Comment Editor Freya Corcoran considers the role of foreign aid in rebuilding Moroccan communities.
A month on from the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, and the death toll continues to climb. It is estimated that over 2,900 people have been killed in the first of two major natural disasters that have struck Northern Africa in the last two weeks.
The epicentre lies approximately 44 miles from the country’s capital Marrakech, in the high altitude region of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Small higgledy-piggledy villages, once filled with music and chatter, the warm aromas of Moroccan mint tea, cumin, turmeric and frankincense, and the feeling of heavy and vibrantly coloured rugs underfoot, now unrecognisable. Rugs covered in the rubble of the perfectly imperfect buildings that fit snugly into the crevices of the mountains, and spices replaced by dust.
Morocco’s political climate is rocky, and with a government less than well equipped to handle a disaster of this scale, the attention has turned elsewhere to look for emergency relief. Foreign aid was sent by several countries within the first few hours of the initial shock, with affected parts of Marrakech receiving the first of the aid. However, accessing the badly affected mountainous areas is continuing to prove difficult.
Alongside the UK government-issued team of mountain rescue experts, Moroccan civilians and teams from other neighbouring countries are working tirelessly to provide the necessary aid to mountainous regions of the country. There is no power or phone service in the affected areas, and water supplies are damaged in many places; the call for help is both crucial and disconnected. As time passes, hospitals are stretching far past their intended capacity and hope of finding missing persons alive is beginning to decrease substantially.
The implications of natural disasters such as these are felt on an international scale. It goes without saying that the most significant implications are on a local and personal level – the immediate effort to make sense of the chaos, followed by the rebuilding of their towns, villages and capital city. With the loss of several loved ones being a reality for many Moroccans, the country will take several years to begin to recover from the disaster. In terms of the global sphere, it will not be surprising to see an increase in the number of refugees leaving Morocco, both of Moroccan nationality and those who have seeked refuge in Morocco after leaving as refugees from other countries in Africa.
Morocco is a culturally rich, beautiful and diverse country. It is a major tourist destination for British, French and other European tourists, with bustling cities full of tiny shops spilling with handcrafted jewellery, vibrant food, and constant music to contrast the peaceful and quiet villages in the scrags of vast mountains. But Morocco’s reality is different now, and the country is in need.
There are several ways to help people in Morocco. In the early days of natural disasters like these, the most beneficial way is through financial donations. As the situation starts to settle, physical donations of clothes and other items will be hugely welcome and necessary. Through organisations like the Red Cross, who are a significant actor in the disaster relief efforts in Morocco, donations will be used to aid both the search and rescue and medical teams, as well as contributing to the wellbeing and living conditions of survivors.
Morocco looks different now than it did a month ago, and the toll of the disaster is likely to be long-lasting, on a personal and national level. But Morocco will look different every month from now, and as the country slowly starts to rebuild, it will start to heal. Music will play, and the smell of spices and fresh mint will refill the air, communities torn apart by devastation will form again in the aftermath. Slowly, a new normal will appear; one of grief, horror and despair, but one also of hope, and community and love.