The Maldives was temporarily isolated from the international sphere during the previous administration; however, the country’s diplomatic relations has since taken huge leaps forward, evident by the numerous foreign assistances flowing into the country during such trying times.
Taking a look at the foreign aid offered to the country’s efforts against Covid-19 so far, it has been revealed that the Maldives’ government is in communication with several countries. Most recently, a medical relief team arrived last Friday to provide assistance to Maldives’ healthcare workers. The 14-member team consists of anesthesiologists, pulmonologists, physicians and lab technicians. The next day, the Maldives received a three-month supply of medicines required for the treatment of the fatal virus donated by the neighbouring country, despite the Indian government halting medicine exports to foreign countries. The gesture mirrors the growing bilateral ties between both South Asian countries and is reflective of India’s “neighbourhood first” policy and Maldives’ “India first” policy.
The government is also in communication with China – another close development partner – with Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, Zhang Lizhong calling on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid on Sunday. Discussions between the pair focused on a detailed list of important items in assisting the Maldives in its fight against Covid-19. So far, China has done a commendable job tackling the virus that emerged from Wuhan City in the country’s mainland and has even had their efforts recognized by the WHO. Therefore, there is much to learn from the Southeastern Asian nation to control the virus and curb an outbreak. During the meeting, Ambassador Lizhong assured Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid that China will continue extending support towards the Maldivian government’s efforts as needed.
This comes at a time when reports of the Maldives rejecting assistance from China emerged after the announcement of the Indian government's decision to offer assistance for Maldives' efforts against Covid-19. Nevertheless, both the Chinese Ambassador and the spokesperson for the government’s Covid-19 taskforce confirmed this was not true. During a press briefing by the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) last Thursday, Mabrook had stated that the government is not going to reject any foreign aid and will “work closely with all countries which are building lines of cooperation with the Maldives".
It should be noted that when the Covid-19 crisis first began, Maldivians residing in Wuhan City were evacuated through joint efforts between the Chinese and Indian governments. The seven Maldivians were evacuated on a special Air India flight and quarantined in India’s ITBP Chhawla Camp for 14 days alongside 323 Indians. Following the evacuation, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih thanked India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian government for their assistance in addition to thanking the Chinese government and its Ambassador to Maldives Zhang Lizhong for assistance provided to Maldivians living following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Aside from China and India, the USA has also provided assistance. Upon the request of the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), the United States provided 400 coveralls, booties, and gloves. Further, it has been revealed that the Tourism Fund has arranged for a team of international medical experts to provide assistance for a period of one month. According to Minister of Tourism Ali Waheed, the team – set to arrive on March 19th - will consist of doctors, nurses and relevant medical professionals from America, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier donated 1,000 Covid-19 test kits to the Maldives, they donated 5,000 more on Sunday.
The Maldives healthcare system is largely centralized and many residents of outlying atolls are forced to travel to the capital for adequate medical care. As such, considering the fact that the pandemic has overwhelmed hospitals in first-world countries where outbreaks have emerged, it is highly important for a developing country such as the Maldives to prevent further spread of the disease.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm and has impacted many countries. Diseases do not consider nationality, diplomatic relations or politics and affect humanity as a whole. Hence, these global circumstances call for all countries to put aside the political differences to unite and work together against the Covid-19 pandemic.