We are deeply saddened by the news of the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that hit central Morocco last Friday and the aftershocks continuing this week. Our hearts go out to those who lost their lives, loved ones and livelihoods as well as those who were injured and lost their homes.
Moroccan authorities label this earthquake the deadliest in decades. Although earthquakes are not uncommon in the region, this one was particularly extreme. At the time of writing, there are nearly 3,000 confirmed dead persons and more than 5,000 injured. The number is rising, as many victims are in remote mountain areas.
Several countries have offered support, but existing laws in Morocco slow down the access to international aid and medical teams in the country. Rescue missions are underway, with foreign aid workers supporting local authorities to find survivors, and provide essentials like water, food and tents.
Many are concerned about shelter and long-term recovery efforts – and we are especially worried about the corruption risks that come along with humanitarian aid efforts.
Natural disasters around the world showcase how corruption worsens the devastating effects of poor disaster management. Take the earthquakes in Turkey for example – many argued that the failure to have and enforce strong building regulations worsened the situation. Proper earthquake protection relies on strict adherence to building codes, but corruption during procurement and the use of substandard materials and assembly methods can compromise these vital safeguards.
But Morocco is not alone – corruption risks during emergencies are heightened no matter where they occur. There are documented accounts of widespread diversions of funds and medical supplies, misreporting salaries and payments for goods, petty bribery to bypass emergency measures and opaque procurement processes in crises across the globe. This requires strong anti-corruption frameworks to hold powerful people accountable and civic monitoring and engagement.
Humanitarian efforts mostly occur in fragile states, which often have weak governance, inefficient public institutions and limited capacity to prepare for emergencies and prevent them. Although there are no specific figures on how much disaster relief money is lost to corruption, we know corruption reduces the quality and quantity of aid reaching those who need it the most. Such disasters also exacerbate existing issues in affected countries, such as economic insecurity, political unrest and inequalities.
This isn’t a new problem and greater investment towards good governance and against corruption is needed. Governments and stakeholders must establish anti-corruption strategies before disasters strike. Humanitarian agencies should increase incentives to report corruption and strengthen whistleblower protections. Governments receiving aid must develop and abide by anti-corruption laws and accountability mechanisms. And civil society must be involved in these processes to monitor corruption risks and hold power to account for the benefit of all.
As Morocco and the international community continue to respond to the devastation caused by the earthquake, anti-corruption efforts are more important than ever to ensure that life-saving services, goods and funds reach those who need them the most.
With a score of 38 out of 100 on the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index, Morocco is on par with the regional average. However, the country has declined by five points on the index since 2018, demonstrating the drastic need for systemic change and the implementation of effective anti-corruption mechanisms.