On September 8, 2023, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck central Morocco, killing 2,862 people and injuring around 6,000. The earthquake mainly hit the rural area of the High Atlas Mountains, causing landslides, collapses and damaging many paths. Access to isolated and rural villages has been made even more difficult. Faced with needs, MSF teams are providing psychological support for affected populations, health workers and volunteers who worked following the earthquake.
Immediately after the earthquake, on September 9, MSF sent emergency teams to assess the humanitarian and medical situation in the most affected areas, in the provinces of Al Haouz, Taroudant and Chichaoua. Five MSF teams assessed 30 sites in total.
The overall response from Moroccan authorities, bilateral partners and the Moroccan people has been remarkable. The emergency response plans of the Moroccan Ministry of Health, army and civil protection were quickly mobilized. The installation of advanced medical posts, field hospitals and transfer capacities was crucial to guarantee an urgent medical and humanitarian response at very short notice.
“We saw entire villages destroyed, roads collapsed and electricity cut off ,” explains Fouzia Bara, an MSF nurse who was part of the first MSF teams in Morocco. Despite this, the Moroccan authorities, with the support of certain States, managed to free the populations from the rubble, treat the injured, use helicopters to transport the injured from the most remote areas and distribute food and other materials to those affected. »
MSF teams noted the comprehensiveness of the Moroccan government’s response and found very few gaps. In addition to this evaluation, MSF teams made, between September 12 and 17, six donations responding to specific needs expressed at the time by health centers or hospitals. These targeted donations were coordinated with the Moroccan authorities. They contained medical equipment and medicines, such as injectable medicines, painkillers, antibiotics, insulin and medical equipment.
Those hardest hit by this crisis urgently need psychological support. This includes search and rescue teams and frontline volunteers. MSF teams spoke to dozens of women and men in distress in heavily affected areas, in all sites assessed. Most have lost relatives, friends or seen their homes and villages razed. Some were still waiting for the bodies of their loved ones to be found, fully aware that finding them alive was no longer an option.
“We will provide mental health activities and first aid psychological support to local organizations and affected individuals as well as frontline workers, mainly through the networks of psychologists, social workers, health promoters and other Moroccan volunteers ” , explains Fouzia Bara.
MSF’s main activities will also consist of supporting the medical and paramedical teams of the Moroccan Ministry of Health, leading health promotion and mental health campaigns and training and supporting local groups in psychological first aid