Disaster relief

Providing shelter in the mountains of Morocco with Rotary

Providing shelter in the mountains of Morocco with Rotary

John Cleverley, Rotary Marketing Officer with ShelterBox, goes through how Shelterbox has been assisting the thousands affected by the September 2023 earthquake in Morocco.

On 8 September 2023, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco, south west of the major city of Marrakech. According to the Red Cross, more than 3,000 people were killed, thousands more were injured. The villages high in the Atlas Mountains were the worst hit, with more than 50,000 homes reported to have been destroyed.

The operational context and impact of the earthquake in Morocco was challenging as the country has not seen a disaster of this scale in a long time.

ShelterBox implemented the response in partnership with Association Le Grand Atlas and Rotary International, with communication with Rotary partners commencing the day of the earthquake.

During disasters, ShelterBox seeks to partner with Rotary on the ground wherever appropriate and our response in Morocco was no different. We gained immediate assistance 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 in-country and made crucial introductions to Moroccan contacts.

Yamna, aged 75, was the first to reieve Shelterbox’s aid in Morocco.

Our response provided temporary emergency shelter for around 4,400 people who were left without shelter following the earthquake. We focused our response on remote villages spread far out across the Atlas Mountains, communities that have been left with very little.

Many people had been sleeping out in the open since losing their homes, or through fear of buildings collapsing from continuing aftershocks.

The household package provided shelter, warmth and light with the provision of solar lights and high thermal blankets suited to the cold temperatures of high-altitude villages; along with a kitchen set containing everything needed to cook and prepare food.

The ShelterBox team worked closely with village communities, who helped with assessments, preparing tent sites, assisting with distributions and setting up tents.

Early assistance from Rotary

ShelterBox’s partnership with Rotary took many forms during the cycle of the response, 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 who 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, which were kindly donated by a supplier who was a contact of Mo Sbai.

Rotary members also helped in successfully finding a suitable multi-lingual person for our Feedback and Complaints role – a contracted role to enable reporting of issues and any requests.

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 – putting up tents and talking with the local community. The ShelterBox team were able to share and talk them all through our distribution approach, sharing how we go about the whole process.

DG Saadia Aglif with Jalal Zemmama and a local leader, Abdul, putting up a ShelterBox tent.

Sharing Resources

Combining our resources, the ShelterBox team looked for opportunities to share capacity where possible with Rotary partners. This started with local clubs sharing their initial reports from visits to earthquake affected villages.

As several Rotary clubs in D9010 had been carrying out ongoing programmes to support mountain communities, they were able to provide important links and information about the setting there.

ShelterBox team members, in turn, shared the findings of their needs assessments and community discussions with Rotary connections, allowing for ongoing support of the communities from the Rotary network in Morocco.

Rotary’s ongoing work

Rotary clubs continue to manage needs for food, clothing, and hygiene, along with supporting a mobile hospital project and planned temporary housing.

The Rotary Club of Majorelle, for instance, distributed one hundred of the wooden pallets that ShelterBox aid was brought into Morocco on, to 52 earthquake affected households, along with mattresses, pillows, sheets and rugs that the club supplied.

Hassan on the remains of his home that he managed to escape with his wife.

Plus, as part of our wider collaboration with Rotary, we shared documents around safeguarding, gaining consent for photographs and video, as well as our Feedback and Complaints function to ensure that we are serving the communities as best we can.

This mutual sharing of information was hugely beneficial and has resulted in the district planning to apply for a Rotary Foundation grant to address water, sanitation and hygiene needs in the mountain villages, based on our community assessment data.

Working together with Rotary partners in this way meant that we were able to support 22 village communities and distribute over 1,200 tents and over 10,000 blankets, along with the other aid items, before the 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.