Top 10 Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2007
Once a year the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) releases a list of ten stories that received little media attention despite the fact that they concern some of the most urgent humanitarian issues and crises in the world. This year's list, their tenth, focuses in part on the devastating consequences of war and political unrest on civilian populations. It also lists malnutrition and tuberculosis, both of which kill millions every year.
- Somalia: Sixteen years of violent internal conflict have led to a catastrophic health crisis and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somalia’s people. Malnutrition, kala azar (a parasitic disease) and tuberculosis are major issues, and life expectancy is estimated to be only 47 years. In Afgooye, just outside the capital of Mogadishu, an estimated 200,000 internally displaced persons live in extremely harsh conditions with little access to food, water, and shelter.
- Zimbabwe: Rampant unemployment, skyrocketing inflation, food shortages, and political instability continued to wrack Zimbabwe in 2007. Up to 3 million people are believed to have fled to neighboring countries in recent years among a population of 12 million. An estimated 1.8 million Zimbabweans are living with HIV/AIDS, and less than one-fourth of the people in urgent need of life-extending antiretroviral (ARV) treatment receive it.
- Tuberculosis: Every year nearly 2 million people die from TB, and an estimated 9 million develop it. To make matters worse, some strains of the disease have been found to be resistant to the drugs designed to fight them.
- Malnutrition: More than 60 million children in the world have signs of acute malnutrition and are at serious risk of death, and malnutrition is associated with the deaths of five million children under the age of five each year. Nutrient dense ready-to-use foods (RUFs) can save the lives of acutely malnourished children. These new products come in the form of milk- and peanut-based pastes enriched with all the vitamins and nutrients needed for rapid recovery. But so far these products are only available to a tiny fraction of the severely malnourished children who need them.
- Sri Lanka: Fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has led to the displacement of thousands of civilians, and put them at serious risk of violence. In addition, restrictions placed on humanitarian organizations have made it difficult for people to get the help they need.
- Democratic Republic of Congo: Brutal violence between various armed groups, including the national army, has devastated the civilian population, particularly in the eastern province of North Kivu. Driven from their land, many live without adequate food or water, and face serious risks of sexual violence, as well as meningitis, malaria, cholera, and measles.
- Columbia: Though there are some signs of improvement, violent conflict, largely fueled by the narcotics trade, is still a part of everyday life for civilians. Almost three million people have been forced to abandon their homes, and many suffer from poverty, disease, and mental disorders.
- Myanmar (Burma): Isolated from the outside world since the ruling military junta came to power in 1962, the people of Myanmar suffer from the consequences of repression and neglect. Faced with high malaria and HIV rates, the impoverished population is provided with little assistance—only 1.4% of the regime's budget supports health-care services.
- Central African Republic: Fighting between government forces and various rebel groups has led to the displacement of over 100,000 civilians, many of whom have taken refuge in forests. Forced to subsist without adequate food, water, or shelter, many of the refugees suffer from malaria, worm infestation, and acute respiratory infections.
- Chechnya: It has been nearly four years since the most intense fighting subsided between Russian government and rebel forces in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. Tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to Chechnya. At the same time, reconstruction has increased in the Chechen capital, Grozny. Yet the Caucasus region remains highly volatile. Fighting outside Chechnya has increased and a large military presence still inhabits the region. Abductions, disappearances, assassinations, and bombings continue in Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and Dagestan. Inside Chechnya, the security situation is still precarious for civilians. Basic health services, particularly in the areas of obstetrical and gynecological care, are woefully lacking and, when available, remain out of reach for many impoverished returnees.
Source: MSF, 2008