Medical aid from the Netherlands for Morocco can best focus on supporting local citizen initiatives, for the slightly longer term. That is the experience of geriatric internist Ali Lahdidioui and general practitioner Shakib Sana. They are both committed to supplying mainly medicines and medical devices.
Immediately after the earthquake that struck the south of Morocco last week, about one hundred and fifty doctors and as many nurses reported to Lahdidioui. As chairman of the AMAN association (Association of Moroccan Doctors in the Netherlands), he made an inventory of who might be willing to provide assistance on the spot. But in that acute phase, Morocco did not yet appear to have a need for large groups of international healthcare providers who wanted to assist on the spot, well-intentioned but possibly unfocused, Lahdidioui explains. The export and import of medication from the Netherlands to Morocco also proved difficult, due to permits.
AMAN is therefore now focusing on what is needed in the ‘semi-acute phase’, and the slightly longer term, Lahdidioui explains. In practice, this means that AMAN uses money raised through donations (about 13,000 euros so far) to purchase and have medicines and medical devices delivered locally in regions around the earthquake area. ‘As a doctors’ organization, we can now help people who may not have suffered direct harm, but who, due to the destruction of logistics, are running out of medication for their chronic diseases. This puts them at risk of disruption.’ And patients who have been injured can be helped with their wound care with the right tools, Lahdidioui said. ‘We are now not helping physically with manpower, but supporting with resources.’
The Lahdidioui organization tries to link up with local citizen initiatives. ‘We want to create structural and sustainable projects. And ensure that the right items are supplied, instead of an excess of items that are not needed.’ It is possible that in a later phase doctors or nurses will be able to provide on-site assistance ‘on a smaller scale’, but that is also something AMAN wants to inventory with the help of local doctors. They know which hospitals and institutions may want support.’ Lahdidioui hopes that donations will continue to come in the longer term. ‘There is plenty of help to be given. People are now surviving, but after two to six months people have to process their grief and trauma.’
Lahdidioui also works with general practitioner Shakib Sana, who gained experience with local relief early this year when he traveled to Turkey after the major earthquake. Last week, Sana came into contact with the Moroccan-Dutch entrepreneur Ilham Cherradi Oba through his in-laws, who is making an inventory of the help needed. With her help, the money that Sana has raised so far, around 4,500 euros, will be put to a purpose.
Sana also emphasizes the importance of finding ‘a sustainable form’ of aid, which he believes is best achieved by ‘helping local aid, instead of traveling to a region you don’t know yourself’. ‘You can also make a big difference from here in the first weeks, if you help a care provider in the region.’ Through his contact he focuses on purchasing medication and aids, but the donations have also been used to buy a container for a woman with two disabled children whose house has been destroyed.
Sana: ‘After the first few weeks, people start to pick up the thread again. And in the longer term, international aid organizations are present. But until then, in the coming weeks, the need to help in this way is very high. That humanity also helps people process their trauma.’