Disaster strikes a country on the right path
Morocco is presently grappling with its most severe earthquake in decades, surpassing the impact of the 2004 quake which was of a lower magnitude and resulted in fewer casualties. As of September 10, 2023, the official death toll exceeds 1,300 individuals, and the North African nation remains in a state of shock.
Numerous United Nations World Heritage Sites, as well as other historical attractions that are significant drivers of tourism, have been devastated by the disaster. Not only have some tourists lost their lives, but multiple others have sustained injuries. Global attention is focused on the unfolding crisis, with countries worldwide extending messages of solidarity to Morocco.
Critical intervention agencies such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent have highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating that the next 48 to 72 hours are crucial for life-saving operations. The organizations have also cautioned that the response to this earthquake could span months, if not years.
Morocco's military and security forces are fully mobilized and are actively participating in ongoing rescue missions. King Mohammed VI has commanded the mobilization of all available resources to optimize life-saving efforts and mitigate the crisis. It should also be noted that certain airlines, including Air France, are maintaining their regular flight schedules in the country.
Immediate Impact Analysis
Humanitarian Crisis: The high number of casualties indicates an immediate humanitarian crisis requiring both national and international assistance.
Economic Toll: The destruction of World Heritage and historical sites is likely to have a long-term impact on the tourism industry, a crucial sector of the Moroccan economy.
International Relations: The global solidarity could potentially translate into material aid and long-term partnerships focused on disaster recovery.
Emergency Response: The next 48 to 72 hours are critical, not just for life-saving operations but also for setting the groundwork for the more extended relief efforts that will follow.
National Security: The active engagement of the military and security services indicates a well-coordinated national response, but their capacities may be tested if the crisis prolongs.
Air Travel: The decision by some airlines to maintain regular flight schedules suggests that, thus far, critical infrastructure like airports remains operational, providing a potential channel for international aid and support.
Overall, the situation necessitates multi-faceted, multi-agency, and international responses to manage the immediate crises and the longer-term impacts effectively.
What is disrupted?
Morroco is one of the largest economies in Africa. In 2022, it was the sixth economy on the continent with about $138 billion worth of gross domestic product (GDP). The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates the Moroccan economy to grow at 3.5 percent in 2023 and 3.7 percent in 2024. Its inflation is expected to slow down to 5.7 percent this year.
The country is a major producer of phosphate and has over 70 percent of the global reserve of the mineral. The mineral contributed about 90 percent of the country's mineral revenue. It also has cobalt, copper, iron, barite and others. The country also has a robust tourism sector. The agriculture sector is one of the most efficient on the continent. Most importantly, Morocco has made a significant discovery of natural gas in recent years. With Europe reducing its reliance on Russia, the country is poised to export gas to Europe.
Politically, Morocco has been the most stable country in North Africa. Even in the tumultuous Arab Spring, Morocco remained stable albeit with some internal reforms that made the system more liberal. Rabat is where the constitutional monarchy is based. This also makes the country one of the most transparent in the immediate region of North Africa.
Regionally, Morocco, despite its warm relations with many of the states in North Africa has some tensions with its immediate neighbourhood. The decades-old territorial dispute with separatists in "Western Sahara" is still ongoing despite some states recognizing the country's claims to the territory. These territorial disputes have led to a complex situation that makes Algeria (Morocco's largest neighbor) an interested party. The relations between the two states are therefore tense.
Even though the country has had tensions with Spain on multiple issues including the Western Saharan issue, the two countries have formed closer ties in the last decade. In recent times, trade and immigration agreements have been signed, showing progress on the relationship between the two countries.
Capacity to Fight the Disaster
In the wake of significant natural disasters, international aid often plays a crucial role, even from countries that may not share diplomatic amicability with the affected nation. In Morocco's case, Algeria—despite ongoing tensions with Rabat—has extended humanitarian assistance. Israel, which has recently improved its relations with Morocco, has also offered relief supplies and various forms of rapid-response aid.
Nevertheless, it is primarily the domestic capacity of the affected nation that becomes pivotal during the initial phases of disaster response and rescue operations. Morocco boasts one of the most robust disaster management organizations in Africa, which gained further enhancements after the 2004 earthquake. Emerging reports suggest that this preparedness has significantly impacted the current disaster response, enabling rapid intervention by various teams.
Additionally, Morocco's healthcare system is relatively efficient and effective. Diverging from many African healthcare systems, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, Morocco has developed extensive infrastructure and has trained numerous personnel in the health sector. Currently, the system is mobilizing essential resources such as blood to alleviate the crisis.
Infrastructure such as roads and domestic ports also facilitates the transport of logistics and equipment critical for rescue operations and relief programs. Moreover, Morocco is not facing an energy shortfall; the country is a leader in investing continuously in green energy. Energy is fundamental to any recovery efforts, positioning Morocco advantageously for post-disaster reconstruction.
International Diplomacy: Aid from countries like Algeria and Israel could serve as a diplomatic bridge, perhaps opening avenues for improved international relations in the future.
Domestic Preparedness: The efficiency of Morocco's disaster management organizations will likely reduce the human and economic toll, potentially serving as a model for other African nations.
Healthcare System: An effective healthcare system will be invaluable in managing the crisis, and reducing long-term health impacts on the population.
Infrastructure: The quality of Morocco's infrastructure can expedite rescue and recovery operations, impacting the speed and efficiency of both immediate and long-term relief efforts.
Energy Security: Investment in green energy provides Morocco with a stable energy supply, crucial for sustained recovery efforts.
Economic Resilience: Morocco's relatively strong economy offers it financial resilience, allowing for quicker reconstruction and the provision of aid to affected populations.
In summary, Morocco's domestic capabilities in disaster management, healthcare, infrastructure, and energy security, coupled with its economic resilience, place it in a relatively strong position for both immediate crisis management and long-term recovery. This is further augmented by international aid, which could also have long-term diplomatic benefits.
Support and Resources
Despite the relative capacity of the Moroccan economy and services, the country will need multiple supports from several countries and organizations (both regional and global)to manage the early stages of the earthquake response. To save lives at this stage, many people should be doing so much. This requires support from more experienced nations and organizations that may have garnered the necessary skills due to the frequency of the engagement in the recent past.
Morocco will still need financial assistance in the medium and long term to help with its reconstruction efforts. Already, the United Nations has pledged to help restore damaged heritage sites. International financial institutions of which Morocco is a member could also be instrumental in assisting the country in recovering from the disaster. With the country posting encouraging figures post-COVID and Ukraine War, such external support will be essential.
During the initial phases of disaster management, it is not uncommon for domestic systems to face significant challenges. Despite their level of preparedness, these systems often find themselves overwhelmed due to the shock and devastation caused by the disaster, resulting in a rising number of casualties. This overwhelming situation is not only physical but also has a profound psychological impact on individuals involved in the response efforts.
However, one potential solution to mitigate these early lapses lies in seeking external help. By reaching out to external actors, such as international organizations or neighboring countries, additional support can be provided to alleviate the burden on domestic systems. The presence of these external actors not only brings much-needed resources and expertise but also plays a crucial role in calming nerves and instilling a sense of reassurance among those affected by the disaster.
The involvement of external actors can significantly contribute to more effective disaster management. Their assistance can help bridge gaps in knowledge, provide specialized skills, and offer a fresh perspective on the situation at hand. Furthermore, their presence can serve as a catalyst for collaboration and coordination between different stakeholders involved in the response efforts.
Ultimately,the inclusion of external help in disaster management is essential to address the early lapses that often occur. By tapping into the expertise and resources of external actors, domestic systems can enhance their capacity to handle disasters more efficiently while simultaneously providing psychological support to those affected.
In conclusion, for those with business operations, travel commitments, or residency in Morocco, it is imperative to adhere strictly to advisories issued by relevant authorities. Staying informed and prepared for potential secondary and tertiary response actions is crucial for ensuring personal safety and the safety of others.
We remain hopeful that Morocco, in collaboration with the international disaster response community, will be able to administer aid swiftly and effectively. The aim is to minimize further loss of life and alleviate the suffering of those who have, regrettably, been affected by this catastrophic event.
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