Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moroccan Consulate in NYC Collects Clothes for the Poor in the Atlas Mountains

Here is an interesting announcement posted on the Consulate General of Morocco in NYC's website. It appears that today is the last day of a drive to collect clothes for poor families in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

AWESOME NEWS! Clothing drive for needy families in Morocco now through Saturday, February 25, 2012.

After a very successful clothing drive in Astoria and Brooklyn, Moroccan Americans in NY/Marocains Unis will organize the last day of collection to fill up a 40' container.

We will be conducting this last round of the clothing drive to help the needy families in the Atlas mountains. We ask you to reach into your hearts and your closets and give as much as you can. Arrangements have already been made for the storage, transport, and distribution of the items to those in need. All that is required is the product!

The items that are needed most are: coats, socks, hats, gloves, shoes, blankets, an other warm clothing for all ages, infant through adult...Anything you can give will be greatly appreciated..

Members of the group will be located this Saturday, February 25th at the corner of 25th Ave and 41 Street in Astoria, Queens from 10:30am-5:30pm. Its only one block from Steinway Street.

We hope to see you there! PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!!!!

*** If you are unable to make it to the scheduled collection but would like to donate, and for any other inquiries, please contact us at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cold Wave Hits the Al-Hoceima Region : Moroccan Red Crescent Responds

Funds from the International Red Cross/Red Cresecent Disaster Relief Fund have been released to address the serious cold wave that has hit the Al-Hoceima region in Northern Morocco. Here is a link to the report they have released. Portions of the report have been pasted below.

The cold wave that affects the last few days Morocco will persist until the end of the week with a peak on Wednesday and Thursday, as announced by the national weather forecast service.

Going about this, the result of a polar air mass that passes through the eastern and central Europe affects northern Africa from Tunisia to Morocco. Minimum temperatures have broken records for the month of February in several regions with low degrees, and very rarely for years, recorded. The temperature was close to minus 7 degrees Celsius on the mountainous regions, from -1 to 3 on the middle and 5 to 8 on the coast.

As consequence, roads and mountain passes were blocked by snowfalls, the electricity was interrupted and some houses suffered structural damages. In addition, with low temperatures, water pipes froze, interrupting the water supply in many regions.
Disaster relief emergency fund (DREF)

Morocco/North Africa: Cold wave

Most parts of the Kingdom felt this unusual cold wave. Given this situation, local authorities and relevant departments have mobilized needed human and material resources (governmental services with different ministries) and operated since Monday several interventions to help and assist the most affected population.

The Moroccan Red Crescent will intervene in two regions to assist 1500 families (7500 beneficiaries) providing food and non food items. Those regions are: Oriental and Taza Al Hoceima Taounat in four localities. The table below shows with -more details- the locations:

Coordination and partnerships
The Moroccan government has provided assistance to the affected population in the early days of the cold wave. The contingency plan was activated Wednesday February 8th in the provinces of Beni Mellal and Azilal, and especially localities into difficult terrain.
This operation involved 11,000 households spread over 154 Villages in provinces mentioned above and these households will receive blankets and food appropriate to the winter season. A number of criteria were put to select beneficiaries as: families with no income (unemployment), families living below the poverty line, Homeless persons and old persons, as well as the level of isolation of villages.
Because of the large number of families to assist, the government looked for the associated movement to contribute in this national solidarity operation in order to alleviate the sufferance of the affected population.

The assistance plan is organized with the participation of the Royal Armed Forces, the (Gendarmerie National) and the Ministry of Interior, which will deploy staff for “Promotion National” (national initiative for human resources development) National Reconstruction, and with input from King Mohammed the fifth Foundation fund for Solidarity. The Moroccan Red Crescent has been involved as usual in this plan and has been assigned to cover affected areas.

To meet the needs of this exceptional cold wave affected population, the Moroccan Red Crescent is requesting support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to provide relief in the form of food and non-food items to affected families.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Changes in Morocco Leave the Large Gap between Rich and Poor Unaddressed

Kudos to NPR once again for giving voice (literally) to the concerns of the poor and unemployed in Morocco. Here is a new piece about the situation in a country that has the widest gap between the rich and the poor in the "Arab world." You can hear the radio story by clicking on the link or read the transcript below.

In Morocco, The Arab Spring's Mixed Bounty

by Deborah Amos

February 7, 2012

If you're looking for the reasons for unrest in Morocco, you can find some answers while zipping along in a golf cart at a resort in the historic town of Marrakech.

The rentals at this exclusive enclave are all five-star: large villas with extra rooms for a full-time butler and a chauffeur. There's a lake, a spa and an 18-hole golf course for the clientele — who are, it goes without saying, very rich.

"In Morocco," says Mustapha, a resort employee, as he takes a prospective client on a tour, "you have the money, you live good."
A Moroccan mother and child beg for money in Rabat, Morocco, last year. About 15 percent of the population lives on $2 a day, and the literacy rate is little more than 50 percent.

This place is called the Secret Garden. But it's no secret that the gap between rich and poor in Morocco is one of the widest in the Arab world. About 15 percent of the population lives on $2 a day. The literacy rate is little more than 50 percent and, political analysts in Morocco say, there's a lack of opportunity and lack of hope among the young.

Just a short drive from the golf course is another Morocco, one with no electricity or running water.

This neighborhood sits in the middle of an olive grove. The roads are unpaved, and the houses are made of concrete block and mud. A woman uses a branch to sweep outside her home. This is the poor Morocco.

Poverty is one of many issues that ignited protests in the region — and in Morocco. On Feb. 20, 2011, Moroccans took to the streets to demonstrate in a country considered one of the most stable in the region. King Mohammed VI moved quickly to placate the protesters by offering constitutional reforms and calling early elections.

But progress toward democracy has also revealed the limits of civil disobedience.

Desire For A Different Kind Of Monarchy

The spark came when a group of young Moroccans called for demonstrations on Feb. 20 with a YouTube video that stated their demands for freedom and equality — their motives for calling for the street march. For the first time, demonstrators were directly challenging the absolute powers of the king, says businessman Karim Tazi, who joined the protest.

"In a lot of Arab countries, the goal was a simple one — get rid of the dictator," Tazi says. "In Morocco, the situation was more complicated than that. No one wanted to get rid of the king, but they want a different monarchy, they don't want an authoritarian one."

Economist Fouad Abdelmoumni says they want a symbolic monarchy more like Britain or Spain and a parliament with powers. They want a democracy, he says, not through revolution, as in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, but through reform.

"We have a whole generation that is emerging to politics, that is beginning to think of politics and beginning to have faith that they can lead their life and change their situation," Abdelmoumni says.

A year after the first demonstrations, reforms offered by the king are being tested. The head of the new government is an Islamist. His Justice and Development Party, or PJD, won the most votes in November elections, but the king and his advisers still retain substantial power, says Abdelmoumni, and can stall the proposals of the PJD.

"Will they be able to change the mindset where corruption and nepotism [are] the basic behavior of the state?" he asks.

That is the election promise, says Abdelmoumni, and party officials have already pledged to disclose the list of Moroccans who have benefited from a system known as grima, a French word that in Morocco means favors bestowed by the monarch.

"They will pay the price if they decide to go strongly against corruption, and they will pay the price if they don't go far enough, because the population is expecting a lot," Abdelmoumni says.

A Limit To The Changes

This population expects jobs. Unemployed college graduates protest every week in the capital. They shocked the country a few weeks ago when five set themselves on fire. Three were hospitalized and one died.

The new government's strategy is to seek economic growth and curb corruption, but Ahmed Benchemsi says that could lead to a collision with entrenched interests — the elites connected to the king.

Benchemsi, the former publisher of a popular news magazine, is now a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. In a visit home to Rabat recently, he explained that the monarch controls much of the Moroccan economy.

"[The king] is the No. 1 businessman in the country," Benchemsi said. "He's the No. 1 grocer, he's the No. 1 farmer, he's the No. 1 landowner, he's the No. 1 steel producer, sugar producer. ... He's a huge businessman."

And despite the new constitution, the king can still block any law he dislikes, Benchemsi says, adding that there are limits to the changes won by the protest movement a year ago.

It's a critique heard across the region from the young protesters who brought so many to the streets.

"They should have worked like a political movement," says Benchemsi. "But the thing is, the protest movement in Morocco is not a political movement. It is just a bunch of kids who dream of democracy — which is a beautiful thing, but it's not enough to shake a deeply rooted system like the Moroccan monarchy."

The demand in Morocco was to shake up the system, not destroy it. But if the government and the king fail to deliver soon, analysts say, the next confrontation could be tougher — against the monarchy itself.