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Underreported Crises and Stories

A patient in the public hospital in Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The poorest people receive little help in such hospitals, as health facilities are at a minimum. It is estimated that about a 1,000 people die every day in the country. Many of the deaths are caused by disease and malnutrition in a society destroyed by years of civil war. © Hugo Rami/IRIN, 2006.The most important international news stories do not always get much coverage. Many of the ongoing chronic health and mortality crises receive relatively little attention. A challenge for journalists and editors, humantiarian organisations and academics is to turn such neglected stories into news stories.

The Alertnet world press tracker gives a good indication of which emergencies get all the attention and which are relatively ignored. (The data doesn't go back beyond September 2006 and doesn't disaggregate news coverage by region but many news outlets have archives that go back much further.)

A study across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between January 2006 and April 2007 estimated that 45,000 were dying each month from preventable diseases and starvation. In the global media covered by the Alertnet world press tracker, between September 2006 (when its data begins) and April 2007, there were 1,327 stories on the DRC, whereas Israel-Palestinian, Afghanistan and Iraq conflict generated 19,946, 29,987 and 43,589 stories respectively.

See also: A media eclipse: Israel-Palestine and the world's forgotten conflicts

Annual Lists of Forgotten Crises and Neglected Stories

Several organisations publish annual or occassional lists of forgotten crises and neglected stories. Many of these stories remain both current and under-reported today. Below is a sample from recent years:

Top stories/unreported in 2010 - IRIN, MSF and Foreign Policy Magazine

IRIN Central and East Africa: IRIN picks its best stories of 2010

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Ten Stories That Mattered in Access to Medicines in 2010 (December 29, 2010)

Joshua E. Keating / Foreign Policy The Stories You Missed in 2010 (December 2010)

Unreported in 2009 - MSF and Foreign Policy Magazine

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) "Top Ten" Humanitarian Crises: Aid Blocked and Diseases Neglected - 12th Annual List (press release December 21, 2009)

Foreign Policy The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009 (December 2009)

Unreported in 2008 - UN, MSF, Foreign Policy Magazine

UN Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About 2008 (September 2009)

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) "Top Ten" Humanitarian Crises - 11th Annual List (press release December 22, 2009)

Another crisis in Sudan threatened to become the country’s newest humanitarian catastrophe, reported Foreign Policy Magazine in 2008. The flash point was Southern Kordofan, a state created in 2005 to encompass the Nuba Mountains, just north of the autonomous southern zone. It is the third of "The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2008" compiled by the magazine.

At number two, coca production in Colombia had been increasing despite $6 billion of US spending. Colombia still supplied 90 percent of US cocaine.

At number five, Russia was moving into Africa with large oil and gas deals in several countries. It had also canceled $20 billion in African debt and had recently announced a no-strings $500 million aid package for African countries. Russia blocked UN sanctions on Zimbabwe a few months after Zimbabwe opened a tourism office in Moscow.

Unreported in 2007 - UN, MSF and Foreign Policy Magazine

In March 2008, the UN published the 2007 List of ten stories the world may wish to hear more about (Press release). Subjects included South Sudan, the suffering of girl soldiers and the hidden world of the stateless. Also included in the list was "A deadly disease no more – advances in malaria prevention and treatment".

Although malaria continues to kill over 1 million people a year and is a leading cause of death among young African children, global awareness of this deadly scourge – as well as efforts to curb the spread of this preventable and treatable disease – remains low. In 2007, new evidence emerged that distribution of treated mosquito nets and new medicines would give momentum to the fight against malaria.

People struggling to survive violence, forced displacement, and disease in the Central African Republic (CAR), Somalia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere often went underreported in 2007 and much of the prior decade, according to the Annual list of the “Top Ten” Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories, released in December 2007 by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The 2007 list also highlighted the plight of people living through other forgotten crises, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia, Burma, Zimbabwe, and Chechnya, where the displacement by war of millions continued. It also focused on tuberculosis (TB) and childhood malnutrition. Contact: MSF Ireland.

Foreign Policy magazine also challenged readers to see The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2007 (December 2007). At no.8: dengue fever linked to climate change. Warmer climates may be putting millions of people around the world at risk for the disease, a virus that causes excruciating pain in people’s joints. That year was on track to be the worst year in nearly a decade for the mosquito-borne virus, also known as "bone-breaker disease."

AlertNet top 10 ’forgotten’ emergencies

AlertNet asked more than 100 humanitarian professionals, media personalities, academics and activists which of the world’s "forgotten" emergencies they wanted the global media to focus on in 2005. Here are their top 10 choices.

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