The death of a five-month-old infant at the state-run children’s home in Hulhumalé on Monday morning has not raised any red flags so far, the gender ministry has said.
According to the police, the case was reported around 11:14am after the infant was pronounced dead upon arrival at the Hulhumalé hospital.
Newspaper Mihaaru reported that the baby was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties.
Mohamed Shakeeb, executive coordinator at the gender ministry, told Sun Online that the authorities have not learned of any suspicious incidents related to the death. The police investigation will determine if negligence by staff at the Fiyavathi children’s home was to blame, he said.
The Human Rights Commission of Maldives has also launched an investigation into the infant’s death. A standard operating procedure in cases of medical emergencies at children’s homes was compiled based on recommendations by the HRCM in 2011.
The shelter in Hulhumalé is home to 85 children, all of whom are under the age of nine. The two-storey building has 12 rooms and separate facilities for girls and boys.
Fiyavathi, the second children’s home managed by the gender ministry in the Greater Malé region, was built with a donation from United Arab Emirates businessman Mahmoodh Al Khaja and opened in February. The first children’s home is located in the capital’s other suburb, Vilimalé.
According to the human rights watchdog and children’s rights organisations, state-run shelters are chronically underfunded and understaffed.
Last month, local media flagged lax security at the Hulhumalé children’s home with reports of several children running away.
Mihaaru reported that many children had climbed on top of the 20-foot-high walls and refused to come down despite pleas by caretakers. The story featured photos of young boys and girls on the wall of the compound.
Earlier this year, local NGO Advocating for the Rights of Children criticised the state’s management of the children’s shelters after a meeting with the HRCM to discuss “serious issues”.
Aside from the shelters in the Malé area, ARC said “safe homes” in the atolls were also inadequately furnished, understaffed, and lacked basic essentials.
“As a result, children placed in these shelters do not have access to proper care, protection, education and other facilities. Although designed as temporary stopovers en route to ‘safer shelters’, it is now evident that children have spent many months in these unsuitable conditions,” ARC said in a statement last March.
The NGO called on the government to ensure the safety and well-being of children and to urgently address the shortcomings identified in the children’s homes.