The COVID-19 pandemic has created an extraordinary health and socioeconomic impact on the Maldives. The country is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, including public health emergencies and extreme climatic events. This is due to its fragile ecological profile, low elevation, and economic dependence on the tourism sector, accounting for about two-thirds of GDP (directly and indirectly) employing 14% of the country’s workforce. By early August, Maldives was ranked sixth in Asia and first in South Asia in cases per capita. Announced restrictions on tourist flows on March 27th 2020, have resulted in many cancellations of total arrivals, resulting in lower growth and wider fiscal and current account deficits. The densely populated capital of Male was the most affected.
ITFC reacted swiftly to support the Government’s efforts to reverse the infection curve and limit the extent and duration of economic disruption. Making PPEs and other supplies available, enhancing testing capacity and boosting intensive care capabilities capacity were the most urgent needs.
ITFC support was channeled through the State Trading Organization (STO), the government’s entity entrusted with procuring medical supplies based on national requirements, including test kits, ventilators, and other PPEs required. The financing was provided through two instruments :
- A trade finance facility worth US$15 million to respond to immediate needs such as proper equipment and supplies to the health sector and food commodities.
- a grant, worth US$50,000, to purchase semi-fowler beds, requested by the National Disaster Management Authority
By June 2020, US$12.1 million was disbursed to strengthen emergency health preparedness and response. The primary operation beneficiaries were COVID-19 infected people, medical and emergency personnel, medical and testing facilities, and public health agencies engaged in the Maldives' national response. The financing was used for the purchase of:
- 50.563 testing equipment (UTM swabs, PCR systems, testing kits, serology kits) and 300,000 syringes and needles to strengthen the testing and surveillance capacities.
- 203,536 gloves, 6,920 sanitizer bottles and 300 surgical scrubs to protect health workers during the exercise of their duties.
- US$11 million worth of pharmaceutical products and other medical items essential for patients with comorbidities.
- 239 semi flower beds, supplied to the temporary medical facility (COVID-19 Village Hospital) developed in Hulhumale.
It is estimated that 12,154 patients, 850 health workers and frontline staff, and 20 medical facilities have benefited from ITFC financing. The goods were supplied between May and June 2020, in the middle of the first wave of the Pandemic. The below graph shows ITFC contribution to support further prevention of COVID-19 transmission in the Maldives. From June 2020, COVID-19 cases started stabilizing, and for the first time since the resurgence of cases in Male, the average number of daily cases in a week fell below the average of 15. As of July 1 2020, around 50,000 tests were conducted. In light of the positive evolution, the Government reopened borders on July 15, 2020, to revive the tourism industry (Ministry of Health, Maldives, 2020).