During a time of unprecedented uncertainty, Morocco’s youth are stepping up with efforts to assist those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Rabat – As the COVID-19 pandemic presents the world with unprecedented challenges, young Moroccans at home and abroad demonstrate continued leadership and solidarity to support their fellow Moroccans as well as foreign nationals.
Many of them are on the frontlines of the crisis, promoting health and safety in their roles as health workers, researchers, social activists and volunteers, innovators and entrepreneurs, teachers, security forces, and communications and crisis management specialists.
Laudable youth initiatives in Morocco
Following the Moroccan government’s declaration of a state of health emergency, effective March 20, young Moroccan entrepreneurs and innovators initiated various contributions to the crisis response. These include making artificial ventilation machines, automatic thermometers, and automatic gates for sanitary disinfection and sterilization.
Some enterprises have even shifted their activities to accommodate the urgent needs that have emerged during the spreading outbreak, using their own materials or factories to produce protective clothing and masks, as well as to manufacture drones used for air disinfection, virus detection, and awareness-raising.
While the world’s largest countries still struggle to obtain this equipment, Morocco preemptively turned to local manufacturers, ranging from small start-ups to medium- and large-sized enterprises. Morocco has encouraged local production to satisfy the national market in a time when international cooperation and solidarity is more and more difficult, given the economic impact and human losses that countries have endured due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There are many other examples of youth initiatives to help the poor or families affected by the health emergency measures. Some young people have begun distributing food packages and sanitation kits to the needy and ensuring free delivery services to struggling families. They have also contributed with awareness-raising campaigns, emphasizing the importance of following health and safety instructions and complying with the state of health emergency regulations.
The Mediterranean Forum for Youth (FOMEJE) in Asilah, northern Morocco, is among hundreds of youth-led organizations that are promoting health awareness and encouraging people to quarantine per official recommendations. FOMEJE has produced several educational videos on sanitation measures and on social distancing in local markets.
The group has also gathered signatures for a petition calling on Moroccan citizens, and youth, in particular, to stay at home, avoid spreading fake news, and respect the state of emergency.
Youth deploy creativity against COVID-19
Moroccan creativity has demonstrated no limits during quarantine. From innovative audiovisual content and infographics to educational guides, Moroccan youth spare no efforts in using technology to voice their opinions about the post-quarantine transition and the future of their country.
Other youth initiatives, aligned with the state’s efforts to promote online education during isolation, include innovative electronic platforms for distance learning. These enable a greater number of young people to access free training and educational tools and to participate in meaningful discussions.
Some youth-led start-ups created websites to fight against fake news. They educate the public about the importance of fact-checking social media posts to avoid creating public panic that could endanger Moroccans’ health and security.
Health professionals have also joined these efforts. Young doctors and specialists are providing practical medical counseling about preventive measures and mental health for Moroccans during the quarantine. This comes in response to psychological pressures from a constant deluge of virus-related news.
The youth are also promoting the spread of good news, challenging Facebook users to post positive messages. This serves as a glimmer of hope for Moroccans in a time when everyone is facing media fatigue.
Moroccan youth contribute from Europe
At the start of the crisis, Kareem Derouich, a young Moroccan based in Paris, rolled up his sleeves to assist his compatriots. The business intelligence consultant spared no effort to help visiting Moroccans who found themselves stranded in France after the COVID-19 outbreak caused flight suspensions worldwide.
More than 18,000 Moroccans are stranded in foreign countries, approximately 4,400 of whom are in France.
Derouich resorted to social media. He shared an online form for those stranded in France, especially in Paris, to collect data and use that in solutions-driven communications with Moroccan consulates.
“As it was urgent, we resorted first to our network to temporarily host people who don’t have accommodation or cannot afford it, then we transmitted the data to the consulates,” Kareem told Morocco World News.
Derouich and his group of young volunteers also considered providing assistance to homeless people and Moroccans without legal papers through an online fundraising campaign.
“We have given the priority to families with kids and offered to pay a prorated rent as we can and distributed food packages to 37 homeless Moroccans,” he added.
The young consultant and his fellows arranged an agreement with a restaurateur to prepare two meals a day for those in need. They have even taken care of students who are struggling financially during this period.
Morocco’s pandemic response inspires its diaspora
Derouich, like many young Moroccans, was inspired by the great motivation and determination of youth back home to produce in-house innovations to fight the pandemic.
“We have noticed a unique and exceptional solidarity of Moroccans that is internationally recognized. Young Moroccans abroad, for their part, were there specially to help Moroccan tourists who are still blocked abroad, but our actions were also extended to support education efforts in Morocco,” he explained.
Although he has been living in Paris for several years, Derouich’s heart and mind are connected to his hometown in Morocco. He used the isolation period to contribute to his country’s efforts in providing distance education to Moroccans. Derouich launched a distance learning platform adapted for Moroccan schools.
“Our goal today is to go beyond providing e-learning solutions during crisis time. We want to contribute to changing behavior and mentalities while providing gender-based education,” he told Morocco World News.
Based on the advice of experts in the field, Derouich and other young Moroccans based in Europe spent days and nights developing this solution. Their wish is that all teachers and students can take advantage of their free platform to continue their education and benefit from specially designed training tools.
“Today, we are aware that Morocco needs foreign currency, especially after the fall of the tourism sector and we Moroccans abroad need to find out ways to contribute to alleviate this burden either through direct contributions or support by other means to help our country,” he stressed.
Derouich is proud that young Moroccans in France are making tremendous efforts to manage the pandemic. “We are at the forefront of this war as doctors, nurses, transporters, industrialists, security officers, entrepreneurs,” he explained, concluding, “Our contributions are significant and valuable.”
Moroccan youth solidarity stretches across the globe
Another young Moroccan, Mohammad Saad Tligui, general coordinator of international projects and partnerships at EuroArab Youth Solidarity Ukraine, initiated a project to help Moroccans in the Eastern European country.
Tligui’s “Moroccan Solidarity Against COVID-19” initiative supports Moroccan students who face protective supply shortages in Ukraine. The NGO and the Municipality of Odesa coordinate the distribution of protective masks and health supplies to Moroccans, including students, living in the port city.
“After our visit to the Universities’ hostels, we noticed that Moroccans suffer from a lack of protective supplies, insulin, and many other medicines. Therefore, we created a fund to support those in difficult situations in Ukraine,” he told Morocco World News.
Young Moroccans around the world are expressing their pride in the Moroccan government’s efforts to manage the crisis, and the efforts made by the country’s consulates to continuously communicate with Moroccan citizens.
Moroccan consulates have undertaken efforts to assist more than 2,600 Moroccans who were visiting other countries for tourism or business-related purposes when international travel was suspended. There has been no decision to repatriate Moroccans stuck abroad, though millions of Moroccans around the world, including many of the country’s youth, have signed a petition requesting that King Mohammed VI return them home.
Today’s youth are champions leading their own change during the outbreak. As such, decision-makers must commit to ensuring youth voices contribute to solutions for a healthier, safer, and gender-equal Morocco.
Edited by Perri Huggins
Karima Rhanem is a Moroccan multi-award winner with more than 18 years of experience in public policy, strategic and digital communications, and diplomacy.