Maldives island reclaimed

Published: 12 December 2006 0:00 CET

Hilath Rasheed, British Red Cross communications officer in Male'

The reclamation of a Maldives island partially washed away by the 2004 tsunami has paved the way for house construction to begin.

The British Red Cross has received eight bids to build homes on Vilufushi island, Thaa atoll, where more than 90 per cent of the infrastructure was destroyed.

Since then a land reclamation process by the Maldivian and Dutch governments has tripled the size of the island and raised it by one meter.

Most of the 1,900 displaced people from Vilufushi are currently living in cramped temporary shelters on neighboring Buruni Island – a welcoming community of 550 people who have traditionally enjoyed good relations with Vilufushi.


The British Red Cross plans to build up to 250 three-bedroom homes on the island along with a community sanitation system.

Almost two years after the tsunami, the waiting may be finally over for displaced people like Maryam Gasim.

The mother of five and her husband were among those whose homes and livelihoods were washed away. Life since the tsunami has been tough but Maryam is determined that she will rebuild her life.

“Out of nowhere came the British Red Cross,” she said. “This is almost like a miracle. Now I will finally be able to get a new home.”


Shiuth Ibrahim is a volunteer on the island’s elected partner representative steering committee, which is working together with the British Red Cross to identify families who will receive new houses.

“We are taking into consideration all the issues raised by the community and we are working with the British Red Cross closely to achieve a common consensus because this concerns the very future of our community,” he said.

The British Red Cross is also working to promote livelihoods and community based disaster management activities providing both technical and financial support.

Ahmed Hassan, a fish processor from Vilufushi, has been living on Buruni since the disaster. Ahmed lost his four-year-old son and his home in the tsunami. He restarted his fish smoking and drying business from scratch as part of a group, which will receive a cash grant from the British Red Cross.

“Once I receive the cash grant, we can really get this business flying,” Ahmed said smiling.