A Moroccan widow has turned her home in the capital Rabat into a shelter for cancer patients, after realizing how many people were forced to abandon outpatient treatment because of the expense of reaching the city and finding lodgings.
Khadija Ayad al-Qorti, 72, founded the Jannat Association in 2009, a few months after her husband died of cancer. The association provides free accommodation for patients and their families, free transport to Rabat’s oncology center and free meals for the duration of their stay.
She cares for 15 women in her home, and rents a flat nearby to house a further 15.
Hassania Khayati, 45, has breast cancer and has been staying in the shelter on and off since September 2017. She hails from Ksar El Kebir in north Morocco and has no family in Rabat.
“We could not find anyone doing what the people in this association are doing for us. Even our relatives could not take care of us because we are poor,” she said.
Qorti still relies on her late husband’s pension - roughly 450 Moroccan dirhams ($47.50) - to fund the charity work.
Such is the success and importance of her shelter that local government and private donors now contribute to her association to help her afford the 4,000 Moroccan dirhams ($422) rent.
The number of cancer cases is steadily rising in Morocco, and 40,000 new patients are registered each year in the country, official figures show.
For women, breast cancer is the most prevalent, followed by cervical cancer and thyroid cancer.
“People may receive you and help you for a week or ten days but not more. We have been here for two months now... They help us with medicine and transport, we thank God for this,” said Aziza Boulouika, a relative of a patient.