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Project overview

Preventing and preparing for disasters in the Moroccan medinas
Volunteer neighbourhood disaster relief workers in Morocco

A group of volunteer relief workers distributes information and materials in a Moroccan street.
In the narrow alleyways of the medinas, rapid intervention by the residents can play a decisive role in saving lives. (© SDC)

In a country like Morocco, where the natural elements provoke serious incidents, prompt first-aid intervention is crucial in saving lives. To better manage these situations, some Moroccan towns have deployed their own residents to back up their emergency services when a disaster occurs. The SDC supports this measure and is participating in the training of volunteer relief workers.

Morocco is often subject to earthquakes, flooding and landslides. Such events cause damage and very significant losses in the medinas (old districts), where the dwellings are huddled together or separated by narrow alleys. This makes the work of rescue teams difficult, as they struggle to reach victims quickly.

The idea behind volunteer neighbourhood disaster relief workers is to prepare the inhabitants of these districts to intervene rapidly in the event of a crisis. For example, if an earthquake occurs, past experience shows that the majority of survivors are rescued by neighbours, passers-by or family members before the professional teams have even arrived. However, these people know almost nothing of the methods and tools used in rescue operations. The aim is to train and equip them to deal with these situations.

Training relief workers

Relief workers using a hydraulic pump to clean up a flooded courtyard.
The relief workers are provided with emergency equipment. (© SDC)
After recruitment, the volunteers take part in 36 hours of special training, which includes raising awareness of the risks associated with disasters, psychological support, basic fire prevention and firefighting skills, emergency relief, and search and rescue.

The teaching of theory is followed by numerous practical exercises. The relief workers are also provided with emergency rescue equipment (uniform, gloves, hydraulic pump, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, etc.). Once trained and equipped, these volunteers become vital links in the rescue chain, since they know their district and are well-placed to evacuate victims.

740 volunteers trained

A rescue team clears rubble in a craft workshop.
Some 740 volunteers have already been trained and have undertaken more than 50 interventions. (© SDC)
In Morocco, volunteer neighbourhood disaster relief workers are present in the towns of Fez, Tangiers, Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Larache and Meknes. In total, the project has helped to train and equip 740 volunteers (with women making up 37%). Containers with emergency equipment are placed in each district. Located in a safe and accessible place, the container also serves as a support base when disasters hit.

At the end of 2012, there had been more than 50 interventions by volunteer relief workers, prompted by emergencies ranging from small fires to large floods. Those in charge of the project have raised the local population's awareness of the risks associated with natural disasters and other potential dangers (gas leaks, fires in factories or the craft workshops of the medinas). The project has proven its worth a number of times. Both the Moroccan authorities and civil society wish to extend it to other towns in the country.

Expanding the training

Equipped with helmet and harness, a woman and a trainer abseil down a slope.
Volunteers participate in numerous practical exercises. (©SDC)
The SDC's goal is to train 450 additional relief workers, 180 of them women, by 2014. Over the same period, it will work to promote this approach and place it on an institutional footing at national level. This process will enable the roles and responsibilities of the volunteer relief workers, and those of the authorities in charge of civil protection, to be more clearly defined. Further training centres will also be established.


Brief description of the project

Humanitarian aid
Preventing and preparing for disasters (Disaster Risk Reduction)
  • UNION, a network of voluntary organisations in Fez
  • the wilaya (province) of Fez
  • the local Civil Protection Authority (DPC)

Current situation / background
Morocco is subject to natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides and flooding, which regularly threaten the population. In the medinas, where access to affected populations is often difficult, intervention by the inhabitants themselves can make all the difference.
Project objectives
To build up Moroccan civilian capacity to respond in a crisis situation.
Target groups
The inhabitants of the affected districts.
CHF 950,000

Additional Information and Documents

  • Un seul monde 2/2013
    Disponible seulement en Suisse
    No. 2/2013: Pays émergents / Tadjikistan / Matières premières / Modernisation du système de santé mentale / Sauveteurs bénévoles qui interviennent en cas de catastr
    Download (PDF, 5492 KB) [de]   [fr]   [it]  
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