The World Health Organization (WHO) was the first UN agency to establish a country office in the Maldives, on 25 February 1965. The Maldives was then still a British protectorate. WHO was also the first UN agency to develop and implement collaborative programmes in the Maldives. In 1951 WHO sent its first mission to the country, a filaria survey team, to review the disease situation in the southern atolls. In 1957, the Area Representative for Ceylon visited Maldives to obtain key information needed to base a WHO programme.

WHO programmes for the Maldives were initially conducted from the WHO Liaison Office in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). The first WHO team consisting of a public health officer, a laboratory technician and a sanitary officer was stationed in Male in December 1959. The team assisted in the establishment of basic health services, training of health assistants, and creation and organization of health services based on the role of health assistants. These services were gradually expanded through training of health manpower, surveillance and control of specific conditions such as malaria, leprosy, gastroenteritis, cholera and TB, maternal and child health, malnutrition, and water and sanitation.