They represent “war scenes”. Even worse, “we thought we would die there”. To hear them tell it, Sarah Costanzo and Valentina Ienco experienced hell in the middle of the Moroccan desert.
The Varoises have just returned from the “Trek Rose Trip”. A solidarity orienteering race, organized by the travel agency Désertours, which took place from October 27 to 30, 2023 south of Errachidia.
Both fell violently ill, contaminated by a bacteria (still unknown), on the third day of their adventure. The symptoms quickly spread in the camp bringing together more than 800 participants. In total, around 200 people showed the same symptoms of (very) acute gastroenteritis.
After being among the most worrying cases, Sarah Costanzo and Valentina Ienco returned to Le Muy, Saturday November 4 in the early morning, repatriated by their loved ones. For fear of infecting their families, they isolated themselves and recounted their “nightmare”.
Two doctors and 36 toilets for 800 participants
“So on the third day I started feeling sore and muddy after the first mile.”, says Sarah Costanzo, who overcame breast cancer. The forty-year-old hopes that this will pass and decides to continue the race.
To the point of feeling discomfort. “I was very cold even though it was 40 degrees. We called a doctor. But they made us understand that he wouldn’t come… I wasn’t the only one who was sick. Then there weren’t just two of them. » ! »
The Muyoises, who teamed up with a third friend and had been training for more than a year, set off as best they could and finally completed the 19 kilometers. “We covered them in nine hours. When I arrived at the camp, I thought I would be saved, taken care of. Without knowing that the real ordeal begins there.
“My diarrhea and vomiting have gotten worse. In front of the toilets (there were only 36 for 800 people), many of us were waiting. The tents were close together and some girls slept on their mattresses in the open air. , due to lack of space. Medical equipment was lacking. Dehydrated, I was only allowed one infusion. »
During the night, Valentina Ienco, 39, felt the same symptoms. She goes to the bathroom and… “Sarah found me passed out”. We give him an antiemetic and a painkiller. Then she waits in a tent, crowded with around twenty other runners. “I was finally transferred to the most serious cases, with Sarah. And they also gave me an IV.”. Just once.
Dirty mattresses, toilets and walkways
The day after a terrible night, they are told that they will soon be transferred to hospital. Finally! “It was abominable to stay here, inhumane. There was vomit and feces everywhere. The mattresses were dirty, the toilets and the aisles too. We had nothing to change into. We were given diapers”explains Sarah Costanzo, exhausted and still in shock.
His condition deteriorates further. Three hours later, two ambulances came to pick them up. The friends are taken to a private clinic in Errachidia, two hours away. They stayed there four days, before their repatriation by plane organized by the Mutuaide mutual fund.
“We were placed in the maternity ward. Gynecologists and midwives took care of us. Valentina Ienco, mother of two children, still can’t believe it. “A doctor told us there were 48 of us there!
They take more blood tests, are infused, put on antibiotics and their condition improves quickly.
“Kitchens one meter from an open septic tank”
The results of the analyzes arrive quickly: “We were negative for Shigella bacteria (or Escherichia coli). »
Sarah Costanzo frowns. “I don’t see how that’s possible. Especially since a doctor told Valentina that she had it! I suspect Désertours will do everything to cover up the affair. »
Because this epidemic would not be the first. The people of Var have received hundreds of testimonials since the creation of the “Collectif Trek Rose Trip 2023 & Trophée Roses Des Sables Epidémie”. “We are going to transform it into an association and file a complaint. This has to stop. Girls tell us that they experienced the same thing in 2021 and 2022, in the same place.
They wonder why. And carry out their investigation. “I think it has to do with the kitchens. They were placed one meter from the open septic tank. It was full of flies there. »specifies Sarah Costanzo. In the evening, we served ourselves buffet style. We all had the same spoon…”
The French embassy in Morocco indicated to France Inter that an investigation and analyzes are underway. Désertours (which also organizes the 4L Trophy and the “Rose des sables” rally) ensures, for its part, “to cooperate fully to determine the nature, the origin of the epidemic as well as the way in which it spread”.
Questions about the amount of donations made
The epidemic would not be the only question mark for the Trek Rose Trip 2023. Runners are also wondering about the amount of donations donated to the Ruban Rose, Jeune et Rose, Enfants du Desert and Surfrider Foundation associations.
“We paid on average 2,000 euros per person for the race (excluding plane tickets). Those who do it by car, it’s 3,000 euros. If we do the calculations, this represents a total of around 1.4 million euros raised. We “I knew that only part had been donated. Except that Désertours would have only given 20,000 euros to the associations. We are disappointed. We participated in this hike to do a good deed. We have all been touched by cancer. Some are even still in remission”regret Sarah Costanzo and Valentina Ienco.