There is progress in the Rif Mountains

Farid Mahrar takes a small SIP of his mint tea and says in soft French: ' the main conclusion is: there is progress.

This area is not there yet, but it's better than four years ago, for La Catastrophe. "

La Catastrophe, so call the inhabitants of the Moroccan Rif Mountains the destructive earthquake that struck the region at the beginning of 2004.

Two days after the quake, the dead were still barely salvaged, vomiting there unrest in the area because the aid from the capital Rabat to long on. The Reef-dwellers once again saw a confirmation in that Rabat would prefer them off. Now, almost five years later, that feeling is changing.

Farid Mahrar sits in café Mawaid El, in the Centre of the small town of Imzouren. A lively, but dusty place which was heavily hit in 2004. Collapsed houses dominated the cityscape. Who now runs by Imzouren, hardly more scars of the damage. There are however many newly built houses.

Mahrar also has a new home. Not in Imzouren, but in the village of Tamassint, his hometown just down the mountains. "My old home is destroyed by the earthquake. But my new home has running water, so that's quite an improvement. "

Thus, the earthquake, despite all the misery, brought more good, says Farid El-Khassim. The former Chairman of the Moroccan Committee Bergen op Zoom was there stupid happen when the ground shook in the Reef, the region where most Dutch Moroccans come from. He was there for his work, but was in no time changed to counselor and reporter. Live for the NOS he did his story.

El-Khassim is more often in the region, he has family living in Al Hoceima. "After the earthquake, there is suddenly a lot more attention to northern Morocco. Al-Hoceima is greatly advanced, the infrastructure in the region as well. Earlier, it took you a half day to Al Hoceima to Nador, the next major city. Now there is a dual carriageway and it can in an hour and a half. Before the earthquake were there really no plans for. The King is now even though three years running been in Al Hoceima on summer vacation, so he has attention to. "

That King, Mohammed VI, get more (Dutch) Moroccans credit. Unlike his father, Hassan II. Who found the best that many riffian people were diverted to Europe in search of a better future, he was the independent population group and the inhospitable Reef rather off. Farid Mahrar: "it is good that the King comes here often."

West-Brabant also wore and wears a contribute to the reconstruction of the reef. Immediately after the quake was in virtually every West-Brabant mosque raised money for relief.

From Bergen op Zoom 10,500 euro went to Al Hoceima. That money came not only of mosque-goers. "The elementary school Mohammed V was at earthquake heavily damaged. We have contributed to the repair, "says Peer Muntz, one of the initiators of Bergse then. "The money was over, have we spent on textbooks for children in mountain villages. That part of the project now runs still. Every year there's still money from mountains to the reef. "

In addition, there is a lot of money from Brabant Moroccans to the area: they let new build houses where they in the summer vacation. That can be a reason for the interest that the Government now shows in the area. The State wants the money that the overseas compatriots to invest in their homeland does not like to go wrong.

But there is also criticism. Here and there, in small villages such as Ait Kamara, Tamassint and still lives in an emergency a single family home or a tent next to their destroyed home.

Mahrar: "All interest in the area is good, but you notice that the most attention goes out to the cities. While the villages are also the responsibility of the State. "

El Khassim: "after the quake, everyone has had 3000 euros and concrete from the State to build a new House. The people that are still in a tent or emergency housing, have no accepted. I personally find it not a task of the Government to build houses again. "

However, the Reef is still a long way to go. Coastal city of Al Hoceima mag in the summer than the appearance of a Spanish Costa resort, who is from Tangier or Rabat wants to come, should still be hours long on a mountain road swing, thus

For the residents of those mountains it is often still poverty. Running water is lacking in many villages. Children pick up every day on donkeys tons of drinking water at the nearest tap point. They are trying to earn some money by along the side of the road to entice motorists to buy some herbs or fruits. Other riffian people pounce on the growing of hashish, a major source of income in the area.

"There are no large companies where you can work," says a young Belgian Moroccan in the shade of a small shop on the side of the road in the hamlet of Ait Kamara, not much more than a crossroads. "The people here have to live of shops like this, with the sale of what cola cans and jars of olives." He himself fled the poverty of Ait Kamara, lived a few years in Netherlands and lives, illegal, in Belgium. He is now back to visit his family. "In Belgium it is not easy, but it's hard to see how life is here. The people have it really hard. "

Farid Mahrar confirms that. "but still: life is now better than before, better than 2004 for La Catastrophe."

farid mahrar rif mountains la catastrophe al hoceima nador