December 14, 1999

Second Annual Listing Emphasizes Forgotten Wars in Angola, Burundi, Sri Lanka

New York, December 15, 1999 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today issued its second annual list of the Top Ten Underreported Humanitarian Stories of the year. The organization compiled the list to call attention to human crises that were largely ignored by the U.S. press during 1999.

"Victims of chronic conflicts are continually neglected by the media," said Joelle Tanguy, executive director of the U.S. office of MSF. "On our selective list alone, we cite more than two million people displaced within their own countries in the past year. These figures don’t begin to convey the true horrors known by civilians facing violence, landmines, famine, and epidemics caused by war."

While news of sudden crises—the forced expulsion of civilians from Kosovo, the earthquake in Turkey, and fighting in East Timor—was well reported, chronic conflicts and health crises received little attention. Decades-old wars in Angola, Sri Lanka, and Colombia, as well as newer ones in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, were among the 10 major stories that failed to receive widespread media attention. A cholera epidemic in Mozambique and the ongoing inaccessibility of drugs for people in the developing world also made the list. MSF’s U.S. office compiled the opinionated "Top Ten" list from events witnessed firsthand by its volunteers.

One MSF volunteer, Kathleen LeFevre, R.N., expressed frustration as she prepared to embark on an emergency mission in Malange, Angola, where a nutritional crisis was occurring. "I’ve been trying to read up on Angola," she said, "but there’s nothing in the paper." Angola’s civil war was reignited in 1999, leaving tens of thousands of civilians trapped without adequate food resources.

MSF delivers medical aid to victims of wars, natural and man-made disasters, epidemics, and social marginalization in more than 80 countries. In 1999, over 2,000 MSF volunteers brought aid not only to the world’s "hot spots" but to many places that fall outside the glare of the media’s spotlight. A full account of the "Top Ten" crises follows.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières was awarded the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize.

MSF is the world's largest independent international medical relief agency aiding victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and others who lack health care due to geographic remoteness or ethnic marginalization in more than 80 countries.