Dismayed by the lack of official responsiveness to the humanitarian tragedy in southern Somalia, a group of Moroccan activists launched a campaign on facebook to sensitize the population, mobilize support, and solicit donations. They called on the Moroccan government to deploy an emergency contingent to deliver much needed medical supplies and food to the region.
The magnitude of the worst famine Southern Somalia has experienced in the past sixty years is unfathomable; Tens of thousands of people have died and millions are on the verge of starvation. Harakat al-Shabab al Mujahideen has a tight control over the region where they’ve imposed a strict Islamic rule. Because they forbade anything they deemed of Western origin including immunizations, thousands of emaciated children have been dying from measles and cholera. The few fortunate refugees that were able to flee reported that al-Shabab fighters have been diverting river waters from impoverished villagers and selling it to commercial farmers. They have been interdicting people attempting to reach aid camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia and forcing them into crowded and filthy internment camps where sustainment is scarce. The dearth of food airlifted into the region was stolen and sold in local markets at exorbitant prices. The lawlessness and lack of infrastructure make the region inaccessible to international aid organizations whose workers are reluctant to venture into al-Shabab territory.
The initiative of my fellow Moroccan activists is commendable and should be encouraged. But I think our attention is much needed at home where Moroccans are still dying from lack of medical due care. Just a few days ago, Al-Massae reported on Layla Aarirjat, a thirty-year-old mother of two, hailing from Shqaqfa village, who was denied medical attention in the regional community hospital of Kenitra despite the precariousness of her condition. She was promptly thrown out into the street. Ms. Aarirjat’s ailment greatly eroded her mobility. She lingered by the hospital’s main gate bearing a resigned expression, the glint of life slowly fading from her eyes as time waned. A group of passers-by, appalled by the unconscionable actions of the hospital staff, intervened. They laid Ms. Aarirjat on a gurney and challenged the forcefully objections of hospital security and administrators while rolling her into the emergency. Hospital staff still refused to attend to the patient. As far as I know, Ms. Aarirjat’s frail body remains on that gurney in the emergency hall, drenched in her defecation and urination. The hospital refuses to feed her and she subsists on the alms of other patients and their visitors. Myopic nurses and doctors, with deadpan mien, saunter past her paying her as much attention as Ron Paul gets from Fox News.
Saturday, a pregnant woman delivered her baby daughter in a main thoroughfare not far from Fez regional community hospital. She was rejected from the maternity ward earlier. And in the village of Tamri, north of Agadir, another pregnant woman delivered her baby outside the health center because the whole maternity staff was attending a meet and greet function with the mayor. Less than a month ago, another unattended delivery outside the gate of the same health center resulted in the death of the baby. According to local rights organizations, The Tameri health center has had an unsettling track record of negligence and incompetence.
Unfortunately, these cases are not exceptions. Pregnant women deliver outside hospitals not only in rural areas, but major cities as well. On a daily basis, Moroccans die from what was initially benign medical conditions that become malignant as a result of a lack of due care. Moroccan government hospitals are exclusive clubs and only those who can afford the cover charge are granted access. The gate security demands money before they let you in; the nurse expects a payment to provide care; the doctor sells you unnecessary medication and overcharge you for unperformed procedures; the hospital billing department duns patients, even emergency ones, prior to any care be given and shows no compunction denying service to those who are too impoverished to pay.
Let’s not go too far; there is a large segment of the Moroccan society living in conditions not far off from that of Somalia. What the Moroccan poor has going for him is that the trash of Morocco’s rich upon which he subsists is far better than Somalia’s.
A. T. B. © 2011