The news media is facing daunting challenges covering domestic news. A dizzying array of disasters, wars and other crises rage across the world, making it hard to focus on all of them. Dwindling funds leave fewer journalists available to cover disasters, particularly those in war-torn countries that are extremely difficult to access. Yet telling the world about people who are facing their darkest hours is more important than ever.
CARE produced this report to highlight those crises that, though large, have gotten so little attention. “Suffering In Silence” is a call for the global community to help and to advocate for people in crises who are otherwise forgotten.
The following list contains the top 10 most under-reported cases of humanitarian crises throughout the world.
Torrential rains, leading to flooding, landslides and mudslides, scoured the dry landscape of coastal Peru in March 2017. Large parts of the country were severely affected, including the capital city of Lima. The rains caused the worst flooding in 20 years, with 10 times the normal levels of rainfall across Peru. By April, nearly half the country was in a state of emergency. Public health emergencies were declared in seven regions.
9) Central African Republic
Unknown to many and largely under-developed, the Central African Republic (CAR) has been suffering from recurring outbreaks of violent clashes. Inter-communal tensions are fueled by armed groups and political turmoil. About 2.5 million people, more than half of the population, are in need of aid and desperate for food.
8) Lake Chad Basin
11 million people in the Lake Chad Basin region (North Cameroon, West Chad, South-East Niger and North-East Nigeria) have seen their lives threatened and their chances for survival decreased over the last years. Eight years of conflict and ongoing attacks related to Boko Haram has meant lost lives and livelihoods, abandoned homes and villages, and deserted farmland, crippling large parts of the Lake Chad Basin.
Although considered the most powerful storm in a decade, little is known about Typhoon Doksuri, the tenth storm to affect Vietnam in 2017. The powerful typhoon tore a destructive path through seven central provinces in Vietnam in September, flooding hundreds of thousands of homes, whipping off roofs and knocking out power.
More than five years have passed since the escalation of conflict in northern Mali. However, insecurity persists in northern and central parts of the country and progress towards an improvement of the humanitarian situation has stagnated. The resurgence of inter-communal violence and clashes between armed groups in 2017 triggered renewed displacements and disrupted the lives of thousands of people. Many crisis-affected communities solely depend on humanitarian assistance and still struggle to access food, water, healthcare, education and work. In regions where fighting occurred, women reported cases of physical, psychological and sexual violence.
5) Democratic Republic of Congo
After more than two decades of violence, for many children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), conflict and war is all they have known. A surge in violence and inter-communal tensions across the country forced more than 1.7 million people to flee their homes in 2017, an average of more than 5,500 people per day.
Over a decade of conflict, chronic poverty and climatic shock have put almost 5 million people on the edge of survival in Sudan. For the past 13 years, dire humanitarian needs, particularly in the western province of Darfur, have persisted. Many families are facing extreme hunger. At the end of 2017, more than 2 million children were suffering. In addition, the country regularly suffers from floods and droughts.
With political unrest and significant human rights concerns persisting, the crisis in Burundi enters its fourth year. Over 400,000 people, half of them children, have fled from the violence and dire humanitarian conditions to seek safety in neighboring countries.
Isolated and off the media radar, Eritrea hardly ever makes the major news headlines. When it does, it is often related to border tensions, human rights abuses or Eritrean refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. Widely cut off from the outside world, media and aid organizations have very limited access to the East African country.
1) Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Although North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) has been in the news for nuclear and political tensions, little is known about the country’s humanitarian situation. The UN estimates that 18 million people – 70 per cent of the population – are food-insecure and rely on government food aid. Furthermore, two in five North Koreans are undernourished.
What can we do?
With so many different types of disasters and conflicts that are hardly covered in the media and discussed in this report the question remains: What can or should be done about human suffering around the world? Aid agencies need safe access to crisis-affected areas, more funding, and the space to work together.
The question on how to ensure better coverage of under-reported crises remains largely unaddressed. So what is needed? Seven equally important steps are crucial now:
1) Media access
While humanitarian access remains high on the agenda of most aid organizations to secure safe passage for staff and relief supplies, security and access also remain key challenges for journalists. Attacks on press freedom and violence against journalists and other media workers have increased in recent years. Press freedom is essential to shine a light on issues that would otherwise be forgotten.
2) Reporting outside the box
With numerous crises competing for space in the headline news all at the same time, often only those with the largest figures or most shocking facts make it. This is why it is important to look for angles that are outside the norm. Not only does this help differentiate the complexities and uniqueness of each crisis, it also prevents the formation of simplistic stereotypes that can quickly lead to donor and “compassion fatigue.”
3) Funding foreign reporting
With claims and counterclaims about “fake news” on the rise and sensationalism dictating news consumption, independent journalism is at great risk. Declining revenue is often the culprit for the demise of humanitarian reporting in low-interest countries. To fight this trend, it is not only crucial for readers to support their favourite media outlet but also for aid agencies and donors to support crisis reporting.
4) Think local
Local actors, reporters and aid organizations have a wealth of knowledge and unique access to information in crises and emergencies. An increasing number of media outlets are embracing partnerships so they can access expertise from non-profit organizations and maintain their level of independent journalism. It could be useful for news outlets, local reporters and aid organizations to further explore how to better work together.
5) Raise the voices of women and children
In crises, it is often women and children who suffer the most. However, the struggles of women and children suffering from deep economic, social and human inequality are often under-reported. Reporting on the misery and adversity women and children endure is of major importance in order to ensure that their voices are heard and concerns addressed.
6) Invest in communications as a core function of humanitarian work
With tight budgets and difficult access to affected areas, aid organizations face the challenge of quickly and efficiently delivering aid, employing relevant experts to ensure the quality of aid programs, and reporting to donors and the public. It is important for aid agencies to invest in trained communications and media specialists who can liaise with the public through media, especially in neglected crises. Not only do they help media outlets tell the stories, but they are also the ones calling for action and much-needed funds.
7) Look at the bigger picture
More often than not, media stories only get published when damage is already done. Many of today’s emergencies are avoidable but a lack of awareness and funding still hampers efforts in crisis prevention. Every single dollar spent on preventing and mitigating disasters saves an average of seven dollars in disaster response and recovery. Shifting focus from damage to risks is also important to educate the public. Covering more nuanced stories, which include the often invisible causes of crises, can lead to greater public understanding of the dynamics behind human suffering.