Notes From the Field

Moroccan Health Care: A Link to Radicalization and Proposed Solution

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The relationship between the Kingdom of Morocco and the US began just after the US declared its own independence. It is one of the oldest of US partnerships with a foreign country, and since the end of the First Barbary War in 1805 it has remained one of the most stable. The Utah National Guard (UTNG) has an active state partnership program (SPP) with Morocco, which helps maintain that stability and fosters the relationship. The SPP provides the Kingdom of Morocco assistance in the areas of disaster medicine, prehospital medicine, and rural access to health care.

The objective of this review is to highlight the role the SPP plays in ensuring Morocco’s continued stability, enhancing its role as a leader among African nations, aiding its medically vulnerable rural populations to prevent recruitment by terrorist organizations, and maintaining its long-term relationship with the US.

Background

The Kingdom of Morocco resides in a geologically and politically unstable part of the world, yet it has been a stable constitutional monarchy. Like California, Morocco has a long coastline of more than 1,000 miles. It sits along an active earthquake fault line with a disaster response program that is only in its infancy. The Kingdom has a high youth unemployment rate and lacks adequate public education opportunities, which exacerbate feelings of government indifference. Morocco’s medical system is highly centralized, and large parts of the rural population lack access to basic medical care—potentially alienating the population. The Moroccan current disaster plan ORSEC (plan d’ Organization des Secours) was established in 1966 and updated in 2005 but does not provide a comprehensive, unified disaster response. The ORSEC plan is of French derivation and is not a list of actions but a general plan of organization and supply. 1

When governments fail to provide basic services—health care being just one—those services may be filled by groups seeking to influence the government and population by threatening acts of violence to achieve political, religious, and ideologic gain; for example, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt and in the West Bank, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Syria.2-5 These groups gain a foothold and legitimacy by providing mosques, youth groups, clinics, hospitals, and schools. 2-5

Identified Needs

Morocco is at risk of experiencing an earthquake and possible subsequent tsunami. In 1755, Morocco was impacted by the Great Lisbon earthquake and tsunami. Witnesses reported 15-meter waves with 24-meter crests.6 Building codes and architecture laws have changed little since the 1960 Agadir earthquake, which killed 12,000 people. The disaster response program—although improved since the 1960s—is still in the early stages of development, and another earthquake and possible subsequent tsunami would result in a disaster that could overwhelm the medical community of Morocco.

Perceived Government Indifference

The Moroccan constitutional monarchy is more stable than are the governments of its North African neighbors. King Mohammed VI presides over the government, and regular elections are held for members of Parliament, which names a prime minister. However, in August 2019, overall unemployment was at 8.5%, and youth unemployment was 22.3%.7 A United Nations report in August 2019 stated that literacy rates for Morocco were 71.7%. These data were from a 2015 census, the last year data were collected.8 These deficits in employment and education can foster anger toward the Moroccan government for not adequately providing these services and possibly introduce radicalization as a result of the population’s perceived government indifference and lack of economic mobility.

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