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Morocco is experiencing a harsh winter and cold waves. Between December and March, the temperature in remote villages located in high altitudes drops below zero degrees celsius. Low temperature and large snowfall add to the pre-existing — and persistent — issue of underfunded infrastructure to further isolate and distress Morocco’s villages, endangering the lives of their inhabitants.
Many inhabitants of one of Morocco’s remote villages have shared alarming videos on social media, pleading for help. A recent video went viral of a young child from Ait Abbas, located in Azilal province, asking for “warm clothes and socks” and begging to be protected from the cold.
The cold wave unravels the inequality of opportunity in terms of protection against the hazards of extreme cold and other consequences directly or indirectly related to climate change. Electricity cuts, impassable roads, insufficient supply of basic necessities, and poor or nonexistent medical care have become the daily reality for many of Morocco’s forgotten regions.
Several tragic events in these remote regions had caused an uproar on social media, with concerned citizens demanding adequate protection for the villagers. In one notable instance, the cold wave took the life of 30 children in the Anfgou region in 2007.
In another, news went viral of the death of a woman in January 2018 following snowfall that caused the collapse of the roof of her house in Douar Zroun (Al-Haouz province). In the same year, Moroccans mourned the death of a young shepherd in the Middle Atlas in Taza. A week after the shepherd’s disappearance, a group of Taza inhabitants found the body of Hamid Baali, “The snow martyr,” buried in the snow.
The Moroccan government recently announced a series of measures to appease the consequences of cold snaps and heavy snowfall in the Atlas and Rif mountains. In December of last year, the ministry of interior launched Morocco’s 2020-2021 national campaign against cold waves. The campaign is set to benefit more than 755,000 Moroccans. Approximately 13% of the beneficiaries are elderly, 35% are children, and 51% are adults.
According to the government, the national campaign will target 1,776 remote villages across 27 different provinces. In January 2020, the Ministry of Health announced the distribution of 150 satellite phones in several mountainous villages across Morocco to help residents communicate amid cold snaps.
Yet the central question remains: is that enough? Many civil society actors continue to sound the alarm on the conditions of Moroccan villagers. Isolated and secluded, the rural population experiences many misfortunes. Every year around and during the winter season, the cold wave becomes a life or death question for most Moroccan villagers.
In addition to the yearly national campaign, it would be judicious to provide sustainable responses to the risks associated with climate change and without which these vulnerable areas of the country would experience the same distress every year.