December 15, 1998

Famine in Sudan, Cholera Epidemic Among Crises Neglected by the U.S. Media

New York, December 16, 1998 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today issued its list of the Top Ten Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 1998. The organization compiled the list to call attention to human crises that were largely ignored by the U.S. press in the past year.

"There has been a precipitous drop in the quantity and quality of international news coverage in recent years," said Joelle Tanguy, executive director of the U.S. office of MSF. "Save for some outstanding journalistic efforts, the items on the Top Ten list have gone sadly under-covered. Without adequate information, we lack the ability to form responsible personal and societal responses to events that affect many and may one day affect us."

The devastating famine in southern Sudan, the growth of multidrug-resistant diseases, and a cholera epidemic that swept East Africa were among the 10 major stories that failed to receive widespread media attention. A full list follows. MSF is the world's largest independent international medical relief agency, working in more than 80 countries. In 1998, over 2,000 MSF volunteers brought aid to the world's "hot spots," such as Kosovo and the areas affected by Hurricane Mitch. But most of their work occurred in places that fall outside the glare of the media's spotlight.

"My friends and neighbors have no idea of the magnitude of the tragedy in Sudan," said Lisabeth List, R.N., a MSF volunteer from Dallas, Texas, who spent four months running a feeding center for severely malnourished children in Sudan's Bahr el Ghazal province.

MSF's U.S. office compiled the opinionated list from events witnessed firsthand by its volunteers. The list includes crises that occurred during 1998, such as the mutilation of civilians in Sierra Leone and a mass exodus of people fleeing fighting in the capital of Guinea Bissau. It also includes catastrophes that have evolved over many years, such as the environmental destruction of the Aral Sea basin in countries of the former Soviet Union, the explosion in the number of the world's children who spend their days on the street, and the vast spread of the AIDS epidemic.