At least 15 are dead and hundreds more injured in a stampede during a food distribution in Morocco on Sunday (Nov. 19). The victims, mostly women, were said to have been crushed as hundreds of people gathered to collect food at the market of a small town called Sidi Boulaalam. Reports from the Washington Post and New York Times relayed this information and provided details in this article.

Crowd causes stampede in marketplace

Many of those caught in the stampede were people who traveled for miles for flour that a local aid group was distributing in drought-devastated Morocco. The food distribution on Sunday was a chance for people to take food home to their families, if they are able to nab some of the limited supplies, that is.

Videos and photos from the Sidi Boulaalam souk showed throngs of people crowding together. It remains unclear what caused the stampede that in the end killed 15 and injured many more. A witness, however, told Sky News that there were several hundred people at the distribution, and people were shoving and breaking down barriers in order to get food. The witness shared that the authorities on the spot became overwhelmed as the crowd kept fighting for food despite people being pushed to the ground.

Morocco economy masks small-town problems

Morocco is said to have a healthier economy compared to its neighboring countries, with only a 4.2 percent poverty rate in 2014. However, it masks conditions in other rural areas where large parts of the population live in poverty. Despite large-scale infrastructure projects that changed the Moroccan economy in the last few decades, these projects were of little benefit to the country’s people.

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In fact, the drought is already creating a ripple effect on Morocco’s national stability. The lack of water already affecting two straight harvests, the Kingdom is becoming more and more susceptible to natural disasters. With last year’s wheat and barley production at its lowest level in decades, Morocco will have to find more agricultural solutions and better ways to purify water that is available in the country’s water pipes to avoid shortage problems in the future. The average Moroccan consumes at least 440 pounds of wheat every year, and the Moroccan government is pressured to find a solution to the drought soon.

King Mohammed offers assistance to stampede victims

Upon hearing news of the tragedy, King Mohammed VI ordered local authorities to take measures in providing support and assistance to the affected families. A statement from the interior ministry also noted that the king pledged to take care of the costs of hospitalization and burial expenses for the victims.