Illustration by Mariam Diab

We were not able to save Rayan.

Hope. That was the feeling uniting Morocco for 5 days; irrational hope that the efforts of my government would save Rayan.

Feb 13, 2022

On the night of February. 5th, as I struggled to fall asleep, I called one of my best friends from home. We had been talking for 20 minutes when he interrupted me mid-sentence and announced “Rayan est mort.” (Rayan died). Anger. Disappointment. These are the feelings that overtook me. Disappointment in a government that failed our youth. Again.
On February 1st, Rayan, a 5-year-old child, fell into a 32 meters deep dried-out well in Inghrane, a little village near the province of Chefchaouen — or what tourists commonly refer to as “the blue pearl of Morocco.” As the world watched, all efforts were channeled towards saving Rayan from the doom he had fallen in. The global media picked up the story; every family member or friend I called from back home mentioned it. We were all hoping that the efforts of our government would prove fruitful in saving the life of one of our own.
In rural areas of Morocco, 60 percent of people do not have direct access to clean water. It is common practice in rural villages to dig up wells in order to access sanitary water. Moroccan law strictly oversees the digging of wells in rural areas and specifies that authorizations are required, without much effect. Indeed, the Moroccan government expects its citizens to get legal authorization to access water in areas where the closest legal office is often at least a day’s travel, and when the issuing of legal permits is for most a painstakingly long and complicated process.
Following Rayan’s death, the government announced stricter measures regarding the monitoring of wells that would be implemented and that legal sanctions would be carried out with more emphasis. Opposition MP Abderrahim Chahid declared "It is our duty to alert the authorities and make citizens aware of the danger that anarchic wells pose to the lives of citizens and even animals. Things are not yet clear to take legislative action on this issue,".
Chahid’s statement recognizes the government’s fault in not upholding said duty over the last years, but also does not address the problem at its root: inequality between rural and urban areas.
Rayan’s story is more than that of a child who could not have been rescued in time, and it is far from isolated. Rayan’s story is about a death that could have been easily prevented had the government been doing its job in the first place by taking preventative measures for the safety of its citizens. Rayan’s story is about all the children in Morocco, and those elsewhere, who were not saved in time. The children whose needs are ignored by our governments, the ones starving, the ones without shelter, the ones dying. In 2019, [7.4 million children from 0 to 14 years] ( passed away from preventable and treatable causes. 27% of Morocco’s population is under 15 years old, [39.7 percent of children across Morocco are affected by multidimensional poverty, a percentage amounting up to 68.7 in rural areas of the country] ( An estimated number of 30,000 children live in the streets.
A walk in Casablanca, the “economic heart” of Morocco, is enough to realize that these numbers do not reflect the reality of the situation. Stories of abandoned children in dumpsters are common, often the result of a combination of childbirth outside of wedlock, social stigma leading to the abandonment of young single mothers, and poor socio-economic conditions.
I will forever remember my trips to the blood bank or the oncology units of hospitals across Casablanca. Parents would ask if Interact, my old high school’s charity organization, could settle the medical bills of their child or pay for their prescribed medicine, sometimes going over 5400 USD. They did not have any medical insurance and received the minimum legal salary of 300 USD per month, often with other children and elderly relatives to care for. I never knew how to reply: what do you say in those kinds of situations? “I’m very sorry our funds are extremely limited, we cannot get your child the medicine he needs, and he will unfortunately have to die”?
How do you announce that? Why do I have to announce that? So while some of the governments’ members live in neighborhoods where the prices of real estate start at [3.2 million USD] (, I find myself doubting that that same government, led by the 13th richest man in the African continent cannot do for these children as much as they tried to do for Rayan.
Do we have to wait for [BBC] (, CNN, [the Pope] ( or the [French President] ( to care in order to care for our children and someone to openly call out the hypocrisy of our governments?
This is a cry of despair: my country needs to do more for us. Our countries need to do more for us. All I unfortunately have at the present time is hope and a voice, which I’m determined to use. Today, I mourn Rayan, who could not be saved in time. I mourn Aadnan, who could not be saved in time. I remember Khadija, who could not be saved in time. I remember and mourn all of the children in Morocco who could not be saved in time because those who can make the most impact wait around until the story gets shared on social media.
Sure, it’s comforting to know that many are grieved and are upset with the situation, but an Instagram story is not enough to foster change. Hold your governments accountable, care for others, donate if you can, get involved, be the change you want to see in the world. Social media activism, on its own, will never save our children. The sadness, the anger and disappointment I’m sharing with the rest of my country will remain as long as our system does not do more for our children, ourselves included.
Rania Kettani is a Deputy Columns Editor. Email her at
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