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How does Morocco's earthquake look to a nurse who's helping the injured?


Aid workers from several countries are on the ground in Morocco in the aftermath of a magnitude 6.8 earthquake over the weekend. More than 2,100 people are known to have died and thousands more are injured as recovery and rescue efforts continue. Many families are unsure whether their homes are safe and fear more aftershocks. Shaima Mouhajin (ph) has been sleeping on a patch of grass near the sidewalk with her parents, grandparents and two younger siblings.

SHAIMA MOUHAJIN: We're actually terrified. Like, I'm shaking right now. I don't know what to do. Like, I can't think of anything besides the earthquake. Like, I'm so scared.

MARTIN: John Johnson is a nurse practitioner with Doctors Without Borders. That's an independent group that offers medical care in areas that desperately need it. He's in Amizmiz, Morocco. That's a town near the epicenter of Friday's earthquake. John Johnson, thanks so much for being there. And thanks so much for talking with us.

JOHN JOHNSON: It's nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So tell me what you're seeing there right now.

JOHNSON: So we're not far from the epicenter of the earthquake. There was a clinic here that has probably been compromised. So they've set up tents outside because of concerns that the building might collapse. In the tents outside, basically, it's a big triage unit where they've been seeing patients who've been brought from the villages around Amizmiz. And then from here, severe cases are sent to Marrakesh. And cases that can be treated here are treated here. The wounded start coming in usually in the mornings.

This is really the second full day of the rescue efforts. And people are basically triaged based on their severity and where they can go. There's a big mobilization from the Moroccan government and military. You have ambulances driving around searching for victims, teams with tractors doing search and rescue in the villages. And basically, like you said earlier, there's people sleeping on the sidewalk because the buildings are all compromised and there's a big fear of aftershocks.

MARTIN: Can you just describe what the most urgent needs of the survivors are right now?

JOHNSON: Well, I think there's an urgent need, of course, for medical victims, for surgical care. I think as the days go on, you know, the people that are going to survive will have been found and treated. And then the other needs that are going to be very apparent soon are going to be for shelter and for, you know, food and water. We've seen distributions coming through, which is great, but I think, you know, people need places to stay. They can't be sleeping outside forever. And I think, also, like you heard from the girl earlier, people are shook, and I think they need urgent - let's say mental health care or mental health support, because I think everyone's been very shook up by this event, and I think people need urgent psychological care.

MARTIN: Is that possible? Do you think that can happen?

JOHNSON: I mean, I think that sort of care is a lot of community care. It's people listening to each other and being able to talk about what happened because this is a big, traumatic event. And, yeah, I think it can.

MARTIN: And how are you doing?

JOHNSON: I'm doing fine. We arrived on Saturday night and came directly to Amizmiz. We are - we're not necessarily able to work in the country yet, but we're doing what we can and finding out where the needs are and if there's gaps we can fill. But the minister of health and Moroccan government have been doing a great job so far.

MARTIN: That is John Johnson. He's with Doctors Without Borders. He's in Morocco. As we said, Doctors Without Borders is an independent group that offers medical care where people need it most. John Johnson, thanks so much for joining us and talking with us about this.

JOHNSON: Thanks for having me. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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