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Earthquake in Morocco: MSF offers psychological care to affected population


On 8 September 2023, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck central Morocco, killing 2,862 people and injuring around 6,000. The earthquake mainly affected the rural area of the High Atlas Mountains, causing landslides and collapses and damaging many roads. Access to remote and rural villages has been made even more difficult. In response to the needs, MSF teams are providing psychological support for the affected populations, healthcare workers and volunteers who worked in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Immediately after the earthquake on 9 September, MSF sent emergency teams to assess the humanitarian and medical situation in the worst-affected areas in the provinces of Al Haouz, Taroudant and Chichaoua. Five MSF teams assessed a total of 30 sites.

The overall response from the Moroccan authorities, bilateral partners and the Moroccan people was remarkable. The emergency response plans of the Moroccan Ministry of Health, Army and Civil Protection were rapidly mobilized. The installation of forward medical posts, field hospitals and transfer capacities were crucial to guaranteeing an urgent medical and humanitarian response within a very short timeframe.

"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 governments, have managed to clear people from the rubble, treat the injured, use helicopters to transport the injured from the most remote areas, and distribute food and other supplies to those affected".

MSF teams noted the comprehensiveness of the Moroccan government's response and found very few gaps. In addition to this assessment, between 12 and 17 September, MSF teams made six donations in response 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 drugs, analgesics, antibiotics, insulin and medical equipment.

The people hardest hit by this crisis urgently need psychological support. This includes search and rescue teams and frontline volunteers. MSF teams have spoken to dozens of distressed women and men in the heavily affected areas, in all the sites assessed. Most had lost relatives or friends, or had seen their homes and villages razed to the ground. 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 people, as well as to front-line workers, mainly through networks of Moroccan psychologists, social workers, health promoters and other volunteers," explains Fouzia Bara.

MSF's main activities will also include supporting the Moroccan Ministry of Health's medical and paramedical teams, running health promotion and mental health campaigns, and training and supporting local groups in psychological first aid.


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