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Our partnership with Rotary in Morocco

by John Cleverley, Rotary Marketing Officer 15/01/2024

 

On 8 September 2023, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco, southwest of Marrakech. According to the Red Cross, more than 3,000 people were killed, and thousands more injured. Villages high in the Atlas Mountains were the worst hit. More than 50,000 homes are reported to have been destroyed.

Responding to the earthquake in Morocco was challenging. The country has not seen a disaster of this size in a long time, and the damage was widespread. Working with Rotary helped us bring emergency shelter to the people who needed it.

In this blog learn more about our work in Morocco, and working with Rotary, local people and other partners.

Overview of our response in Morocco

Man sitting on the rubble of a destroyed building in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco
Hassan on the remains of his destroyed home in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. He was able to escape from the rubble with his wife.

 

ShelterBox responded in Morocco in partnership with Association Le Grand Atlas and Rotary International. Communication with Rotary partners began the day of the earthquake.

During disasters, ShelterBox seeks to partner with Rotary on the ground where appropriate. Our response in Morocco was no different. We gained immediate help from the Rotary District Governor of 9010, Saadia Aglif; and Moroccan Rotary member, Mo Sbai (Rotary Club of Salt Lake City). They both helped to speed up the process of getting aid into the country. They also made crucial introductions to Moroccan contacts.

Our response provided temporary emergency shelter for around 4,400 people. We focused our response on remote villages spread far out across the Atlas Mountains. These communities had been left with very little after the earthquake. Many people had been sleeping out in the open since losing their homes. Others were afraid about buildings collapsing from continuing aftershocks. The household package we provided gave people with shelter, warmth and light. It included solar lights and thermal blankets, suited to the cold temperatures of high-altitude villages. There was also a kitchen set containing everything needed to cook and prepare food. The ShelterBox team worked closely with village communities. They helped with assessments, preparing and setting up tent sites, and distributing aid.

Early assistance from Rotary

Two people packing aid into bags in a warehouse in Morocco
Members of the Rotary Club of Majorelle packing aid bags in the warehouse ready for distribution

 

ShelterBox’s partnership with Rotary took many forms during the response. It covered from before we arrived in Morocco, to after our teams left.

Our preparation was greatly assisted by the enthusiastic members of the Rotary Club of Majorelle, Marrakech. They packed aid items into bags alongside local volunteers, ready for distributions. As the ground in the mountains was so hard, we needed rebar pegs for the tents. These were kindly donated by a supplier who was a contact of Mo Sbai. Rotary members also helped to find a suitable multi-lingual person for our Feedback and Complaints role. This role enabled the reporting of issues and answered any requests.

 

Three people inside a ShelterBox tent in Morocco
DG Saadia Aglif with Jalal Zemmama and a local leader Abdul putting up a ShelterBox tent

 

DG Saadia Aglif, PDG Jilali Antari, Jalal Zemmama (Humanitarian Service Team lead) and other Rotary members went on to assist with some of the distributions. They put up tents and talked with the local community. The ShelterBox team were able to talk them through the whole process of how we distribute aid.

Sharing resources

Woman sitting in the entrance of a tent in Morocco
Yamna, aged 75, was the first to receive our aid in Morocco

 

The ShelterBox team looked for opportunities to share resources with Rotary partners.

This began with local clubs sharing their initial reports from visits to earthquake affected villages. Several Rotary clubs in D9010 had been carrying out programmes to support mountain communities. As such they were able to provide important links and information. ShelterBox, in turn, shared the findings of our needs assessments and community discussions. This allowed for ongoing support of the communities by the Rotary network in Morocco.

Rotary’s ongoing work

A line of ShelterBox tents in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco
ShelterBox tents distributed amongst damaged buildings in the mountain villages

 

Rotary clubs continue to manage needs for food, clothing, and hygiene in Morocco. They are also supporting a mobile hospital project and planned temporary housing. The Rotary Club of Majorelle, for instance, distributed 100 of the wooden pallets that ShelterBox aid was brought into Morocco on. They were shared with 52 earthquake affected households. This was along with mattresses, pillows, sheets and rugs that the club supplied.

Plus, as part of our wider collaboration with Rotary, we shared some key documents. They covered topics such as safeguarding, gaining consent for photo and video, as well as our Feedback and Complaints function. This helped ensure that we were serving the communities as best we can. The mutual sharing of information was hugely beneficial. It resulted in the district planning to apply for a Rotary Foundation grant. The grant would address water, sanitation and hygiene needs in the mountain villages. This application is based on our community assessment data.

Working with Rotary partners meant that we were able to support 22 village communities. We distributed over 1,200 tents and over 10,000 blankets, along with the other aid items. And they reached people before sub-zero winter temperatures arrived in the Atlas Mountains.

With special thanks to: Saadia Aglif, District Governor of 9010; Rotarian, Mo Sbai, Rotary Club of Salt Lake City and Bouchra Soufiane, President of Rotary Club of Majorelle, Marrakech.

 

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