Beyond The Headlines: Top 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2004

From Colombia to Chechnya, citizens continue to suffer in virtual silence

| February 10, 2005

Those who work for Doctors Without Borders, a private nonprofit that serves people who lack health care due to social or geographic isolation, see the world's worst situations and know what the media is missing. So when they compile a list of underreported stories, we can't help but pay attention.

For instance, Uganda is rarely in the news, but its populace has been brutalized by an 18 year-old conflict between the government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has killed tens of thousands of citizens and kidnapped just as many children to be used as soldiers and sexual slaves. As a result, it's estimated that nearly 80 percent of the Ugandan population are living and dying in makeshift settlements, where a lack of proper health care and nutrition leads to deadly diseases such as malaria.

Another subject rarely reported on is tuberculosis (TB), which kills one person every 15 seconds -- 240 an hour, 57,600 5,760 a day. The disease is particularly problematic in the developing world, where it's too expensive to provide detection and treatment. Since TB is the most common opportunistic infection for those living with HIV and AIDS, a pandemic in the developing world, the number of cases has skyrocketed. 'Massive investment is needed now so that we can effectively diagnose and treat all those with TB in the shortest possible time,' notes Dr. Francine Matthys, TB advisor for Doctors Without Borders' Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

In Ethiopia, more than 10 percent of newborn babies don't live to see their first birthday. And those who do survive and live in the country's arid highlands face chronic food shortages due to a drought that has killed off livestock. As the government has worked to relocate its citizens to more fertile lowlands, they've learned that people moved into those areas are more susceptible to malaria.

These stories, along with tales of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the ongoing war in Chechnya, make the Doctors Without Borders' list an essential read.
-- Marca Bradt

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