Climate change poses a serious challenge to the existence and viability of the Maldives due to its low lying status. Some of the current climate change trends observed in the Maldives show a decrease in annual rainfall and number of rain fall days which indicates an increase in dry periods, an overall increase in temperatures, sea level rise and increase in sea surface temperatures. The Maldivian communities are highly exposed to impacts of these climate change trends including sea level rise, surges, and f looding. 80 percent of the land area is less than 1 meter above sea level, 44 percent of the settlement footprints of all islands are within 100 meters of coastline, more than 50 percent of housing structures of 121 islands are within 100 meters of coastline, and more than 67 percent of inhabited islands reported beach erosion in the year 2013 at different scales and severity. When considering critical infrastructure, infrastructure of four international airports are within 50 meters of coastline, majority of the power, utility, and communication infrastructures, 99 percent of tourist accommodation and 70 percent of fisheries infrastructure are within 100 meters of coastline.

MRC commenced implementation of a Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) programme in September 2010 with integrated preparedness, mitigation, and response components to increase resilience within Maldivian communities with technical and financial support from the Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS).

In 2011, MRC launched its Disaster Risk Reduction – Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2011 – 2015, which established that Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation cannot be dealt with in isolation. Recognizing there are cross-cutting issues relevant in all sectors, addressing underlying vulnerability to disasters and disruption to livelihoods. MRC recognized that Climate Change exacerbates the vulnerability of the most vulnerable (those hardest hit by disasters), and can potentially set back progress towards disaster risk reduction; and so, must be included in disaster risk reduction activities at all levels and stages.

MRC takes a Multi-hazard + Community Based approach when programming to ensure empowerment of communities. The involvement of communities in the design and implementation of activities helps to ensure the sustainability of the behavioral change and use of disaster risk reduction better practices.

MRC has been positioned in the country as a key partner in the implementation of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation related activities at the community level. It involves reducing vulnerabilities and increasing capacities to deal with frequently occurring natural hazards in order to reduce the risk faced through prevention, preparing for, or mitigating against the impact of natural disasters and climate change risks. 

The starting point for reducing disaster risk and promoting a culture of disaster resilience lies in the knowledge of the hazards. We do this through our Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) process,  by understanding the physical, social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities of disasters that most societies face, and of the ways in which hazards and vulnerabilities are changing in the short and long term, followed by action taken on the basis of that knowledge is a huge step toward mitigating future risk.

Towards realizing adaptation – MRC Role:

linking humanitarian response with climate action and long-term development: A growing recognition exists at the global level on linking humanitarian response with climate action and long-term development more effectively. This responds to current gaps in thinking and practice where there is a disconnect between the three streams of work - humanitarian, climate, and development action. 

MRCs Strategic Plan 2019 – 2030: A Shift in Thinking – Towards Increasing Island and National Resilience: Available evidence shows that the frequency and intensity of natural hazards and disasters are being affected by climate induced stresses and weather variabilities which in turn have negative implications on developmental progress. humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction efforts in the Maldives do not factor climate risks sufficiently despite the high exposure of the island communities to climate induced natural hazards.

Resilience – the core business: While mitigation focuses on reducing the rate of global warming and adaptation is all about taking steps to live with the effects of global working. Resilience means the key economic and social systems are climate-proofed for the future. MRC’s new program design center on the concept of resilience in order to achieve effectiveness in MRC’s humanitarian action and disaster risk management work.

Towards Resilience – MRCs Method:

Strategic Priority 3: Facilitate Planning for Resilience:

Objective - By 2030, MRC is a lead facilitator of risk-based island and city development planning in the Maldives.

  • The Priority focuses on strengthening risk-based resilience planning at island and city levels. This builds on MRC’s current role in the preparation of risk assessments using the VCA tool. 
  • The key strategy is to expand MRC’s coverage of risk assessments, to increase the utilization of these assessments, and data in local level planning, (in disaster management planning, adaptation planning, and local development planning) and to advocate for a national risk assessment guideline. 
  • The Priority specifically focuses on using climate forecasting in risk assessments and adapting risk assessment processes and data collection to urban contexts.

Strategic Priority 4: Promote Health and Wellbeing in a Changing Environment.

Objective - By 2030 MRC is a key contributor in promoting health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable groups to the impacts of a changing environment associated with demographic trends, urbanization, environment, and climate change. 

  • Priority 4 focuses on promoting an integrated approach to address existing and emerging health risks in the Maldives factoring climate change related impacts on human health. This builds on MRC’s successful interventions in the recent past in health preparedness and epidemic control including the responses to rise in cases of influenza and dengue. 
  • The main strategy centres on shifting current practice of response to more preparedness and prevention activities particularly with regard to communicable diseases including vector borne diseases. This shift in practice recognizes the fact that some of these disease outbreaks are affected by climate induced weather trends such as unpredictable rainfall. It is therefore important for MRC to strategize increase public and service provider awareness and response capacity to these changing contexts. 
  • The strategy here also focuses on increasing health related outreach and interventions targeting the foreign migrant worker population which MRC has been actively undertaking to date. In addition to health preparedness, MRC will support interventions in road safety, occupational health hazards, and injury prevention given the increasing scale of challenges and gaps in response in these areas.

From ground up – towards community resilience:

Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCAs) and integrating resilience in development planning. 

It aims to involve communities, local authorities, and humanitarian and development organizations from the outset to identify risk reduction activities to prevent or lessen the effects of expected hazards, risks, and vulnerabilities, and to develop action plans to prepare for and respond to the identified risks. MRC trains and mobilizes local teams and volunteers to facilitate the VCA data collection process. The VCAs once compiled, can be used to design disaster risk reduction interventions and projects. 

Supporting the National Disaster Management Authority in developing Disaster Management Plans.

Facilitating resilient planning for local councils by supporting and providing technical advice to the Local Governance Authority.

Our interventions – continued advocacy:

The Maldivian Red Crescent, through its mandate as a humanitarian actor responding to emergencies and disasters and alleviating human suffering, centers its work around resilience, integrating the approaches of development work, humanitarian work, and climate action.

MRC recognizes the critical role those healthy ecosystems play in building resilient communities and advocates for a range of sustainable practices, especially in the area of development planning. MRC strives to be a key actor facilitating local development planning processes led by communities, utilizing such avenues to reiterate and reinforce the importance of the safekeeping and conservation of the fragile environment of Maldivian islands. The destruction and damages that the Maldivian ecosystems endure have exacerbated the impacts of many disasters that we experience across communities in the country, thus the restoration and revival of these vital ecosystems will be a step in the right direction, especially towards disaster prevention and building community resilience. 

On World Environment Day 2021, MRC released a statement with regard to the United Nations Decade Ecosystem Restoration recognizing the role of healthy ecosystems in building resilient communities and advocating for sustainable practices, especially in the area of development planning. MRC is contributing to the calls and commitments towards ecosystem restoration by launching projects across its units to promote and implement nature-based solutions.