President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has delivered remarks today in recognition of World Population Day. Marked annually on July 11th, the day’s purpose is to raise awareness on the major challenges confronting each country’s population, encompassing social, demographic and health issues. In light of the major threat posed by the novel coronavirus to communities the world over, and to women in particular, the theme for this year’s World Population Day is ‘Putting the brakes on COVID-19: How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls Now’.

As the President acknowledged during his remarks, this year’s World Population Day falls during a historic pandemic. COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on healthcare systems, societies and economies on a global scale, since it first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. The President emphasized that that while the coronavirus has impacted us all, its burden continues to be disproportionately felt by women

The President reiterated that women account for the majority of healthcare workers worldwide and that the Maldives is no exception, with over seventy percent of Maldivian healthcare workers being women. Further, while statistics indicate that fewer women in the Maldives have contracted the virus relative to men, the effects of the national temporary restrictive measures, and the lockdown imposed in the Greater Male’ Region, were more severe on women.

Gender differentiated household duties meant that women’s workload increased during the lockdown. Working with little respite during these challenging time would have exacerbated the challenges to mental health and well-being caused by strict restrictive measures. The President noted that he was especially concerned by increasing reports of domestic violence and cases of sexual abuse against women and girls, and emphasized that his administration will give special priority to addressing these lamentable issues.

President Solih also remarked on some of the strides made by the Maldives with regard to ensuring a healthy population. As examples, he pointed to the Maldives’ successes in drastically reducing maternal deaths and the infant mortality rate. The President noted that to consolidate the country’s healthcare successes, we must collectively strive to create a healthy population, while addressing issues that detrimentally effect our communities’ well-being, despite the ongoing challenges of illnesses such as COVID-19.

The President ended his remarks with a prayer, asking Almighty Allah (SWT) to grant good health and safety to our communities, and to safeguard the Maldives from COVID-19, so that the country can return to a life free from the pandemic.