The Top 10 Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006

The humanitarian crises that the media isn't covering, but should be

| January 25, 2007

Wrapped up in the 24-hour news cycle, the big media outlets often neglect some of the world's most pressing humanitarian crises. Coverage of ongoing violence, disease, and malnutrition in foreign countries often falls prey to celebrity scandals, political punditry, and lurid crime stories. The independent medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders makes no claims to journalistic aspirations, but for the past nine years it has addressed the media's informational void with an annual roundup of underreported humanitarian stories. The group is in a good position to know the stories going untold. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning nonprofit has doctors posted in hotspots across the globe, tending to those most in need. Included below are four of the ten humanitarian crises the group is calling attention to this year. To see the full list, visit Doctors Without Borders.

Violence Rages in Haiti's Volatile Capital
The Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince is in a state of emergency; violence and a lack of medical care plague the country. 'Haiti... is just 500 miles from the United States and the plight of the population enduring relentless violence in its volatile capital Port-au-Prince received only half a minute of network coverage in an entire year,' says Nicolas de Torrenté, executive director of Doctors Without Borders. The group's doctors treated more than 7,000 people for violence-related injuries, including those from gunshots, stabbings, and sexual violence.

Somalis Trapped by War and Disaster
The military conflict in Somalia between the Islamic Courts and the Western- and Ethiopian-backed Transitional National Government has thrust East Africa into the headlines lately, but the realities of life in the area are seldom covered. The region has swung from a persistent drought to torrential downpours and floods, leaving a wake of widespread malnutrition and disease. The life expectancy in Somalia is estimated to be about 47 years, and more than 25 percent of people don't live to see the age of five.

Congolese Endure Extreme Deprivation and Violence
Although the country recently made strides toward a more democratic government with its first legitimate elections in decades, many in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to live in horrifying conditions. Violence rages between the Congolese army and the Mai Mai rebels, displacing tens of thousands of people. From January to June 2006, Doctors without Borders treated 150 women every month for the effects of sexual violence.

Effective Strategies for Treating Malnutrition Not Implemented
A major breakthrough came recently in the fight against malnutrition with the introduction of ready-to-use therapeutic products (RUTFs). Using these products, which are packed with nutrients and energy, doctors are now more effectively able to treat malnourished children. Doctors Without Borders treated 150,000 children in Niger over the past two years with the help of RUTFs. Yet in spite of their proven efficacy, the products are seldom used. Acute malnutrition continues to plague more than 60 million children worldwide. -- Bennett Gordon

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