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09.10.2023

Earthquake in Morocco: How to Help

Project HOPE is responding to the major earthquake in Morocco with our partner SAMU. Get the latest updates and learn how you can help.

On September 8, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck about 50 miles south of Marrakech, Morocco near the town of Adassil. The earthquake, which was the strongest to hit Morocco in over a century, caused extensive damage across both Marrakech and remote villages and towns in the surrounding region. Early reports from the United Nations state that more than 300,000 people have been affected, though this number may increase as we learn more about the humanitarian situation.

The full scale of the damage remains unclear as many of the hardest-hit communities are in the rural Atlas Mountains, where rescuers continue to work to gain access. The latest reports show that nearly 3,000 people have died and more than 5,000 are injured, though both numbers may rise in the coming days and weeks. Historic walls and buildings collapsed in ancient cities made from stone and masonry not fit to withstand quakes. Thousands of people have spent the nights since Friday’s earthquake on the street, fearful of returning inside in case of aftershocks.

How Project HOPE is Responding

Project HOPE is responding to the earthquake in partnership with our long-time partners SAMU, a Spanish medical emergency organization, who provided search and rescue operations in the initial days following the earthquake. SAMU remains in Morocco to meet the critical care needs in affected communities.

SAMU began operating on the ground in Adassil within 36 hours of the earthquake. The first SAMU team in Morocco, made up of 19 people and two search and rescue dogs, was operational from September 9–15 with a base of operations in Adassil. With support from Project HOPE, SAMU’s team conducted dozens of search and rescue interventions and was able to recover the bodies of multiple victims and return them to their families, but unfortunately did not locate any survivors.

In the seven days of their initial deployment, SAMU’s team carried out more than 120 health interventions and visited more than 20 villages that lacked primary health care infrastructure. They also transferred multiple seriously ill and injured patients by medical ambulance to larger hospitals in cities such as Marrakech and Tangier. Among their patients was a young girl with a broken arm who experienced serious complications and had to be intubated and stabilized before transportation to a nearby hospital.

Again with Project HOPE support, SAMU has deployed a second group of 12 staff members, including two doctors, two nurses, and a psychologist, to operate two mobile medical units. The two team will travel in 4×4 vehicles to provide primary health care to those living in duars without access to care. The team will be based in Tigouga, in the province of Taroudant, near the epicenter of the earthquake.

Project HOPE is in the process of procuring hygiene kits for distribution by partners. The kits will provide approximately 200 families with essential hygiene items like laundry soap, water purification tablets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, disinfecting wipes, towels, shampoo, hand sanitizer, small bandages, combs, feminine hygiene pads, and razors.

Our History with SAMU

SAMU is a leading organization in health emergencies, health, training, and social action with more than 40 years of experience. It has a team of more than 3,000 professionals and offices in Spain, Morocco, the United States, and Latin America.

Project HOPE and SAMU have jointly responded to numerous global crises, including the February 2023 earthquake in Türkiye, where our teams supported search and rescue operations. Project HOPE has since remained in Türkiye to support long-term recovery efforts through mental health support, shelter containers for displaced health workers, the provision of clean drinking water, and mobile medical units, which have provided care to communities throughout the region.

SAMU has had a corporate presence in Tangier since 2017 and, in the last decade has deployed up to three humanitarian missions in the country. Project HOPE has worked in the Middle East/North Africa since 1975 and has relationships with several partner organizations in Morocco.

Search and rescue team in rubble
SAMU’s initial search and rescue team included 19 people, including five doctors, two nurses, and eight rescue specialists. The vehicle convoy included two Advanced Life Support ambulances and three all-terrain vehicles. Photo Courtesy of SAMU, 2023.

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