Image Credit: BBC
Morocco experienced an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 that lasted several seconds when it first hit on Friday 8th of September, followed by a 19 minutes long 4.9 aftershock trapping people under the rubble. The Interior Ministry reports that the highland community of Tafeghaghte, 60 kilometres from Marrakech, and five provinces surrounding the epicenter were almost entirely destroyed, with only a few buildings remaining.
Over 2,000 people are reported to have died in Friday’s earthquake, but as search and rescue crews wade through piles of wreckage, the death toll continues to increase. Hopes of finding any more survivors are fading given that the mountainous terrain is covered by large boulders and fallen rocks. Those left homeless by the quake’s destruction slept outside on Saturday in the streets of Marrakech; others. on the ground or on benches in a park, while others were under makeshift canopies in Atlas Mountain towns.
Morocco is one of the countries most exposed to geological and climate-related hazards in the Middle Eastern and Northern Africa region. Due to. its geographic position, high rainfall variability, and topography, Morocco is regularly prone to flooding. Coupled with geological hazards such as earthquakes and coastal erosion, losses are estimated to cost Morocco over $575 million each year and pose a significant threat to her citizens and their livelihoods, particularly vulnerable people in rural settings.
In 2004, the last major earthquake in the northern Al Hoceima Region claimed 600 victims and destroyed 12,000 homes. The country’s deadliest earthquake that struck in 1960 killed at least 12,000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey records prompted Morocco to change construction rules, but many buildings, especially rural homes built with a traditional mix of stone, timber and a mortar composed of mud are not built to withstand such tremors.
Current efforts to assist Morocco’s survivors raise the issue of building resilience for disaster prone African countries. Natural disaster resilience measures are crucial for assisting communities and countries in mitigating the impact of severe calamities and recovering more efficiently. Africa is diverse and faces a wide range of natural disasters, these resilience measures should be adjusted to the individual needs and vulnerabilities of each region. Furthermore, it is critical to guarantee that these policies are long-term and take into account the continent’s long-term effects of climate change. Cooperation among governments, communities, non-governmental organisations, and international organisations is critical to strengthening resilience in Africa against natural disasters.
Over the last few decades, risk management has evolved from a technical exercise to something much more strategic: a fundamental change in terms of how to think about and best improve risk resilience. This transformation began in the private sector but is now increasingly being adopted in the public sector, including all levels of heads of governments.
Development and implementation of disaster preparedness plans at the national, regional, and community levels is increasingly essential. After the earthquake of 1960, Morocco changed construction rules but recent accounts from survivors of Friday’s disaster shows that many rural communities were excluded in these plans. Engaging with local communities to raise awareness about natural disasters and the importance of preparedness and involving communities in the development and implementation of disaster risk reduction plans would be beneficial in reducing casualties of these events.
What Would Building Resilience Look Like?
Building Resilience would look like investment in infrastructure. Investment in resilient sustainable infrastructure that can withstand natural disasters, such as building codes that take into account the local climate and potential hazards in urban and peri-urban areas. Implementation and maintenance of accessible early warning systems to all communities, including those in remote areas can provide timely information about impending disasters, saving dozens of lives.
The development of insurance and risk financing mechanisms to help individuals, businesses, and governments recover financially from natural disasters is also necessary to enable the continuation of lives and businesses.
Building resilience should include providing training and education on disaster preparedness and response; regular drills and simulations to individuals and local authorities in rural and urban areas. Most importantly, the employment of community-based adaptation by empowering local communities to develop and implement their own adaptation and resilience strategies, taking into account their unique needs and knowledge. Community members know their communities best and are better positioned to contribute to adaptation plans best suited for them.
Trellyz perfectly showcases the community-based adaptation with its continent wide Climate Resilience Salons. The maiden Nigerian Climate Resilience Salon held in Lagos, Nigeria in July 2023 had delegates from women-led organisations, climate-tech entrepreneurs, government officials, private sectors, NGOs and representatives from front line communities experiencing the worst of climate impacts to discuss climate technology, climate change issues and cultivated solutions to critical and potential climate problems. According to Shelley Taylor, the lead convenor of the Climate Resilience Salons “one of the goals of the Salons is to help some of the women working in nonprofits transform their work into businesses where they can generate profits from climate solutions, increasing their family wealth and influence in society.” The Salons, which are designed to be small, carefully selected and intimate, showcased an incredible group of women rapidly prototyping solutions, building relationships for success and actively listening to each other.
The first African Climate Resilience Salon will be held in October in Morocco and will have representatives from African countries working around climate issues, climate technology and are actively working towards providing climate solutions in their various countries. This 2-day event will give an insight about how to reframe and rethink traditional responses to climate change. The effect of this Salon will be to build multi-stakeholder networks that will lead to the creation of new solutions, partnerships, projects and topics of research.
Ifechi Anikwe is Junior Associate, Environment and Climate Action at Clean Technology Hub.