Morocco

November 18th, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

Powerful Journalism From Morocco

Our latest

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October 31st, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

Reporting Morocco students on PRI’s Living on Earth

Fascinating, Toxic Moroccan Tanneries

This story originally appeared on PRI’s Living on Earth, listen HERE.

by Amulya Shankar

Exposure to toxic chemicals is nothing new when it comes to being a tannery leather worker. It is a job that is highly labor intensive and only pays between $2-5 USD a day based on skill level and production output. This is Chouara Tannery, a traditional tannery located inside the medina of Fez, Morocco. (Photo: Julian Harris)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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October 25th, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

For HIV Positive Moroccans, Life is Grim

This article was published by Global Health Hub on October 23, 2014.

By Mark Minton

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO – With his fair complexion and auburn hair, 21-year-old Samir is often mistaken for a foreigner. But Samir is a native Moroccan, and he is also gay and HIV-positive – something many of his friends still know nothing about.

“This sickness makes us live in humiliation,” said Samir, whose name has been changed. “But you say thanks to Allah and accept your suffering.”

Samir is not alone. HIV is gradually increasing in North Africa and the Middle East – more than any other region in the world – according to the 2013 Global Report on AIDS. Conservative Islamic sexual standards and the virtual absence of sex education are sometimes blamed for the spread of AIDS in the region. 

According to Fatiha Rhoufrani, director of the Rabat branch of the Association Against AIDS, an organization that supports people living with HIV, the AIDS prevalence rate in the Middle East and North Africa increased by 37 percent while HIV cases more than doubled from 2008 to 2013. 

“In these regions, there are countries in denial of this disease. They say they are Muslim countries and can’t have HIV. If we don’t accept the problem, we can’t find a solution,” said Rhoufrani.

Social stigma

Morocco was one of the first African countries to introduce free HIV treatment in 2003. But only about 20 percent of the 30,000 Moroccans thought to be infected with HIV know that they carry the virus, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Health, which reports that diagnosed cases of HIV are doubling every four years, which is taxing the health system, according to officials. 

Samir says he discovered his illness when he decided to take an HIV test at a parked truck offering the service. “If it wasn’t for that truck, I wouldn’t have known about my condition until I was in a coma,” he said.

Abdessamad Dialmy, a founding member of the Arab Sociological Association and a consultant for Morocco’s Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and USAID, said Moroccans would rather retain their social standing than acknowledge the possibility of having HIV.

“Moroccans prefer not to know,” Dialmy said. “When you know you are HIV-positive, you start to die socially and you refuse to die socially, so you prefer not to know at all.” 

Samir has paid that price. His family rejected him when they found out. “My poor mom, she broke down,” Samir said. “My brother took a knife and wanted to kill me. He kicked me out and I came to Casablanca.” 

Left homeless and without resources, Samir said he had no choice but to become a sex worker. He insists his clients wear condoms. “They don’t want to, but I tell them to,” he said. “I don’t tell them I have HIV. They would kill me if they knew. My life is hell. I’m going crazy. I’ve thought about suicide.”

Samir is not yet on anti-retroviral drugs. He explained that his CD4 white blood cell count is not low enough, and funding in Morocco does not provide people who are not sick enough with free medication.

  A man and his son bring their moped out during HIV testing on the eve of World AIDS Day in 2013. Morocco’s newest generations will be some of the first to live in a social climate in which awareness and testing programs for HIV and AIDS have always existed in their lifetime.

Lack of education

Spending on anti-retroviral drugs in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) countries is the lowest in the world, sitting at under $10m regionally, according to the 2013 Global Report on AIDS. The Moroccan Ministry of Health reported that domestic funding for HIV/AIDS is set to increase by approximately $3.5m, while international funding in Morocco will jump by approximately $600,000 by 2016. 

Still, Othman Mellouk, the regional advocacy coordinator for International Treatment Preparedness Coalition-North Africa, said there is not enough international attention given to HIV in middle-income MENA countries like Morocco, posing dangers for the future. 

“The problem we face is that there is little interest from the international community and international donors. Today, the United States is the biggest HIV donor in the world through their President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program. It is billions of dollars. There is no money coming to Morocco from PEPFAR,” Mellouk said.  “We can control the epidemic.  We should not wait to create another sub-Saharan Africa in another part of the world,” he added.

Crowds gather for testing on the eve of World AIDS Day in Casablanca. Associations such as the Pan African AIDS Organization (OPALS) provide testing and treatment counseling for locals willing to come forward. Morocco was one of the first African countries to introduce free HIV treatment in 2003.

Mellouk said stemming the spread of HIV in countries like Morocco requires more than just money; countries must respect the human right to sex, provide medication and treatment, raise awareness and acknowledge the reality of HIV and AIDS.

“Our country has condemned us to be this way,” said Fatima, the president of Annahar, a Casablanca-based group managed by people with HIV, for people with HIV – the only organization of its kind in the country.

“If the sickness was presented appropriately in the first place we wouldn’t have to hide,” said Fatima, who wouldn’t give her last name for privacy reasons. “We wouldn’t have to go out with masks.”

Mark Minton spent several months in Morocco on an SIT Study Abroad program and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media www.RoundEarthMedia.org.  Salma Idrais contributed reporting.

Samir watches a group of men play soccer on a Casablanca beach. Morocco’s Ministry of Health reported that 2,180 men were documented as having HIV according to health surveys conducted from Jan. 1, 2009, to December of 2013. Effective research on HIV/AIDS prevalence in Morocco remains difficult in the face the disease's social stigma.

October 25th, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

NextGen sheds light on growing numbers of HIV/AIDs in Morocco

Samir watches a group of men play soccer on a Casablanca beach. Morocco’s Ministry of Health reported that 2,180 men were documented as having HIV according to health surveys conducted from Jan. 1, 2009, to December of 2013. Effective research on HIV/AIDS prevalence in Morocco remains difficult in the face the disease's social stigma.

Samir watches a group of men play soccer on a Casablanca beach. Morocco’s Ministry of Health reported that 2,180 men were documented as having HIV according to health surveys conducted from Jan. 1, 2009, to December of 2013. Effective research on HIV/AIDS prevalence in Morocco remains difficult in the face the disease’s social stigma.

This story originally appeared on the Global Health Hub.

By Mark Minton

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO – With his fair complexion and auburn hair, 21-year-old Samir is often mistaken for a foreigner. But Samir is a native Moroccan, and he is also gay and HIV-positive – something many of his friends still know nothing about.

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October 13th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Our NextGen captures the pain and resilience of Morocco’s “children of the moon”

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Our NextGen photographer Rachel Woolf captured the pain and resilience of Morocco’s “children of the moon” for the Baltimore Sun’s visual journalism blog the Dark Room. Click here to see the rest! For 800 children in Morocco, damaged or burnt skin is genetic, irreparable, and needs to be replaced. Mohamed-El Kotbi, 17, and Driss Hamouti, 21, live with this tragic condition. Due to a disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum – which medical professionals generally shorthand to XP – they are prone to blistering and burning of their skin and eyes upon the slightest sun exposure.

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September 25th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Love and Witchcraft in Morocco

Love and Witchcraft in Morocco

moroccan-witchraft-1050x663

This story originally appeared in The Riveter magazine. Click HERE to read it there.

WOMEN IN MOROCCO TURN TO WITCHES, OR SHAWAFAS, FOR LOVE AND THERAPY.

article and photos by Ailsa Sachdev

top illustration by Lora Hlavsa

The first time Salma consulted a shawafa, or witch, she went with friends on a lark, solely for entertainment. When the shawafa predicted that she would never get married, an outrageous thought for a Moroccan woman in her twenties, Salma brushed it off.

“At that time, when we left the shawafa, we laughed and we didn’t trust her,” said Salma, who didn’t believe in witchcraft or magic.

Twenty years later, the 42-year-old Salma has never married, and she has visited more than 100 shawafas in an effort to lift what she believes is a curse preventing her from getting married.

In a country where 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, Salma is one of many Moroccans who cannot afford counseling or mental health therapy. Instead, they turn to the mystical, seeking advice from shawafas who say they can tell the future, even though the practice of witchcraft is illegal and considered anti-Islamic in Morocco. This is because the Quran says that nobody can tell the future, except for God.

Some women ask shawafas for luck and wealth for their families. Others want to exorcise a spirit or contact a dead loved one. Most women, however, go to find love, to retain love or to forget the person they love.

In 2012, Colleen Daley, an American studying intercultural communications at the University of Pennsylvania, visited Chefchaouen, a historical Moroccan city, in search of a shawafa.

At the time, she was working for Moroccan Exchange, an organization that brings American students studying in Spain to Morocco. She was taking a group of students from the Syracuse University Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion to observe different health services, both traditional and medicinal, in Morocco.

She wandered along the cobbled streets past the sky-blue walls of the medina, or old city, asking people in her broken Arabic where she could find a shawafa.

“I heard so much about shawafas before, as evil women who do black magic, who girls will go to get a man to fall in love with,” Daley said.

But when she finally found a shawafa, Daley was surprised by how ordinary the woman looked.

“Less than a full mouth of teeth, white cloth tied on her head, pajamas stained with food from cooking, and a light cloth hastily thrown over her head at the sound of male visitors,” Daley wrote in her blog.

Daley did not want her future told, even though it was a mere 20 dirhams, or two dollars. She just sat there, quietly listening as her translator recounted the shawafa’s story about using her gift to heal people and to earn money for her daughters, ever since the death of her husband.

The shawafa “had a real light about her and a real happiness, a kind of aura,” Daley said in an interview with her. “And I’m Christian; I believe in God. I really felt the presence of God in that room at that time.”

Moroccan women turn to shawafas in times of need. Bouchra Saaidi, 32, wanted to forget her cheating ex-boyfriend. She told me her story when we met at a bar in Rabat.

In 2007, Saaidi’s cousin took her to a shawafa after Saaidi admitted to having suicidal thoughts. The shawafa predicted Saaidi’s future by studying the motion of melting lead in water. Eventually, she decided to help Saaidi forget her boyfriend. Saaidi paid the shawafa 600 dirhams, or 70 dollars, hoping that all her worries would go away. The shawafa instructed her to buy trinkets and wear a dress that would allow smoke to flow up the skirt, a practice that, shawafas say, opens up sexual energy. Then the shawafa asked her to tap her ex-boyfriend’s shoulder at noon on Friday. Saaidi was told this action would complete the spell and afterward, she would have no more feelings for her ex-boyfriend.

As the shawafa instructed, Saaidi tapped her ex-boyfriend’s shoulder and ran away before he had the time to react. She then washed herself with water provided by the shawafa. The shawafa also used Kobol, a substance used to attract people and render them in awe of you, to bless Saaidi and to make her the woman everyone looks at when she enters a room. Saaidi then walked the main avenues of Rabat and found a new man that very day.

“One man helps you forget another,” Saaidi said. “That’s the truth of life, for me anyway.”

Though Saaidi believes in shawafas and their abilities, she also admitted that the effects could be purely psychological.

“When you go to a shawafa and she says you’re going to meet a guy in three days, it stays in your head and you keep thinking, ‘Oh I’m going to meet a guy in three days,’” Saaidi said. “It ends up affecting the reality.”

However, placebo effects, like the vitamin pill Airborne, also occur in western medicine and therapy, which makes it almost impossible to deem one better or more effective than the other. How important is the means if the ends are just as, if not more, successful?

In addition, this process can have an impact on a woman’s judgment in a society where there is a lot of pressure to get married. Women who are unable to find a husband resort to spiritual consultation to solve their problems or simply act as an emotional outlet.

 How important are the means if the ends are just as, if not more, successful?

Some people go to shawafas who practice witchcraft “because they do not have money to solve their problems” through therapy, said Ali Chaabani, professor of sociology at University of Mohammed V-Aghdal in Rabat.

A single 50-minute therapy session in Rabat is approximately 300 Dirhams, or 35 dollars, which is cheaper than a lot of options in the US. However, when Saaidi went to the shawafa, it cost about 600 Dirhams or 70 dollars, to talk, have her future told, engage in a spell to forget her ex-boyfriend and eventually find a new man. If you add up the several sessions it can take to solve your problem, it actually costs less, in the long term, to go to a shawafa and fix the problem in one go. For a lot of Moroccan women, it’s a no-brainer: You visit a shawafa, pay less and have your problem solved by supernatural forces in two sessions.

Salma, whose real name is being withheld because she fears social stigma, believes that her lover’s mother, who did not want Salma to marry her son, has put a curse on Salma to prevent her from getting married. Even though shawafas have been unable to help her, Salma continues going to them.

You visit a shawafa, pay less and have your problem solved by supernatural forces in two sessions.

“If I go sad, she tells me some very nice words and I go back and I am a little happy,” Salma said. “It’s like if I go to a psychotherapy session.”

Some women in Rabat visit a marriage well that is hidden in the Oudayas Castle near the beach. Idrissi Saleh, the marriage well keeper, said the water from the well mixed with rose water changes a woman’s luck and helps in the search for a husband. Then, a woman can light a candle for the Djinn, spirits in Muslim legends, which prevent her from getting married. The women leave old underwear behind as a symbolic change in sexual fortune.

The marriage well also has a shrine dedicated to a dead saint, Sidi Abouri. Women use the saint’s tomb as an intermediary through which to ask God to change their luck, despite religious taboos.

Acts like these, including the abandoned underwear, are common occurrences in shrines dealing with fertility issues in Morocco, despite the fact that explicitly leaving something behind as sexual as underwear is often looked  down upon by Morocco’s conservative society. However, since shrines are already a controversial space, these women desperately engage in this act in hopes that it will make their problems go away.

“Even though the saint is dead, it’s like he’s sleeping,” said the keeper’s son, Mohammed. “He solves all problems.”

Religion, however, is controversial for shawafas and shawafa-goers alike. Sunni Islam, the predominant sect of Islam practiced by 99.9% of Muslims in Morocco, a Muslim-majority country, forbids intermediaries between God and people – like shawafas and saints. Moreover, the Quran states that nobody but the prophet Mohammed can view the future, said Dr. Khalid Saqi, associate director of the Islamic School Dar Al Hadith Al Hassina.

“Nobody in the heavens and on earth can tell you about the unseen things except God,” Saqi said.

Under Islamic law, it is illegal to practice witchcraft in Morocco and shawafas can be heavily fined by the government under the charges of sorcery. Still, shawafas are ubiquitous in Moroccan society. Many Moroccans visit them in secret to solve personal issues. This is because some Moroccans are only Muslim by culture and don’t follow the religious laws, Chaabani said.

“A large percentage of the community is illiterate, so they don’t know what Islam says about witchcraft,” Chaabani said.

In fact, 32.9% of Moroccans are illiterate and therefore, religion is taught through word of mouth in some communities.

Despite the illegality of her craft, a 22-year-old shawafa named Miriam said that she didn’t receive trouble from the police and that she even sometimes helps male officers with their personal problems. However, shawafas’ male clients are less frequent and often come to them for assistance with issues like employment and wealth.

Miriam has no choice but to follow her craft because she believes somebody cast a spell on her when she was nine years old. Since then, Djinns have possessed her and forced her to become a practicing shawafa.

Another shawafa named Fatima also suddenly became haunted by Djinns, except she absorbed the spirits by washing her dead aunt’s clothes. I heard about her through a friend of a friend, so I decided to pay her a visit.

In Tiflet, a small town in northwestern Morocco, Fatima fiddles with the beads between her fingertips as she tells the customer her future in a secluded room located in the corner of her house. She wears bright pink pajamas concealed by a flimsy old cloth to connect with the Djinn that haunts her. Everything around her, from the tablecloth to the Islamic tapestry behind her, is green.

There is a teal lace-like fabric hanging over the entrance that you have to lift above your head to get past. Inside, the walls are white like alabaster, but almost everything else has a leafy hue. There are pine green candles and a repugnant henna concoction spread out across a table covered by a harlequin green cover, couches covered in a dim emerald cloth, green glass rose water bottles, a deep olive Islamic tapestry and other green Koranic posters.

According to Fatima, green is the favorite color of the specific Djinns that connect with her. Though witchcraft is prohibited, Fatima says she enjoys helping people. Nevertheless, Fatima and Miriam asked that their real names not be revealed because of social and legal implications of being a shawafa in Morocco.

Later, I was reading through the translator’s notes of my conversation with Fatima. I’d asked her about skeptics, of course, in which she has answered confidently: “I want them to live as I am living and live this daily suffering that I live so they understand I practice that work without my control.”

Ailsa Sachdev spent several months in Morocco on an SIT Study Abroad program and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a non-profit organization that mentors the next generation of international journalists. Amal Guenine contributed reporting.

Lora Hlavsa is The Riveter’s resident graphic artist. She’s a graduate of Macalester College, where she majored in geography and art, and currently lives in Minneapolis. You can follow her on Twitter@loramariehlavsa and on Instagram @coloraco

July 21st, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

Next Gens Hannah Rehak and William Matsuda on underage marriages in Morocco

This article appeared in the GlobalPost. Read it HERE.
Hannah Rehak July 21, 2014 06:22
The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.

RABAT, Morocco — Salima Dakani has a bruised right hand, two children, and nowhere to sleep tonight.

She is only 19, but she bears the weight of a woman who says she has spent years tortured by a man addicted to drugs and violence, a man chosen for her by parents who believed marriage was the best option for their daughter, an alternative to a life of poverty.

The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. She is bubbly, but shy. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside. (William Matsuda/GlobalPost)

The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. She is bubbly, but shy. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside. (William Matsuda/GlobalPost)

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July 21st, 2014  |  By Serenity Bolt

Underage Moroccan girls married off with judges’ consent

This article was published by the Global Post. Read it HERE.

Hannah RehakJuly 21, 2014 06:22

The Moroccan legal code forbids girls under age 18 to marry, but exceptions are granted most of the time.

The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. She is bubbly, but shy. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside. (William Matsuda/GlobalPost)

The daughter of Rachida Diani, who helps her mom around the house in Rabat, Morocco. She is bubbly, but shy. Unlike her brothers, she rarely leaves the house to play outside. (William Matsuda/GlobalPost)

RABAT, Morocco — Salima Dakani has a bruised right hand, two children, and nowhere to sleep tonight.

She is only 19, but she bears the weight of a woman who says she has spent years tortured by a man addicted to drugs and violence, a man chosen for her by parents who believed marriage was the best option for their daughter, an alternative to a life of poverty.

Dakani was married in 2010, at the age of 15. Now, after a four-year marriage to a man she says kept her locked inside for weeks at a time, beating and electrocuting her until she couldn’t move, Dakani has secretly left home with the hope of finding someone who can help her file for divorce.

She is just one of many young girls married under the legal age of consent in Morocco, about twice as many as 10 years ago, according to statements by the Moroccan minister of justice. In 2004, changes to the country’s Family Code, the Moudawana, pushed for egalitarian reforms to outdated laws and set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years. But according to Fatima Maghnoui, President of L’Union de l’Action Feminine (UAF), an organization committed to helping young women find shelter, work, and healthcare in Rabat, the changes still fall short.

“The spirit of the Moudawana is the equal treatment of men and women, but there are parts of the text that contradict that philosophy,” Maghnoui said.

She is referring to Article 20 of the Moudawana that states a girl may be married under the age of 18 with the consent of her legal tutor, often her father, and the authorization of a family affairs judge. The girl herself must also consent to be married.

Salima Dakani, age 19.

(William Matsuda/GlobalPost)

Though judges are only supposed to give their authorization as an exception in a “well-substantiated decision,” proposals to marry underage girls are accepted 89 percent of the time, according to a report submitted by the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women (ADFM) to the United Nations.

Sixteen percent of Moroccan women in their early twenties were married under the age of 18, compared to only 2 percent in neighboring Algeria, according to 2010 UNICEF data.

Maghanoui says what’s behind these marriages is the patriarchal mentality of Moroccan judges.

“It is a sort of authority limited to the judge, who makes his decision on behalf of the young girl,” she said. “But…when a young girl comes in, maybe she’s only 14, but she looks heavier, bigger, so the judge gives her his authorization.”

Stephanie Willman Bordat, an expert in Moroccan law and co-founder of Mobilizing for Rights Associates (MRA), a non-profit women’s rights organization, agrees that Article 20 relies heavily on judges’ subjective appraisal.

“The law doesn’t give any guidance of what an exceptional reason would be,” she said, “so there are lots of different reasons why judges are authorizing underage marriages. If she is pregnant, or if she is dating, or seeing some boy, or having sex with him, they are saving family honor and avoiding scandal.”

According to women’s rights advocates, in many cases, judges also grant permission with the idea of saving a girl from poverty.

“When parents come in they explain they have four children, for example, and they want to get rid of their daughter,” said Maghanoui. “They want to get her married, even if she is underage. Imagine a girl who does nothing, who has no professional future, who lives the routine of daily life. What else can she be? Sometimes it’s her who wants to get married, because she doesn’t do anything.”

Still, there are Moroccan judges who resist the pressure from girls and their families.

“I had a private conversation with the judge. He asked regular questions about my age, my health, my family, et cetera,” says Selwa Adil, 20, who was once engaged to a man nine years her senior. “But the marriage registration was turned down and the judge told us to come back the year after.”

Instead of waiting until she came of age, Adil’s family decided to employ a traditional marriage ceremony in Morocco — the reading of the Fatiha, a binding verse in the Quran. These marriages, though they are unrecognized by the state, are often the solution when a judge refuses to approve the underage marriage. Adil’s marriage was brief, as problems arose and she promptly moved back into her family home just 12 days after the wedding.

Such conflicts are common. Though she didn’t particularly want to get married, Ghizlane Asmane says it was her idea to quit school at the age of 11 and, until her engagement at the age of 16, she says she did nothing but stay in the house and cook. However, once she had moved into her husband’s family home, which is typical for underage brides, Asmane found she did not have the freedom she’d hoped for.

“I had conflicts with both the groom and his family,” said Asmane. “With the family it was mostly about the household. I got scolded by my husband’s family for things like cooking and cleaning.”

Not all underage marriages are unhappy and unsuccessful. Rachida Diani, 27, was married when she was 14. When she looks back on her marriage, Diani comments on the difficulty of moving into a new home at such a young age, but focuses mostly on the happiness her three children have brought her. For Diani, getting married was the start to her life. Still, when asked if she has an opinion on the prevalence of underage marriages, she is quick in her response.

“No girl should be allowed to marry before the age of 18,” she said.

For Bordat, of MRA, it is simply a human rights issue.

“I think when you are looking at the dangers of underage marriages, you have to look at the totality,” she said. “Underage marriages raise the risk of the underage marriage brides not being able to take advantage of and enjoy a host of their other rights.”

One of those rights involves education, according to advocates.

“The place of young girls is in school and not in a conjugal household,” said Maghnaoui. “To eradicate poverty, we need to put structures in place: schools and information centers; and we need to integrate women in other ways once they have left school.”

The Moroccan government is working on awareness raising campaigns and is considering making 16 the minimum age limit for judge-authorized marriages, according to judge Abdelhadi Elbattahe of the Ministry of Justice. But it’s not easy to overcome cultural traditions that approve of underage marriage, he adds.

“This phenomenon isn’t linked to the law in particular, it is linked to mentality and prevalent social concepts,” says Elbattahe.

In the meantime, women’s advocacy groups are working to provide services for young women, like Salima Dakani. Though Maghnaoui and her coworkers at UAF hope to eventually help Dakani file for divorce, they face an even more pressing concern: finding a safe place for her to stay.

 

Hannah Rehak and William Matsuda spent several months in Morocco on an SIT Study Abroad program and produced this story in association with Round Earth Media, a nonprofit organization that mentors the next generation of international journalists. Malak Mihraje contributed reporting.

June 30th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

The underreported story of a deadly disease from our Next Gen reporter in Morocco

Mohamed removes his straw hat and is more active during overcast skies or in shady areas due to his xeroderma pigmentosum. Photo by Rachel Woolf.

Xeroderma Pigmentosum, XP, is a rare disease carried in 1 out of every 80   Moroccan’s DNA. It is only passed from parent to child when both parents carry  the recessive trait. Thus, in Morocco’s poor communities, where there is little opportunity for marriage outside the family, people are at higher risk to have, or at least pass on, the disease.

The disease is characterized by blistering and burning of the skin and eyes, along with various cancers. The National Cancer Institute reports a 10,000-fold increased risk of skin cancer for someone with XP and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that non-melanoma skin cancer develops at a median age of nine. They are what Moroccans call Children of the Moon.

 

Today there are 800 Children of the Moon in Morocco. Due to poverty and poor access to health care, most of these children, teenagers and young adults will die before they reach 30.

Round Earth Media’s Francine Krieger reported the story of Morocco’s Children of the Moon for the Global Health Hub, read it HERE.

 

June 26th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Morocco’s Children of the Moon Suffer in the Dark of Poor Health Care

By FRANCINE KRIEGER

This article was published by Global Health Hub on June 25, 2014.

MOROCCO – Mounir Yakdone died at 7 years old in pursuit of an education. His parents warned that the walk to school would continue to kill him, but the one-eyed boy painted with skin tumors felt he had nothing to lose.

Nozha Chkoundi and Mohammed Yakdone had taken their son Mounir to a public hospital in Casablanca when he was 3 years old. They were concerned about the freckles that multiplied on his skin with each passing day.

But being seen at the busy hospital was nearly impossible. They stood in line for hours, with the hot Moroccan sun radiating the heat of their impatience and the skin of their freckled boy. When finally seen by a doctor, Mounir was diagnosed with a fatal skin disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, which medical professionals generally shorthand to XP.

XP is a genetic disorder that cannot be detected until after birth, and until an infant’s skin reacts to sun exposure.

So when Nozha and Mohamed were letting Mounir spend three joyous years in the sunshine; shirtless at the beach, and unprotected while playing soccer in the sun, they didn’t know that he had XP and was quickly, certainly acquiring skin cancer.

(more…)

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