Médecins Sans Frontières Releases Tenth Annual "Top Ten"

Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2007

People struggling to survive violence, forced displacement, and disease in the Central African Republic (CAR), Somalia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere often went underreported in the news this year and much of the past decade, according to the 10th annual list of the "Top Ten" Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories, released today by the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The 2007 list also highlights the plight of people living through other forgotten crises, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and Chechnya, where the displacement by war of millions continues.  It also focuses on the ongoing toll of medical catastrophes like tuberculosis (TB) and childhood malnutrition. 

"These crises are often overlooked," says Dick van der Tak, the Executive Director of MSF Hong Kong. "People who live under threat deserve our attention. Out of sight becomes easily out of mind, but we simply cannot ignore the needs of millions of people."

MSF began producing the "Top Ten" list in 1998 when a devastating famine in southern Sudan went largely unreported in the media. Drawing on MSF's emergency medical work, the list seeks to generate greater awareness of the magnitude and severity of crises that are not always reflected in media accounts.  Often, media attention is critical for generating and improving responses.

Childhood malnutrition is an example.  Increasing coverage of effective methods to treat malnourished children with nutrient rich ready-to-use foods is generating a growing awareness of the need for changes in international food aid policies.

The DRC and Colombia, both wracked by ongoing civil conflict and massive internal displacement of civilians, have dominated the list over the past decade, each appearing a total of nine times. The humanitarian consequence of war in Chechnya has appeared eight times. Somalia has appeared seven times, most recently because renewed fighting centered in Mogadishu in 2007 has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, only to endure disease and extremely precarious living conditions.

On the other hand, increasing levels of MDR-TB globally, including extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB, and alarming rates of people with HIV/AIDS co-infected with TB, received little attention.

"The daily trend on the financial markets makes daily headlines in Hong Kong," says van der Tak. "Unfortunately, the stories of victims of crisis remain often untold. By highlighting their stories, MSF aims to generate some attention for their plight."

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