Marrakech, Morocco — When you think of Morocco, you probably think of a medieval city with a long, cobbled street and ancient stone bridges.
But that is a bit of a misnomer, says Haji Mohammed Ali.
Ali, an economist and founder of the Moroccan-based Moroccan Economic Development Center, thinks you will find that the city is very much more modern.
“Morocco has the world’s highest literacy rate, but it also has the lowest rate of infant mortality,” he says.
So what is a Moroccan to do?
First, Ali says, get out of the city and avoid all the things that could be a health hazard.
Next, get back into the city, and do your best to keep yourself healthy.
It is not uncommon to be shocked at the number of people who die from illness in Moroccan cities, says Ali, who is also director of the Urban Planning Institute.
The biggest problem is lack of adequate health care, he says, as hospitals lack adequate beds.
Moroccan health services have long been plagued by lack of funding.
Ali says that in a city like Marrakecher, where the city’s residents make up about 10 percent of the population, this means that only 5 percent of doctors are available.
Even in a country with a much higher rate of poverty, Ali believes that a lack of funds for health care could be one of the biggest factors behind a country’s poor health outcomes.
While the situation is not as bad as in many other Western countries, Ali admits that many people feel unsafe in Moroccan neighborhoods.
And although Morocco’s urbanization has been rising in recent years, Ali notes that it is still not yet a sustainable model for the country’s population.
Ali says that Morocco’s problems stem from a number of factors, including its colonial past, which has been blamed for its low levels of literacy and lack of access to health care.
According to the World Health Organization, Morocco is one of only three countries in the world where illiteracy rates exceed 80 percent.
Despite the high levels of illiteracy in Morocco, the country is one with the highest literacy rates in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Moroccos low rate of obesity, high level of physical activity and low rates of smoking are some of the reasons behind the countrys low obesity and high rate of physical exercise, according the OECD.
Ali hopes that by working together with the government and health professionals, Moroccans health systems can make the city safer and healthier.