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Tufts Crisis Mapping Class » Crisis Mapping » Catholic Relief Services – First Blog Post

Catholic Relief Services – First Blog Post

Catholic Relief Services first began by examining the overall situation, and coming up with a decision on whether or not to get involved. Based on our mandate and our lack of previous experience in Morocco, we decided we would be more of a hindrance should we attempt to enter the community immediately, and it would be better to carry our projects once the situation was more stabilised. We also decided to focus on a specific target population, the coastal shanty towns of Rabat, in line with our mandate of fighting poverty. We then sought to gain a better understanding of the situation on the ground, from which we could then construct a plan of action to address the most pressing needs. Over the next few weeks, we gathered enough information about the situation on the ground. Having assessed the situation, we were able to narrow down on the goals of our efforts to focus on the most pressing concern, the economic turmoil and its social consequences. Our objectives in Morocco are twofold: first, to increase economic opportunities, second, to send in financial aid and supplies.

From the start, we were beset with the challenge of a dearth of information about the situation in Morocco. CRS does not have a base nor any prior experience near Rabat. This lack of familiarity with the area, particularly, the absence of communication with locals who know the area, made it difficult for us to satisfactorily plan a detailed intervention for the affected communities. We are aware that our unfamiliarity with the area will continue to be a challenge as we plan and implement our project. To forestall the negative effects that may arise out of this, we planned to send a small team of CRS members immediately to the community. This team was to assess the immediate situation on the ground and relay the information back to the main team in Geneva, and to establish and maintain relations with the community. We also planned to communicate with more experienced and well-versed organisations on the ground to gain as best an understanding of the immediate, and later, the evolving situation on the ground. We are also hopeful that SMS campaigns will provide more information to reduce the information gap, in the planning, implementation and monitoring phases.

Another major challenge has been in the social, lingual and cultural differences between CRS and the local population of Rabat. In particular, the Moroccan population is almost completely Muslim whereas CRS is a Catholic organization, albeit our organization is not restricted to the aid of Christians alone. There is also a language barrier, as members in CRS does not speak the local dialects of Morocco, and translators are understandably scare in this period of turmoil.

The CRS mandate focuses on alleviating poverty. To this end, we plan to improve the economic situation of those negatively affected by the recent earthquake, especially those living in the coastal shanty towns of Rabat, where the most extensive damage occurred.

Our needs assessment revealed that the biggest concern facing the population is economic. People are running out of money, and have no source of income because the earthquake has damaged their livelihoods. The economic turmoil may in turn breed negative social discontent, as discontentment grows the inability of the situation to improve quickly. As such, our plan is to improve the economic situation in the short and long run, but with a specific focus on the short run. First, we plan to increase economic opportunities. In the short run, we will help to facilitate the creation of temporary relief-oriented jobs for the population that will be doubly beneficial in providing a source of income to individuals while helping to improve the infrastructural damage wrought by the earthquake. At the same time, we look towards the long-run, by re-starting previous sources of employment and income such as the agriculture business and the phosphate mining industry. Second, we plan to send in financial aid and supplies. We plan to use the financial aid to purchase goods and services from the local economy, stimulating the economy, while alleviating the food and water shortages that the population faces.

How will this pan out? We plan to gather our resources and information about the situation on the ground for 3-6 days after the date of the earthquake. Once we can gain entry into the country, an estimated 1-2 weeks later, we will send our volunteers immediately to our target populations in the shanty towns, thus beginning our direct relief efforts within a week or two of the first earthquake. Within the first two months, we hope to have found temporary jobs for at least 50% of the population. We also hope that by this period to have palliated severe food and water shortages through the provision of financial aid and supplies. The longer term goal of helping to restart previous sources of employment will depend on how the degree of damage done to the agriculture, fishing and mining industries. That said, we estimate to remain in Rabat for 6 – 12 months, monitoring our short term initiatives and implementing our longer term objective. The timeline of our departure is still unknown; however, after our departure, we will continue to monitor the situation through SMS campaigns and dispatching small teams to continually check up on the situation.

Considering that CRS does not have a base or extensive on-ground experience in Morocco, we plan to work with organisations that are have experience in the country. In particular, we aim to work with the Moroccan Red Crescent because of its familiarity with the area. We also want to work with the World Food Programme International, to coordinate re-starting the agricultural and fishing industries.

To monitor our progress along the way, we will carry out on-ground surveillance of the slum areas. Key indicators of progress include the number of homeless people, the sources of income, access to material goods, the amount of food and water, the health situation, the general satisfaction of the population towards relief efforts, the level of frustrations stemming from economic issues, and the level of crime. The main method of collecting this information involves conducting surveys and interviews with the local population. We will also be looking at formal economic indicators like GDP, inflation rate, unemployment rates, exchange rates etc to determine the long term effect. We are aware that it may be difficult to determine if improvements in the situation are a direct result of our projects. As such, talking to the local population is important to help us see if there is a direct co-relation between our project and improvements in the situation.

Our biggest need will be of translators, because the success of the planning, implementation and monitoring phases are predicated on creating strong relationships with the local population. For example, plans to revive the local economy will be dependent on local knowledge of the area. Ensuring that we are respectful of the population’s religion, beliefs and culture similarly necessitates forging a relationship with the locals. Importantly, CRS desires to create a partnership with the community, instead of providing top-down charity; communication is also important for this. In this regard, translators are very very crucial. We will also need transportation facilities, both to ferry supplies from other parts of the country to the target population, and to transport locals to temporary jobs around the country and back. Further, it may be useful to have housing, as a base from which CRS volunteers can work, as well as basic necessities like clean food and water. Having access to communications technology, in order to continually keep in touch with other organisations, and our base in Geneva, will also be helpful.

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I'm a senior at Tufts Univesity, double majoring from Community Health and History. I'm originally from Pune, India.

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