Morocco: rebuilding after the earthquake without falling into the concrete “trap”

Morocco: rebuilding after the earthquake without falling into the concrete “trap”

Rebuild without concreting the villages. This is one of the challenges of the rehabilitation of the mountainous “douars” decimated by the powerful earthquake that struck Morocco a month ago, to combine sustainability and respect for traditional architecture.

The earthquake of S
..    .            .  eptember 8, which left around 3,000 dead and 5,600 injured according to the latest report from the authorities released in mid-September, damaged some 60,000 homes in nearly 3,000 villages in the High Atlas and its surroundings. .

A month later, the survivors are living in tents and the authorities have set up field hospitals and temporary schools. For their part, architects are mobilizing and sketching out ideas for a reconstruction that respects the traditional habitats of these isolated, largely disadvantaged regions.

After visiting around thirty villages, notably in Al-Haouz, the province most affected by the earthquake, Moroccan architect Karim Rouissi believes that it is necessary to “encourage supervised self-construction, with local materials”.

“It is important that the urban response is not the same as for douars (villages) and rural centers,” says the architect, who recently participated in diagnostic missions in disaster areas alongside other volunteers. , architects, engineers, representatives of the Ministry of Housing.

In the areas affected by the earthquake, traditional earth or stone buildings have gradually given way, in recent years, to cheaper but "often poorly made" concrete constructions, laments Moroccan architect Elie Mouyal.

“Exaggerated confidence in concrete has been a trap,” says this specialist in traditional housing and earth construction in Morocco.

After the earthquake, "I saw a lot more concrete houses on the ground," he adds, specifying that the earthen buildings which collapsed were already in poor condition before the earthquake.

“Winter worries me”
Today, it is about avoiding "copying external experiences or opting for standardized housing", says Philippe Garnier, a French architect who studied the Bam earthquakes in Iran (2003) or Haiti (2010).

“The idea is to start from the traditional construction experiences of local populations by making improvements and thus revalorizing their know-how,” explains this specialist in earthen architecture and seismic construction.

A budget of 120 billion dirhams (around 11 billion euros), intended to benefit 4.2 million inhabitants over five years, was announced by Rabat, while King Mohammed VI himself insisted on the importance of “being constantly listening to the local population” and respecting the “unique heritage” and “traditions” of each region, during reconstruction.

But this is likely to last "a few years", warns Mr. Garnier, who insists on the need to respect seismic standards while regulations specific to earthen housing in force since 2013 are not systematically respected.

For example, it is necessary to position yourself in places favorable to the attenuation of seismic waves, opt for symmetrical and homogeneous constructions or avoid "transparent" floors (businesses with large openings on the ground floor), he says. .

Taking time is essential to ensure solid and lasting foundations, assure the architects.

Faced with this situation, Elie Mouyal created a prototype of a nouala (traditional hut) as a means of temporary rehousing.

These 15 m2 houses are made from reed canes wrapped in earth and straw. For insulation, the architect initially opted for foam before choosing hemp and PVC tarpaulins.

These cabins can be built in a week at a cost of 6,000 dirhams (553 euros) excluding insulation, according to Mr. Mouyal, who has already started training other people to multiply the prototypes.

But homeless for a month, Abderrahim Akbour is worried. This resident of Imi N'Tala, a mountainous village located 75 kilometers south of Marrakech and completely razed by the earthquake, was relocated to a neighboring village.

“Staying in a tent while winter is fast approaching worries me a lot,” says Mr. Akbour: “The situation risks being worse than the earthquake itself.”




Kenya: mental health, a subject that is still taboo

Martha Nyoro, psychologist at PDO Kenya

Joyce Mugure regularly goes to this health center to see her psychologist. The young woman struggled for many years with bipolar disorder, but did not receive a diagnosis or treatment until recently. A difficult period during which she did not know where to turn. Until she discovered this center.

“I faced a lot of stigma and discrimination because most people around me didn't understand what I was going through, no one knew it was an illness. Until one day, when I was very suicidal, I saw someone who was a mental health advocate online and I contacted him, and he referred me to PDO Kenya,” the patient explains.

It was in 2019 that Joyce was able to access treatment. Medications that help regulate your mood. Because in sick people, the mood evolves in two phases: manic episodes where the person is very active and depressive episodes.

"I had my first psychiatric consultation, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started treatment. Since then, I have been taking my medication and attending therapy sessions within the organization. Today Today, I live a productive life, I am able to go to work, and even advocate for mental health,” explains the young woman.

The center estimates that around 2 million people live with psychological health problems in Kenya. Since its creation in 2016, around 20,000 people have been treated here.

According to the center's psychologist, psychological disorders can be triggered by a multitude of factors, particularly when there are financial problems.

"Some of the main causes we found may have contributed to mental health issues. We can talk about the current economic difficulties in the country, so many people are trying to make a living and in these times depression s "settles in and people don't have control over their mental health. We can also talk about personal issues, perhaps someone is going through a crisis in their life, for example a loss or bereavement, or problems relationships,” explains Martha Nyoro, psychologist at the PDO.

In many African countries, mental health still remains taboo. And few governments give it a place in their political agenda. Yet, according to the WHO, Africa has the highest rate of suicide deaths in the world.
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