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At a glance: Morocco

Moroccan children send messages of solidarity to earthquake-hit Japan

© UNICEF Morocco/2011
Children in the Moroccan city of Al Hoceima have produced more than 8,000 illustrated postcards to inspire children in earthquake-hit Japan.

By Aniss Maghri

RABAT, Morocco, 25 April 2011 – Hafsa Zerhouni, 10, understands what Japanese children are going through following last month’s earthquake, even though she lives thousands of miles away in Morocco.

Al Hoceima in northern Morocco was hit by an earthquake in 2004. The disaster killed hundreds and destroyed infrastructure throughout the city. Japan was one of the countries that sent assistance.

Children joining together

Now it’s time to give back. “We want to show that Japanese children are not alone, we are with them,” said Hafsa, who is a student at Imzouren primary school. “Though we have experienced a similar situation, the damage has been more serious for the Japanese children.”

Hafsa was very young when the earthquake struck Morocco, but she still remembers the feeling of terror. “Mum woke me up. It was dark and I could hear shouts and screams,” she said. “Just after leaving our house, it collapsed right in front of my eyes. What were hard were the aftershocks, we spent a long time in fear."

The Japan Committee contributed $171,000 to relief efforts in Morocco. The aid funded back-to-school programmes for about 35,000 school children in Al Hoceima, and was used to provide psycho-social support for children and teachers.

© UNICEF Morocco/2011
El Hassane Azdad, Inspector of Education in Al Hoceima, Morocco, with some of the children who are sending messages of solidarity to Japan. Mr. Azdad managed emergency operations with UNICEF when Al Hoceima was devastated by an earthquake in 2004.

In light of recent events, students from 11 elementary schools in Al Hoceima have been making artwork in support of Japan’s recovery.

"Our children and teachers in 2004 benefited from psycho-social support and know very well that such support counts a lot in this kind of situation,” said Lahcen Bousmaa, Director of the Regional Academy of Education and Training.

Messages of support

Al Hoceima have produced 8,000 postcards with artwork printed with messages of solidarity. These cards will be delivered to primary schools in the disaster-hit zone in Japan where UNICEF is supporting back-to-school programmes.

The artwork was handed over to UNICEF Representative in Morocco Aloys Kamuragiye on the one-month anniversary of the earthquake. The Japanese community in Morocco also attended the ceremony.

Those taking part said they hoped the drawings would make children in Japan smile and remind them not to lose hope. Such a sincere display of solidarity deeply touched an official from the Japanese Embassy. “The gesture of these children reflects the strong friendship between people of Morocco and Japan," said Huré Yukiko of the Japanese Embassy in Rabat.



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