People's Stories Wellbeing

Why do some humanitarian crises receive attention and support, while others are ignored?
by Thale Jenssen
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
June 2018
On June 7, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) launched this year’s list of the top ten countries that the world has neglected. These crises receive little media attention and are disregarded by political actors and donors – those who can come up with solutions and necessary funding. Why do this happen?
“It’s often a lack of political will. The countries on the list are often considered less strategically important, and that’s why there’s no international interest in finding a solution. For example, this is the case in The Central African Republic,” says Tiril Skarstein. She is a team leader in NRC, and is one of the contributors of this year’s list of the most neglected displacement crises.
Skarstein explains that in some countries the opposite is the case, where there are many actors with conflicting political interests taking part in the conflict. That is the case of Yemen and Palestine, where political gains are put before the lives of civilians.
The lack of political will to work towards a solution is only one of three criteria on which a crisis is measured by before ending up on the list. The other two criteria are the lack of media attention and a lack of funding towards humanitarian aid.
Why is the media focusing its attention towards some crises instead of others?
“This is, amongst other things, about the proximity of the conflict – the closer we get to a crisis, the more attention we pay towards it. It’s also easier to identify with the affected people. Proximity and identification are two very important news criteria,” says Skarstein.
An example of this is the so-called European refugee crisis in 2015.
“When we saw an influx of refugees coming towards Europe, it also led to media interest in the countries the refugees were fleeing, like we saw with Syria. When we know someone who fled a conflict, we are more likely to care.”
Another reason for the lack of media attention is that journalists have a hard time gaining access to some of the countries on the list. This also leads to a crisis gaining less attention.
In addition to the lack of political will and media attention, many of the crises also struggle with obtaining funds towards humanitarian aid.
“Crises that are given little international attention and are seldom mentioned in the media, are also often declined the financial support needed to meet severe humanitarian needs,” says Skarstein.
The amount of media attention paid towards a crisis is a very poor indicator of which areas are in most need of aid.
“Emergency relief should be granted based on needs, but unfortunately it is easier to obtain emergency relief funds for crises that receive a lot of attention from politicians and the media,” Skarstein continues.
Humanitarian needs are high in the top three countries on this year''s list: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
“This year, like last year, the top five countries on the list are in Africa. We have observed a tendency of crises on the African continent attracting less attention than others. Many of the affected people will never have the opportunity to flee to Europe or the US, and most of them are staying in their own country or flee to relatively poor neighbouring countries. Sadly, it seems that the people affected by these crises are often considered ‘out of sight, out of mind,’” says Skarstein.
Over the last year, the situation in several of the African countries on the list has deteriorated significantly. The Central African Republic was on top of the list last year. This year the country has fallen to third place, despite the fact that more people have been displaced in the last year.
“It''s simply that conflicts are getting worse in all these three countries,” Skarstein explains. “In DR Congo, we’ve seen conflict flare up in two new areas, Kasaï and Tanganyika. This comes on top of the protracted conflicts in eastern Congo which have deteriorated. Millions of people were displaced last year without the international community really noticing. I think many people will be surprised to learn that there are as many people in need in DR Congo now as in Syria. Media coverage does not reflect that.
The most important thing for these countries now is that political solutions are put in place. It''s the only way to end the suffering.
There is also a need for emergency relief. In order to create political solutions, we must first meet the most urgent needs for assistance. Empty stomachs and lack of work and opportunities to feed the family is not a good starting point for peace and stability.
“We make this list to remind ourselves, and others, that some crises need more attention. Only then can we create change. We need to make sure that we talk more about these crises. That we work for the affected people to be heard. And that we work for emergency relief to be provided based on needs, not just where it is easiest to get funds for.”

Visit the related web page

Urgent need to activate “community alarm system” to halt further spread of Ebola
by IFRC, MSF, World Health Organization
Democratic Republic of the Congo
18 May 2018
An emergency meeting of United Nations health experts said on Friday that the Ebola outbreak in north-west Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – where cases of the deadly disease have been confirmed in an urban area ­– does not yet meet the criteria to be deemed a “public health emergency of international concern.”
But the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee advised the Congolese Government and all other actors to remain engaged in a “vigorous response” and called on the international community to support efforts on the ground.
“Without this, the situation is likely to deteriorate significantly,” read the Public Health Advice issued by the Committee, which also called for global solidarity among the scientific community and for international data to be shared freely and regularly.
An outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) was declared in a remote town in DRC’s Equateur province on 8 May. Since then at least one case has been confirmed outside the initial zone. On 17 May, a patient in the provincial capital, Mbandaka, was confirmed as having contracted the disease.
According to WHO, 45 cases have been reported, of which 14 had been confirmed, 10 were “suspected” and 21 “probable.”
The Emergency Committee also decided that if the outbreak “expands significantly, or if there is international spread,” it will reconvene to take further action.
Both the site of the outbreak and Mbandaka city are situated on the Congo River, which many consider the “highway” for transport of goods and people in the region where connectivity is otherwise challenging.
17 May 2018
One new case of Ebola virus disease has been confirmed in Mbandaka, a city with a population of about 1.2 million, WHO confirmed on Thursday, raising fears that despite a rapid response by authorities, the outbreak has not been contained.
So far, 23 have reportedly died. Until Thursday, the more than 40 suspected or confirmed cases were all located in the area around Bikoro, close to the Congo River, and around 150 kilometres (about 95 miles) from the provincial capital Mbandaka, which is a busy port city.
“This is a concerning development, but we now have better tools than ever before to combat Ebola,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO. “WHO and our partners are taking action to stop further spread of the virus,” he added.
“The arrival of Ebola in an urban area is very concerning and WHO and partners are working together to rapidly scale up the search for all contacts of the confirmed case in the Mbandaka area,” WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement.
Apart from WHO and other UN agencies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), as other humanitarian organizations, have teams on the ground, working to contain the outbreak.
This is the ninth outbreak, since the discovery of the Ebola virus in the country in 1976. The virus is endemic to DRC, and causes an acute, serious illness, which is often fatal if untreated. The virus is transmitted to human through contact with wild animals and can then be passed from person to person. Ebola is fatal in about 50 per cent of cases.
An outbreak in West Africa that began in 2014 left more than 11,000 dead across six countries, and was not declared officially over by WHO until the beginning of 2016.
17 May 2018
Urgent need to activate “community alarm system” to halt further spread of Ebola. (IFRC)
Communities across Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo need to be alerted to the rising Ebola risk if the spread of the killer disease is to be halted.
This warning from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) comes following news of reports of a confirmed Ebola case in the provincial capital, Mbandaka, in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“Local volunteers and health workers are the community’s alarm system,” said Ben Adinoyi, IFRC Regional Head of Health and Care, who is currently based in Kinshasa. “They are our eyes and ears on the ground. They are critical to the early identification and containment of new cases.
“They need to be activated across the province and even beyond. If we don’t, then the virus may spread too far and too quickly.”
At least 23 people have died of suspected haemorrhagic fever in an outbreak that was first confirmed on 8 May in Bikoro health zone, a remote part of the country. Three of those cases are confirmed to be Ebola. Fears of a flare up are mounting as cases have spread across three different health zones.“
A Red Cross team of experts is on the ground in Equateur Province providing training and support to local volunteers. They have brought essential supplies like stretchers, chlorine disinfectant, safe burial kits, informational posters and other supplies to support local communities and health centres.
Critically, more than 110 Red Cross volunteers in Bikoro and Mbandaka are alerting communities as well as disinfecting houses where cases have been suspected. The volunteers are also ready to provide safe and dignified burials if needed. The effective management of dead bodies is a crucial component of an effective Ebola response.
“DRC Red Cross has responded to all past eight Ebola outbreaks in the country and has a strong, in-country network of experts,” said Grégoire Mateso, President of the DRC Red Cross. “They are already in the communities and stand ready to expand awareness-raising, meticulous surveillance, infection control and prevention in areas that are at risk of further spread of the virus.


View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook