Libyan and Moroccan Canadians step up help after disasters: ‘Like family’ – National



As recovery efforts and work continue to assess the damage from the deadly earthquake in Morocco and devastating floods in Libya, communities in Canada are working to get supplies and aid to those impacted abroad.

This week alone, organizations like Islamic Relief Canada is hosting a fundraiser in London, Ont., on Friday to help both countries, while the Moroccan Association of Toronto (AMDT) is hosting a walk in High Park on Sunday.

Narjiss Lazrak, president of the AMDT, told Global News in an interview on Friday that the support they are providing is because while they are not here in Canada, “it’s like family.”

“If a member of the family is hurt or has an issue or problem, you have to help,” she said. “So even (if) these people are in another city, they are not close family, but we consider them family. And then we consider like they’re humans and then they need help.”

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The deaths and injuries continue to mount in Morocco as more remote villages are reached by crews and bodies are dug up or people sent to hospitals. According to authorities, at least 2,901 deaths were reported as of Tuesday and it is estimated by the United Nations that 300,000 people were impacted by the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that occurred last Friday night.

Click to play video: 'Montrealers support Morocco relief efforts'

Montrealers support Morocco relief efforts

In the days since, the country has limited the amount of aid allowed into the country and only green-lit crews from Spain, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as non-governmental organizations.

With Canada among the countries not able to provide direct aid, it has looked to providing help in other methods including the federal government, announcing it would match donations made to the Canadian Red Cross for up to a maximum of $3 million.

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Click to play video: 'Red Cross offers help to North African region devastated by earthquake, floods'

Red Cross offers help to North African region devastated by earthquake, floods

Lazrak applauded the measure, adding that while she recognizes people may want to send in physical items, it may be more difficult to know exactly what is needed and monetary donations will ensure the right needs are met.

“Your donation will be channelled to the right place where the needs are evaluated,” she said. “Those donations are going to go to the right hands, to the trustworthy people and then will be used in the right (way.)”

Click to play video: '‘Everything was shaking’: Imam in Morocco recalls night of devastating quake'

‘Everything was shaking’: Imam in Morocco recalls night of devastating quake

There are several Moroccan-Canadians who have also been directly impacted due to family members and friends in the country when the earthquake hit.

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Jouwairia Lahboub-Daayf, president of the Atlas Moroccan Association of Manitoba, spoke with Global News earlier this week about how her family is handling the situation — her husband has family in the Agadir area that was among those impacted.

She said while his family is fine, he has close friends in the region who were impacted both through homes being destroyed and those his friends knew also passing away.

“So it’s really a sad news, very difficult to hear that. And then my husband, as well as the people we know here, we are trying to find ways to help in any way we could help,” she said.

Lahboub-Daayf said logistically it will take time to provide aid to those in the North African country, but she said groups of Moroccans here in Canada are getting together and fundraising to add to the amount of monetary donations to make available.

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon fundraiser for Libya, Morocco flood relief sets $50,000 goal'

Saskatoon fundraiser for Libya, Morocco flood relief sets $50,000 goal

She also added other communities have also reached out to help.

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“We really appreciate the support of other communities. I know that we have the Lebanese, the Libyan communities, the Canadians. They were all here asking how it would help,” she said.

This past Sunday, the Moroccan House Association of BC held a rally in solidarity with earthquake victims. Director Nadia Ouazzani said there’s still more to do than just financial donations.

“I’d like them to pray for the victims and the victims’ families,” she told Global News, adding as the days go on they are waiting to see what else may be needed.

“I would like to know later what could be done, what other type of needs that Morocco needs. Then we’ll see how we can get that to them.”

Click to play video: 'Libya floods: Fears deaths could reach 20,000'

Libya floods: Fears deaths could reach 20,000

The effort to help those in Libya is just as big, with Libyan-Canadians stepping up efforts at ways to get aid to flood-stricken communities.

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Earlier this week, storm Daniel wreaked havoc on the country, sweeping away entire neighbourhoods and wrecking homes in multiple coastal towns. As of Friday, more than 10,000 people remain missing and more than 11,000 lives have been lost.

Islamic Relief Canada, which has dispatched teams to both countries, said the fundraiser it’s hosting Friday is being used not only to raise money to provide aid but also to spread awareness about the situations in both countries.

Yasmin Alameddin, regional fundraising manager, told Global News that among the things needed are blankets, food and mattresses. But it could be medicine that’s needed tomorrow and then medicine and then shelter. But monetary aid is still needed the most.

“We have to be able to move very quickly with the ongoing needs. And that can’t be done without your help,” she said.

Esra Bengizi, a Libyan-Canadian in Toronto, says her family who is in Libya has been living through a “perpetual nightmare,” due to the country facing “one tragedy from another.” This includes the off-and-on war that has been seen since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s government in 2011, and now the flooding caused by storm Daniel.

While she told Global News that most of her family is safe, they have still suffered either through loss of property or possessions, and it’s why aid is still needed. She said that community involvement here in Canada can be crucial because they may be able to get supplies to communities easier than international aid organizations on the ground.

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Click to play video: 'Calgary families impacted by flooding devastation in Libya'

Calgary families impacted by flooding devastation in Libya

“We have closer ties to the grassroots organizations who are on the ground in Libya,” she said in an interview. “So all of us have family members and loved ones who are in Libya, who are travelling there and who are able to actually get aid directly and probably quicker than some of these organizations.”

Though financial donations are very much helpful, Bengizi said all types of donations should still be considered by Canadians wanting to help from clothing and blankets to medication. She adds even directing people to resources to access psychological and emotional help should be done.

But even as donations are made by Canadians and aid is delivered by various organizations, Libyan Canadian Dr. Alaa Murabit says people need to recognize that in the weeks, months and even years to come that help will still be needed.

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She said that the most devastating thing about flooding is the aftermath and while there is a humanitarian crisis taking place now, it’s not going to just take a few weeks for people to be rehoused. Communities in Libya could face waterborne diseases, for example, and children may be unable to access education for some time.

It’s why Murabit, who is a UN high-level commissioner on health employment and economic growth, says in addition to physical, emotional and psychological support, awareness of what has happened is also important.

“In a couple of days there will be another crisis, that’s the reality of the world,” Murabit, who is the founder of The Voice of Libyan Women, said. “And yet there will still be people in need. So continue to raise awareness, continue to really champion the fact that people in Libya need support.”

Murabit added that while she appreciates the work of communities and aid organizations that have raised awareness of the disaster and worked to provide help to those in need, “the truth is, it never feels like enough,” adding it may come from people possibly “divorcing ourselves” from what is happening in other countries.

“I think the more we can put ourselves in those positions, the more we can be honest about the fact if it were us, it wouldn’t be enough.”


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