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Editorial

Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB

02/07/2018

Abbot Peter NovecoskyOverlooked countries

Every day the news media report on disasters around the world, but humanitarian crises are soon forgotten as the media move on to the next major story. The public seems unable to sustain prolonged interest in bad-news stories.

CARE International recently released a report titled “Suffering In Silence: The 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2017.” Seven of the top 10 countries were from Africa, where internal turmoil, severe weather disasters, and malnutrition have all contributed to desperate crises.

North Korea’s starving population topped the list for receiving the least media attention globally. Attention is limited mainly to Pyongyang's weapons program — and now North Korea’s participation in the Olympics.

"People (in North Korea) urgently require food . . . medical and health services, water and sanitation facilities," CARE reports.

About 18 million people — 70 per cent of the population — are food-insecure and rely on government food aid, according to UN estimates. CARE International said two in five North Koreans are undernourished: "The impacts of the country's political regime, together with global warming and frequent natural hazards, such as floods, rising temperatures or prolonged droughts, exacerbate the dire humanitarian situation."

Next on the list is Eritrea. This eastern African nation is cut off from the outside world, but a severe drought, lack of food, and water shortages affect more than 700,000 inhabitants. In addition, a 2015 UN human rights inquiry said the Eritrean government may have committed crimes against humanity, describing extrajudicial killings, widespread torture, sexual slavery, and enforced labour.

"Half of all children in Eritrea are stunted and cannot achieve their full mental and physical potential,” CARE International reported, “simply because they do not have enough food to develop and grow." Eritreans are among the largest group of migrants arriving on Europe's doorstep.

Burundi has a history of political unrest, which is fuelling its humanitarian crisis. CARE International cited reports indicating that more than 2.6 million people — 27 per cent of the population — did not know how to feed their families: "With political unrest and significant human rights concerns persisting, the crisis in Burundi enters its fourth year."

In Vietnam the most powerful storm in a decade, Typhoon Doksuri, ravished the country’s long, exposed coastline in September, triggering widespread power outages and inflicting damage on 1.5 million people. The UN reported more than 11,000 hectares of rice and other crops were ruined following storm. An estimated 14 people were killed, 112 injured, and hundreds of thousands of homes were flooded.

Conflict in Mali, particularly in the northern and central areas of the country, have left more than 900,000 people without clean drinking water or sanitation facilities, according to CARE. This has resulted in outbreaks of diseases that pose major risks to the population.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 1.7 million people ─ 5,500 per day ─ fled their homes in 2017 as a result of violence that has been ongoing for two decades. This has left two million children acutely malnourished and four million displaced.

Starvation, extreme weather conditions, poverty, and war have all contributed to the dire humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Of the five million Sudanese living in poverty, 88 per cent are women and children.

Violence and political turmoil in Burundi since the 2015 election have seen hundreds of thousands forced into exile. Human rights groups fear for the future of the country, with escalating violence resulting in nearly 2.6 million people — 27 per cent of the population — uncertain how to feed their families.

With 24-hour newscasts on multiple platforms seven days a week, people can easily become saturated, and many global crises are missed. Media outlets discontinue coverage, or it is forbidden by national governments. CARE International seeks to bring these stories to our attention.