Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco: Rains Add to Worries of Moroccans in Shantytowns

Casablanca — Morocco's rainy season may be relieving farmers, but in poor urban neighbourhoods, it adds further difficulties to an already hard life.

While many Moroccans see the recent rains as good news, others - particularly those living in the shanty towns - see it as synonymous with misery.

The rainy season that began October 22nd makes life in shantytowns and dilapidated buildings even more unpleasant and difficult.

Rabha, a mother of four, has lived in Carrière Essakouila, which is on the outskirts of Casablanca, for more than twenty years. Now in her fifties, she has learned over time to adapt to the whims of nature.

"Here you learn to be patient, in both winter and summer, because the summer heat is also a problem. It causes smells that make you feel sick, and flies and mosquitoes invade you," she told Magharebia. "What I'm saying is there's nothing worse than living in a shanty town where you have nothing."

Her neighbour, Lalla Hlima, told Magharebia how her shack, which covers just a few square metres, cannot keep the heavy rain out anymore: "Every time it rains, my shack gets flooded, and I have to wait for the sun to return before I can do my housework and my laundry."

Like others living in this shanty town, she finds it difficult to get around the place because of the mud. "When the rain comes, life is so difficult that I often have to wait a couple of weeks to change my clothes," she said.

In the end, Lalla Hlima and Rabha prefer to make the best of things and remain hopeful: "Fortunately our shacks aren't about to fall down around our ears, and even if they did they wouldn't kill us," they said with a wry smile.

But others living in poorly constructed dwellings have been less fortunate. In the Casa-Anfa district of Derb Loubila, the heavy rains led to the collapse of a home on October 30th, killing a father and son. An older brother sleeping with them was seriously injured and taken to hospital.

The aging worn-out structures around the kingdom's economic capital are a problem requiring urgent attention, according to Mounir El Mahallaoui, a Communal Councillor in Casablanca.

"This is a serious threat to people's lives," he continued. "We cannot wait any longer, but plans to rehouse people in buildings which are in immediate danger of collapse are still not moving ahead as expected."

Not far from that district, in Derb Hoummane, in the ancient medina, another building collapsed on the same night, but without claiming any victims.

Around the city of Casablanca alone, investigations by the Public Test and Study Laboratory (LPEE) identified 700 houses, home to 1,800 households, urgently requiring demolition.

In 2004, the Moroccan government launched its "cities without shanty towns" programme to eradicate all shanty towns, intended to benefit 348,400 households, costing 25 billion dirhams overall.

Housing Minister Nabil Benabdallah has pointed out that by the end of September 2011, the programme was nearly 70% complete: "If the programme hadn't run into some unforeseen difficulties since the launch, delivery would have been 83% now instead of 70%," he said.

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