Suffering in Silence: The 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Crises of 2017
There is a place on earth where every day, on average, over 5,000 people have to flee their homes. There is a country in which nearly half of all young children are malnourished. Do you know these places? If the answer is “no”, you are not alone. The news media is facing daunting challenges covering domestic news – which can lurch from issue to issue based on little more than a tweet – let alone all the death and destruction happening globally. 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.
The year 2017 was marked by scores of humanitarian crises: armed conflicts, devastating natural disasters, climate shocks, hunger, millions of people fleeing their homes. The Syrian war – and the massive refugee crisis it has spawned – is headed into its eighth year. After more than 1,000 days of war, the number of cholera cases in Yemen passed the one million mark. The world shuddered at horrific images of children starving to death. The most powerful Atlantic hurricane season in a decade wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the southern United States. Almost one million refugees from Myanmar sought shelter and safety in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh after a catastrophic outbreak of violence in their home country.
Efforts to address the long-term impacts of climate change, gender or economic inequality are consistently underfunded, partially because they rarely catch the media spotlight. It is important to look not only at death tolls or the scale of destruction when covering crises; the media and international community have a role to report on the complexities behind an emergency. Shifting focus from damage to risks is 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.