Since Sunday morning United Hatzalah’s disaster relief mission has been operating in Morocco. The team’s first goal was to assess the needs of the Moroccan people and coordinate efforts with the Moroccan government and community leaders so as to determine how best to assist in the wake of the earthquake last Friday. After assessing where the organization’s efforts could be best utilized, the decision was made to open medical clinics in villages in the Atlas Mountains that have not yet been able to receive medical care or humanitarian aid.
“Our mission thus far has been a success, thanks to the coordination we had with the authorities here in Morocco,” explained Deputy Director of Emergency Operations Linor Attias. “As a result of that coordination we have identified the areas that have not yet received medical response and we are heading there. I want to thank everyone who was involved in helping us make this happen.”
Early Thursday afternoon, the team had set up two medical clinics in different villages in the Atlas Mountains to treat injured and ill people. There are still many villages deep in the mountains that have not yet received any medical or humanitarian aid, although in many places search and rescue crews are busy at work trying to rescue survivors from the rubble.
“We chose the specific villages to set up our medical clinics in coordination with local leaders who told us that they have yet to receive medical care in their villages,” Attias explained. “We are coming to be a force multiplier for local services and assist where we people have not yet received aid and medical care.”
The team, which will now focus on operating the medical clinics, is comprised of both Muslim and Jewish volunteers and includes two doctors, and a dozen EMTs and paramedics, several of whom are Arabic and French speakers. Three of the volunteers are also part of the organization’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit and will be providing psychological first aid and stabilization where needed. Three other volunteers have expertise in search and rescue operations, including one firefighter, and one member of Israel’s search and rescue teams.
“Our main objective now is to provide medical care and humanitarian aid, but we chose a diverse team with expertise in many areas in order to be able to respond to any situation that developed,” said mission commander Yossi Amar. “Our volunteers are a diverse group and we are utilizing that diversity to be able to best help the Moroccan people and speak to them in their own language while respecting their culture and traditions.”
For one of the volunteers in the group, Sivan Menachem, the mission is personal. “I lived in Morocco for many years, and my parents are still there,” Sivan explained. “Thankfully they were not injured by the earthquake, but many families were, and I am here to help them.” Sivan, who lives in the small town of Ganei Yohanan just outside of Mazkeret Batya, dropped all of her plans for the foreseeable future once she heard about the mission to Morocco. “This was something that I knew I needed to do,” she concluded.
“We have received the blessing of the local government to operate here and provide medical care to those in need,” Amar said. “The residents have been informed that we are here and that whoever needs medical attention can come to us. So far in the village of Imi N’Tala where we opened our first clinic earlier today, we have treated dozens of people for sprains, broken bones, dehydration, medical illnesses requiring antibiotics, fevers, and many other conditions. We are coordinating with local ambulance teams and other first responders in the field and treating them as well when needed.”