Struggling Moroccan Quake Survivors Face Uphill Battle in Rebuilding Shattered Lives and Homes

Khadija Ait Si Ali was in the process of rebuilding her life when the earthquake struck. Her husband tragically lost his life in a road accident just seven months prior, leaving her widowed and five months pregnant.

“I had plans to start job hunting in a couple of months,” she shared with CNN, standing amidst the ruins of Tinzert, a small village in the Atlas Mountains that was flattened by last Friday's quake.

“I thought that was all I needed. But now, a home is essential. Because we don’t have one.”

Ait Si Ali, along with her three-month-old baby, has limited options for assistance; everyone else here is grappling with their own challenges. “My mother lost her house. Every member of my family lost their homes. My husband's family's house is almost entirely gone,” the 26-year-old lamented.

This is a familiar narrative in this secluded, rugged region of Morocco. Most inhabitants reside in the very place they were born, where their ancestors have dwelled for generations. Family is never too distant. However, when the catastrophic earthquake hit the area, people's crucial support systems crumbled along with everything else.

The sheer volume of people who have been left homeless means that, even a full week after the calamity, many remain without shelter, eking out an existence under makeshift tents crafted from blankets or scraps of tarp.

As the winter rapidly approaches these mountainous villages, the process of recovery and reconstruction needs to commence without delay.

Amal Zniber oversees the Moroccan educational charity Amis Des Écoles and has spent the past week distributing aid across the region. She noted that, thanks to the generosity of individuals from all corners of the country, there is now an ample supply of food and water. However, waste management is becoming a pressing issue.

“We need to find ways to dispose of the waste and determine the most suitable means to provide kitchens, toilets, showers, and sleeping arrangements that align with local culture and traditions,” Zniber informed CNN.

In the village of Tafeghaghte, roughly an hour and a half southwest of Marrakech, Abdu Brahim told CNN that his family is still grappling with how to stay warm and dry.

“We need a tent and something to cook with. The morning dew makes everything damp. I need a tent for my children and my elderly father,” he expressed.

Abdu Brahim and his wife Hanan Ait Brahim have spent recent days sifting through the debris that once constituted their home.

Regrettably, their seven-year-old daughter, along with her aunt, uncle, and cousin who resided in the adjacent house, perished in the earthquake.

The couple endeavored to salvage whatever they could from the wreckage, meticulously sorting their dusty, damaged belongings into distinct piles: clothing and shoes, kitchen utensils, blankets, and mattresses.

“I'm simply trying to sort through it all to see what we have and what we still need,” Hanan Ait stated.

They worked with a methodical precision, enveloped in silence. At one point, Hanan Ait stumbled upon her daughter's pencils and chalks, which brought tears to her eyes.

The 51 individuals who lost their lives in this close-knit community of 500 have been laid to rest on the outskirts of the village. This is one of the reasons why Abdu Brahim stated he cannot envision leaving Tafeghaghte, despite the devastation.

“Our life is rooted here. We have our land, our animals,” he affirmed. “When I reflect on all the happiness in my life, it’s all here,” he added. He informed CNN that he is resolute in reconstructing a home for his family.

“Step by step,” he affirmed. It took him two decades to construct the house the first time; now he is starting anew, without the assistance of his brother.

The Moroccan government announced on Thursday that individuals whose homes were entirely demolished will be eligible for 140,000 dirhams ($14,000) in aid. Those with partially damaged homes will receive 80,000 dirhams, while everyone else affected by the earthquake will receive 30,000 dirhams.

Abdelkarim Ait Amkhaine's residence in the neighboring town of Ouirgane was razed by the quake, and he has spent the past few nights sleeping in a tent. He told CNN that the financial assistance will be a substantial relief for those residing in the mountains.

“140,000 dirhams is a reasonable amount to be able to rebuild a home. It is the minimum requirement to construct a modest home,” he remarked, adding that his house is so severely damaged that it will need to be demolished and cleared before any new construction can commence.