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Africa home to the world's top 10 neglected crises

June 1, 2022

The world's most ignored displacement crises are in Africa, according to an annual ranking. It's the first time all 10 are on the African continent.

DRC refugees arriving in Uganda
The many people suffering from displacement in Africa rarely make international headlines Image: Emmanuel Lubega/DW

10 African nations top a list of countries where people's suffering from displacement and conflict is internationally neglected, according to an annual ranking by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the most neglected country on the list for the second year running, followed by Burkina Faso, Cameroon and South Sudan.

 Chad, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi and Ethiopia complete the list.

DRC conflicts shattering communities

"DRC has become a textbook example of neglect," said Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the aid organization, said in a statement marking the report's launch on Wednesday.

"It is one of the worst humanitarian crises of this century, yet those inside and outside of Africa with power to create change are closing their eyes to the waves of brutal and targeted attacks on civilians that shatter communities," Egeland said.

Some 5.5 million people were internally displaced in DRC in 2021 because of intercommunal tension and conflict, the report noted, with a further 1 million fleeing to neighboring countries.

A long line of people carrying goods and pulling animals walk along a road
People flee violence in the Democratic Republic of CongoImage: Moses Sawasawa/AP Photo/picture alliance

Having to flee their homes leaves people at risk of starvation and children without education and can prolong the conflicts and violence that are often responsible for the displacements in the first place.

One-third of the population, or some 27 million people, went hungry in DRC last year.

"I can't plan for my children's future, there is nothing beyond finding food each day," a 37-year-old mother in DRC's conflict-ridden northeastern Ituri province told the refugee council.

Five of her family members were killed in a massacre and her house was burned to the ground.

"The world doesn't know how we suffer here," she said.

Infografik World's top ten neglected displacement crises EN

Suffering in the shadows

The annual ranking aims to highlight the plight of people who receive no or only inadequate assistance and whose suffering rarely makes international headlines.

The report criticizes that international media outlets rarely cover the countries on the list "beyond ad-hoc reporting on major new outbreaks of violence or disease."

On top of this, restrictions on press freedom in many of the affected countries make it difficult for local media to cover the conflicts and the resulting displacements.

As well as making it into the top 10 neglected crises list, Sudan and Nigeria, for example, are both towards the bottom of international press freedom rankings.

A person holds a smartphone in their hands
Declining press freedom in Nigeria makes it harder for journalists to report on the country's escalating conflicts and criminalityImage: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Although Burkina Faso ranks relatively high in terms of media freedom (ranking 41 in Reporter Without Borders' 2021 list), journalists were virtually banned from accessing displacement sites in the West African country, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council report.

"This ban significantly contributed to insufficient media coverage of humanitarian issues and a lack of reliable and independent information on attacks and security developments," the report found.

Burkina Faso is facing a surge in jihadi-linked violence, which has driven tens of thousands of people out of their homes. Despite this, international funding for the humanitarian response was "less than half of the total needed" for 2021, according to the report.

A girl waits her turn at a water pump
More than two out of three displaced people in Burkina Faso are children, like this girl waiting for water at a campImage: OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine war overshadowing other crises

The refugee council analysis also singles out the war in Ukraine to highlight that it is possible for governments, private firms and international media to react swiftly to a humanitarian crisis.

"The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the immense gap between what is possible when the international community rallies behind a crisis, and the daily reality for millions of people suffering in silence within these crises on the African continent that the world has chosen to ignore," Egeland said.

"This points to a vicious cycle of international political neglect, limited media coverage, donor fatigue, and ever-deepening humanitarian needs," he said.

kh/sms (AFP, dpa)