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The Most Under-Reported Humanitarian Crises of 2021

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10 humanitarian crises that didn’t make the headlines

Introduction

“A hurricane of humanitarian crises” is raging around the world, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the summer of 2021, as the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance reached an all-time high. Not only does this mean immense suffering for millions of civilians across the globe, but it is also stretching the resources of the United Nations and aid organisations to the limit.

A hurricane of humanitarian crises: the reference to extreme weather is particularly pertinent. The accelerating climate crisis is fuelling many of the emergencies we are seeing around the world, including 7 out of the 10 crises featured in this report. And there is deep injustice at the heart of it. The world’s poorest are bearing the brunt of climate change – poverty, migration, hunger, gender inequality and ever more scarce resources – despite having done the least to cause it. Add COVID-19 into the mix and we see decades of progress towards tackling inequality, poverty, conflict and hunger disappearing before our eyes.

As I write this, one in 28 people worldwide1 are in need of lifesaving assistance, and there are over 84 million people displaced from their homes.2 Despite this, last year the United Nations’ humanitarian aid was only funded by half, or $18 billion US dollars. Meanwhile, over $100 billion is spent worldwide every year on the arms trade. The European Union has stepped up to the challenge by increasing their budget for humanitarian aid for responding to crises and disasters. Here in the UK however, the government’s cuts to aid in 2021 have caused significant reductions in the FCDO’s budget, and resulted in over £166 million less in humanitarian aid reaching the 10 countries mentioned in this report compared to in 2019.

Against this global backdrop, the sixth edition of “The World’s Most Under-Reported Crises” highlights the humanitarian crises that receive the least media coverage worldwide. Why is the public more interested in the billionaire’s space race than the fight for survival of millions of people around the world? The ongoing crisis in Syria – the second most widely reported humanitarian crisis after Afghanistan – still received less global online media coverage (230,000 articles) than the space flights of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos (239,422 articles). While Zambia, where more than one million people are living with extreme hunger, was only covered in 512 reports compared with the announcement that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are dating again, resulting in 91,979 online articles globally.

The global prioritisation of media coverage is astonishing to us and, as a humanitarian aid organisation, CARE is dedicated to shining a light on the world’s neglected crises as well as providing much-needed assistance to those living through them. But what you may not realise is that your media consumption has a significant influence on what is reported and how much. Because it has never been so easy to measure media behaviour as precisely as it is today.

When media coverage captures public attention, it can precipitate change. That’s why we want to focus attention on the emergencies and conflicts where humanitarian work can save lives and improve the situation. This report can only make a difference if it is read. Therefore, thank you very much for your interest.

Laurie Lee,
CEO of CARE International UK