Challenges in relief efforts emerge from Morocco’s earthquake and Libya’s floods, including failed disaster diplomacy and infrastructure devastation

On September 8, 2023, a powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale hit southern Morocco, leading to significant destruction in mountainous areas. Just three days later, an exceptionally intense Mediterranean storm caused the collapse of two inadequately maintained dams in Libya, triggering extensive flooding in the vicinity of Derna, a port city.

While Morocco boasts a robust government bureaucracy, Libya faces challenges with weak authorities. Nonetheless, the outcome remains consistent: an inadequacy in delivering essential aid to the areas in need.

Sophisticated mapping and eyewitness accounts reveal extensive damage, with thousands of Moroccan villages affected, and hundreds completely razed. The Moroccan government is making efforts to respond, but the magnitude of the disaster surpasses its capabilities. Even if Morocco were to deploy its entire army and mobilize all social service providers, it would still fall short.

Surprisingly, Morocco has turned down offers of assistance from various quarters, including the United Nations, France, and numerous other nations. As of September 19, the only support accepted from the United States was President Joe Biden’s condolences. Within a week following the earthquake, Morocco had only accepted aid from Spain, the United Kingdom, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.