Disconnect between aid and earthquake victims made worse by fears of looters, weather alerts, little trust and coordination

Disconnect between aid and earthquake victims made worse by fears of looters, weather alerts, little trust and coordination

Rescue teams and aid workers in Morocco worked on the fifth day to comb through the rubble and reach bodies still trapped in the ruins of the dozens of villages spread out on Al Haouz mountains.

Hundreds of trucks, vans and cars loaded with food, water, and tents continued to crawl their way up treacherous mountain roads in an attempt to reach those who were hardest hit by the earthquake, as survivors struggle to foresee a future the wake of the nation’s worst natural disaster in generations, with nearly 3,000 people dead.

In Taounghast village, where 320 families have lost homes and livelihoods, people are now entirely dependent on aid from volunteers and relief organisations. The survivors are living in makeshift shelters and struggling to cope with the cold. “It’s a disaster in the village. People live in in forest, with no clarity on their future,” social worker who coordinates aid deliveries in the village Mohamed Ait Baoui told MoroccoLatestNews.

He said the roads to Taounghast had been blocked until Monday by authorities who were working to clear landslides from the mountain after the earthquake. But now, as the rainy season approaches, there is a new concern that the roads could once again become impassable, leaving the people of Taounghast, and surrounding villages in need of help.

In Talt N’yacoub, a commune less than 20km away from the epicentre of the earthquake, circulating reports of thundershowers forecasts on Thursday have set off fears among victims and prompted authorities to ask volunteers to leave hazardous areas.

Volunteering Medics told MoroccoLatestNews that  volunteers have been asked to leave the area out of fears that thundershowers will cause more damage to the already vulnerable infrastructure, leaving victims exposed to additional hazards, and resources under stress.  Nearly half have left on Tuesday night.

“I will set myself on fire if the authorities refuse to allow me in. I can give up on anything, but not on helping people in need,” aid volunteer, Salah Noukri told MoroccoLatestNews. He and a group of his friends left to collect more supplies from their home town in Khouribga before returning to provide assistance on the ground.

Smaller aftershocks are continuing to rattle the area, including one that sent stones falling on road 203 leading up to the center of the earthquake.

Local residents and eyewitnesses reported that on Monday night falling stones from the mountainside had killed six volunteers on the road.

“Everyone is scared. We’re asking for God’s forgiveness and bracing for the worst,” local activist Mohamed Ait Biourg who lives the farthest point in the mountain track told MoroccoLatestNews.

His village, Aarg, is 20 km away from any accessible road, Ait Biourg said. He and the men of his village used donkeys on Tuesday to transport some aid to the surviving 90 families for the first time since the earthquake hit.

Although survivors in Aarg are open to the idea of relocating – there just isn’t enough donkeys to transport everyone. “I have a wife and two twins. Children and the elderly have contracted the cold, we can’t just pack up and leave,” he said.

Imane El Hamri who came from her home on behalf of a Casablanca-based association on Wednesday pleaded with new comers to focus their aid efforts antibiotics ,painkillers, and anti-inflammatory drugs because while medical assistance is available in most areas, much of it is focused on treating quake victims, and not common illness.

She spoke to MoroccoLatestNews in front of a yellow tent in Al Bur village stamped with a sign that read ”Interior Ministry,” the likes of which are dotted all around the villages of the High Atlas, as government aid began to roll out but that also meant that settlements were set up in areas  father away from the the villages themselves, where locals are concerned about leaving their property unguarded.

In the resort village of Ouaed Azaden, local resident Mostafa Ait ali found himself in a heated argument with his uncle, who was warning the people in the camp that looters would take advantage of the situation. ‘My uncle was causing panic,’ said Ait ali , ‘He kept telling everyone to stay on guard and watch their property. But I tried to explain to him that we have more to worry about than theft, and that spreading fear would not help anyone.’

Fears of looters have pushed local social workers who were coordinating delivery of aid in in Tikst to stop new comers from enterting the village, pleading with them to leave aid deliveries at the entrance of the village. Many rejected, and got into altercations with locals.

“With just don’t trust that aid will get the right people,” one of the volunteers told MoroccoLatestNews. This sentiment is common many other volunteers MoroccoLatestNews spoke to. Many feel that there is a disconnect between the aid and the communities that have been affected, and largely mistrust that aid would be delivered to the people who need it.

Abdelqar Afdil, in Adasil village, said that local authorities stocked up aid deliveries in a local warehouse, and refused volunteers access to surrounding villages. “People are dying and they just take aid and stock it,” he said. 50 local residents staged a protest to demand that the relief organizations, and the aid itself reaches them. It was only after this protest that aid began to flow more freely to the community.

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