Thursday, October 22, 2009

Moroccan Aid - a different perspective.

When you hear the words "Morocco" and "aid", is your immediate assumption that Morocco is on the receiving end? If so, you could be wrong. International aid is a two way street and Morocco has a long history of supporting nations in trouble. Our guest commentator, Ibn Warraq, takes up the story:

Last Thursday, when a Moroccan aircraft landed in Sana'a, it did so on the instructions of His Majesty King Mohammed VI. The plane was carrying relief materials for the refugees from the war in the north of Yemen. The supplies included 300 very large tents. The following day another shipment arrived from Morocco, with medical supplies and emergency foodstuffs.

Displaced Yemeni family

Yemen has been struggling with an insurgency in its northern provinces of Saada an Amran where Houthi rebels have been fighting government troops since back in 2004. Hundreds of them have been killed, hurt, and arrested and many others surrendered since fresh confrontations erupted between the two sides in August.

Just as in Pakistan's Swat Valley or South Waziristan, it is the civilian population who have their lives disrupted. Yet, while the world media is quick to report on the troubles in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq, very little attention is paid to the problems in Yemen. Consequently little aid and support is generated. In Yemen the number of displaced his climbed over 150,000. To shelter and feed such numbers is a huge logistical task and Morocco has stepped up to give its support.

The act of giving is a core Islamic principal and even when times are tough in Morocco, the people have never shirked from giving to those less well off. I remember with a sense of pride when, back in 2006, Morocco's first convoy of humanitarian aid was sent to Gaza. The trucks contained 5,250 tons of milk, 50,400 tons of oil, 9,5 25 tons of sugar, 44,450 tons of rice and more than 15 tons of fish (sardine and tuna).

This was not a one-off, for a second shipment,comprising 135 tons of foodstuffs was sent on board nine trucks, five for the Gaza Strip and four for the West Bank. It was first shipped to Jordan's Aqaba port before being sent to Amman and then to Palestine, in coordination with the Jordanian army and the Palestinian authorities.

At the same time Morocco had also flown urgent humanitarian aid to Lebanon, dispatching a plane with 18 tons of medicines and 16 tons of powdered milk, which Lebanese children desperately needed.

Earlier this year and much closer to home, Morocco dispatched tons of aid to Burkina Faso and Niger following the catastrophic floods that hit the two Western African countries. Seven aircraft left Morocco's Atlantic town of Kénitra for Niamey and Ouagadougou, carrying several tons of medicines, hundreds of tents and thousands of blankets. His Majesty the King had decided to send emergency humanitarian aid "as part of the active solidarity and brotherly ties between Morocco and the two West African states".

Too often in the western media we read of Africa and African countries being on a permanent drip-feed of aid from the west. Next time you read or hear that, remember Morocco. It's a country that knows how to give.

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