expanding the involvement of relevant agencies and professions.
In the first decades of UNFPA's engagement in the Maldives, the projects were formulated by the UNFPA Field Office in Sri Lanka and implemented under the supervision of UNDP Country Office in Male'. A separate field office for UNFPA Maldives was established in 1994 and the first UNFPA Country Programme introduced in the same year. Since 1994, four Country Programmes have been implemented in the Maldives.
Country Programme 1: 1994-1997
UNFPA's first Country Programme aimed at addressing three key priority issues: (a) the dire lack of qualified maternal and child health and family planning (MCH/FP) personnel and the inadequate access to quality services; (b) the lack of a national population IEC strategy and the limited knowledge of population issues; and (c) the low contraceptive prevalence rate and the concomitant high fertility rate in the Maldives.
UNFPA worked to increase and improve human resources in the provision of family planning services, especially in training female community health workers and traditional birth attendants. A major goal was to extend family planning services to all 200 inhabited islands. UNFPA advocated to include population IEC campaigns in national radio programming and to incorporate population into the formal school system where it would reach many of the targeted adolescent girls. Among other things, information on AIDS prevention as well as on environmental and women's concerns was incorporated into all IEC activities. The first Country Programme also provided support for the formulation of a much needed population policy.
Country Programme 2: 1998-2002
The UNFPA Second Country Programme aimed at promoting the well being of the people by focusing on three strategic areas; (a) improving reproductive health status; (b) mobilising support for population and RH issues at all levels of society; and (c) improving the status of women. The programme also supported national capacity development and other cross-cutting issues including gender.
The programme objectives were addressed through 4 sub-programmes; (a) Population and Development Strategies, (b) Reproductive Health Services, (c) Advocacy, and (d) Empowerment of Women. The programme contributed significantly to capacity building and institutional development.
Country Programme 3: 2003-2007
The third UNFPA County Programme for the Maldives aimed to contribute to the national goal of improving the quality of life of the Maldivian people through improved reproductive health status and the empowerment of women. The programme was results-oriented and emphasized capacity building and partnerships.
In reproductive health, UNFPA strengthened management of the national reproductive health programme at central level and in selected regions. This was achieved through policy development and managerial and technical capacity-building. UNFPA worked for increased availability of high quality reproductive health services and information in selected regions and atolls. A comprehensive approach to improving services and information in selected islands was taken. Behaviour change communication efforts focused on increasing the utilization of contraceptives, particularly male methods, such as condoms.
In population and development, UNFPA contributed to improved intersectoral coordination and increased political and community support for population and development and gender equality.
Assistance was provided for policy-relevant research studies and for the utilization of gender-disaggregated information. Particular attention was given to sociocultural and operations research.
UNFPA increased support for community-based initiatives for women's empowerment in selected regions and atolls. UNFPA worked to strengthen the role of the mass media in advocating gender equality and male involvement.
Country Programme 4: 2008-2010
The fourth Country Programme conformed to the policies and strategies identified in the seventh national development plan and built on the experience from earlier country programmes as well as the tsunami recovery programme. The country programme recognized the reproductive rights of women, men and young people, especially of vulnerable populations, as well as the linkages between reproductive rights and the goals of the ICPD Programme of Action, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Millennium Development Goals. The programme reflected the new strategic direction of UNFPA and takes into account the comparative advantages of UNFPA as well as the interventions planned by other development partners.
The programme had two components: (a) reproductive health; and (b) gender.
The expected outcome of the reproductive health component was improved utilization of high quality reproductive health information and services for women and men, particularly those most vulnerable and the gender component was improved fulfilment of the rights of women and girls. While gender and rights are integrated in all areas of the country programme, this outcome contributes to the UNDAF outcome on governance by promoting women's empowerment, equitable participation and access to rights.
Country Programme 5: 2011-2015
The fifth Country Programme has three main components: (1) reproductive health, (ii) gender equality, and (iii) population and development. As the cornerstone of the country programme, the reproductive health component strives to promote universal access to high quality sexual and reproductive health services such as family planning and safe motherhood. The focus is to promote the right of every individual to lead a healthy sexual and reproductive life free of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Technical guidance, policy advice, training and support is provided through working with national partners and the civil society. Establishment of the first-ever cervical cancer screening programme in Maldives, support to draft National Reproductive Health Strategy, study on reprodutive health knowledge and behavior of young unmarried women in the Maldives and the integration of life skills eduation into the national curricula are key initiatives in this area.
To combat violence against women. UNFPA has played a key advocacy role in partnership with civil society to establish the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act 2012. UNFPA has continued to provide support to the Government to roll out the Act, especially to strengthen health sector response to gender-based violence.
In the area of population and development, UNFPA helps build evidence to support eradication of poverty and plan for
sustainable development by providing technical assistance to the Government including support to Demographic
and Health Survey and the 2014 Census.