Stronger disaster and climate change information to enhance early warning in the Maldives

October 13, 2022

As an archipelago of low-lying coral atolls, the Maldives is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change and global warming.

Ashwa Faheem/UNDP Maldives

Today, on 13th October 2022, UNDP Maldives celebrates the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction which focuses on increasing access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information.  

Climate and disaster risk are intrinsically linked in the Maldives, one of the lowest lying countries in the world. Faced with rising sea levels, part of this country could become uninhabitable as storms and coastal floods that damage infrastructure and contaminate freshwater become more frequent.

More than half of the housing in Maldives is within 100 meters from the coastline. Rising sea-levels are causing erosion and threatening the livelihoods of communities.

Ashwa Faheem/UNDP Maldives

The Maldives Meteorological Service issues regular alerts for heavy rain, flooding, rough seas and strong winds. Most of the islands report floods annually. The cumulative impact of small-scale disasters takes a toll on communities’ well-being. It affects people's rights, including the right to housing, safe water and livelihoods.

More than half of the housing is within 100 meters from the coastline. Fishing communities are affected by recurring losses due to extreme weather events while fish stocks are threatened by the increasing acidity and warming of the ocean. The harder to reach islands are the most vulnerable due to their limited access to social services.

The Maldives has been a testing ground for grey and green infrastructure solutions to protect people and eco-systems on small island states. The restoration of coral reefs and mangroves, that act as natural buffers against disasters, increases the protection against coastal flooding.

In addition to such preventive and protective measures, better information on disaster and climate risk is needed to build people-centered early warning systems that trigger early action to minimize the harm to people, assets and livelihoods.

The National Disaster Management Authority of the Maldives has called upon the UN System to facilitate a review of progress made in building stronger country systems to manage disaster and climate risks in an integrated manner.

Small-scale disasters such as heavy rain, flooding, rough seas and strong winds take a toll on communities’ well-being.

Ashwa Faheem/UNDP Maldives

Responding to the government request, this week the CADRI Partnership mobilized a multidisciplinary team of experts from IOM, UNDP, UNDRR, OCHA/UNDAC, UNESCAP, UNICEF, WHO, the Red Crescent Society and the Asian Pacific Centre for the Development of Disaster Information Management to facilitate a diagnosis of country systems. The diagnosis covering 8 socio-economic sectors including tourism, fisheries, environment, infrastructure, health, water and sanitation, will inform an integrated disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation plan.

Risk information and its application to early warning will be discussed with the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, the Local Government Authority, the Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, the Maldives Meteorological Service, and a range of private sector and civil society stakeholders.

Preventive and protective measures and better information on disaster and climate risk are needed to build people-centred early warning systems that trigger early action to minimize the harm to people, assets and livelihoods.

Ashwa Faheem/UNDP Maldives

In the Maldives, the wide UN system has been supporting the government to enhance its capability to sustain existential climate and disaster related risks with data and information products to enable evidence-based policymaking to build nationwide resilience “ - Enrico Gaveglia, UNDP Resident Representative.

In support of stronger risk information systems, UNDP and UNESCAP also partner with the Local Government Authority to implement a joint SDG Fund for SIDS to enhance capacities to use and apply climate and disaster risk information products and strengthen exchanges between Maldives Meteorological Services and local island councils.