By Amaynu Azayku, February 14 2018
As of January 2018, the Red Cross and Crescent along with the Moroccan government reported that they were beginning to launch emergency response measures to assist the 70,000+ Amazigh people in the Atlas mountains affected by the significant snowfall and temperatures averaging 18 degrees to 7 degrees Celsius. At the time, the Amazigh population anxiously awaited help but no significant action took place.
As of February 8th, local media reported even more snowfall and conditions worsened. Officials reported there would be an increase in response measures to assist the estimated now, 514,000 people over 22 provinces. The snow storms brought over 200 cm (79 inches), the most snow in over 50 years. Officials stated there would be “difficulties in some areas, mainly due to insufficient numbers of available snowplows”.
As conditions become unbearable, food supplies ran out and people started freezing to death and starving, often found dead as they were seeking help. Only those who hike in and bring whatever supplies they can carry, report the horrific condition of the families, many with children and elderly. They were not prepared for the unusually heavy snow conditions.
The Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, stated that “over 600 doctors and nearly 2000 nurses were mobilized to provide medical assistance to areas isolated due to snow and heavy rain and additional healthcare has been made available to pregnant women at specialized maternity hospitals while helicopters were mobilized to evacuate urgent cases to nearby hospitals.”
Although some of these doctors and helicopter assistance may be reaching certain areas in Morocco, they are not found in the hardest hit mountain regions where it is most desperately needed.
El Othmani additionally stated “The affected areas have also benefited from large quantities of food supplies, including flour, rice, sugar, tea, salt, oil and milk as well as blankets to fend the cold,” The Red Cross and Crescent reports they plan to distributed the supply packages over a three month period with their staff of 10 personnel and 100 volunteers at their 7 branch locations.
In addition to these packages not reaching the Amazigh population, the urgent need is now, not three months. Also, 10 personnel are not nearly enough to reach the 70,000 effected.
The Red Cross and Crescent states that they are being assisted by the following organizations, The Mohammed V Association, Local government authorities, The Royal Army, Ministry of transport and the Ministry of health yet the resources, such as helicopters, military assistance, all terrain vehicles or even an effort to escalate the effort to make an emergency request for more international assistance from NGO would make a significant positive impact this desperate humanitarian crisis.
As people die daily, the Amazigh do not have until spring to get help. It is a sincere hope King Mohammed will decide to put forth his great amount of resources and put a stop to this escalating catastrophe occurring in the country. “They have to do more to provide comfort to rural areas despite these efforts.” – King Mohammed VI He has voiced concern but now is the time to put it into action, not in the spring. There isn’t enough time.