Concerns for secondary health crisis, as quake-affected people in remote areas of Morocco struggle for help

UK-Med's assessment team travelled to Anougal to ascertain medical needs. © David Anderson/UK-Med

Tuesday 12 September 2023 – The earthquake in Morocco has severely hampered rural healthcare systems.

This could lead to a secondary health crisis, as survivors of the quake, especially in harder to reach areas, struggle to access the medical help needed, warns UK-Med, the UK’s official Emergency Medical Team. UK-Med has deployed a UK government funded specialist team of humanitarian workers to earthquake Morocco.

Scot David Anderson, a NHS nurse by background, is UK-Med’s medical lead in Morocco. He is a veteran of more than twenty humanitarian deployments including the Lebanon-Beirut port blast, Ebola in Sierra Leone, cholera in Malawi and the Ukraine conflict.

The situation remains fluid, however today David intends to travel, by road, to Majjat then west towards the quake’s epicentre.

He says, “We know from previous experience in earthquake responses that limited access to healthcare can lead to a secondary health crisis, as harmful to human life as that done by the quake damage.

“A disaster of this size and complexity would test the resources of the world’s wealthiest nations. Here in Morocco, the aftermath of the earthquake has, as you would expect, stretched the rural healthcare system. The local healthcare infrastructure and staff have suffered the same fate as the general population.

“This therefore means that the facilities for access to GPs, pharmaceuticals and treatment of long-term conditions and non-communicable diseases either no longer exists or has hugely reduced capacity, leaving an already vulnerable population in an extremely difficult position.

“Lack of basic health care can lead to long-term mortality/morbidity and short-term risks to life. Immediate and long-term access to mental health and psycho-social services for quake-affected people is also a key consideration. Likewise, shelter, food, water, and sanitation.
The UK-Med team have witnessed ongoing search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the quake. © Tom Godfrey/UK-Med

“There are also significant needs for rehabilitation both short term and long term, which left untreated, leads to lifelong disability, reducing the individual’s abilities to be independent and participate in education, work, recreation, and meaningful life roles.

“With the collapse of infrastructure, including roads, as well as the destruction of housing and vehicles, it is neither practical nor possible for large sections of the community in the affected areas to travel to healthcare in major centres. This can lead to health access inequality and risk to life. Mobile clinics and teams can begin to support these communities in their local areas improving access and reducing inequality.

“There is therefore a fundamental need to ensure equity of access to healthcare for all across the areas which have been impacted by the earthquake.”

The area in the Atlas Mountains has suffered severe devastation caused by the earthquake. Rescue teams continue to search, but with the heat reaching more than 35 degrees and with access still difficult, there is unfortunately little chance of survival for those still trapped.

Mr Anderson says, “The country has coped remarkably well, but rural communities have limited access to healthcare either for injuries or primary health care. This is mainly delivered in Marrakech, which is now inaccessible for many.”

UK-Med launch Morocco emergency appeal

To support UK-Med’s work in Morocco public donations are encouraged at uk-med.org/donate-now

David Anderson says, “Please give generously to support our appeal. We rely on the support of the public to fund our life-saving work. We are a small nimble medical aid charity, and your donation will help us to save lives.”

UK-Med saves lives internationally by responding to conflict and disasters, operating as both an independent emergency response charity and as a lead partner in the UK Emergency Medical Team, the government’s response to a humanitarian crisis.  

When health systems are overwhelmed, we rapidly get expert health teams to where they’re needed to either provide medical care directly to patients or deliver training and support to build national healthcare workers’ skills.  We also deliver emergency preparedness training to help communities prepare for future health crises.    

Alongside its core staff and country programme employees, UK-Med draws on a register of nearly 1,000 NHS and international doctors, nurses, paramedics, logisticians and other allied non-health professionals; all of whom are highly skilled in emergency work. 

In the last year alone, UK-Med has deployed more than 400 personnel, provided treatment for 35,000 patients around the world, and has trained 11,000 local medical staff.

For interviews, contact Ian Woolverton, Media Manager, on +44 (0) 7377 547362

For other inquiries, email us at comms@uk-med.org or call us on 0161 275 7873

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