Doctors Without Borders Issues List of the Year's
New York, January 12, 2006 — The immense human toll caused by conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Haiti, Chechnya, and northeast India are among the "Top Ten" Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2005, according to the year-end list released today by the international humanitarian medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The eighth annual list also highlights the lack of media attention paid to the plight of people trapped by chronic wars in Colombia, northern Uganda, and Ivory Coast, unrelenting crises in Somalia and southern Sudan, as well as the utter lack of research and development devoted to new HIV/AIDS tools adapted for impoverished settings.
"Media coverage can have a positive impact on relief efforts — just look at the nutritional crisis in Niger last year," said Nicolas de Torrente, Executive Director of MSF in the United States. "Although relief was far too late for many, the only reason aid efforts increased at all was the media attention at the peak of the crisis."
According to Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the online media-tracking journal The Tyndall Report, the 10 stories highlighted by MSF accounted for just 8 minutes of the 14,529 minutes on the three major U.S. television networks' nightly newscasts for 2005. Natural disasters like the south Asia tsunami and the war in Iraq dominated international reporting. But in a year that Tyndall said had an unusually high amount of international coverage, only 6 minutes were devoted to DR Congo and 2 minutes to Chechnya. The remaining stories highlighted by MSF were not covered at all. The AIDS crisis received 14 minutes of coverage, none of which, however, was devoted to the lack of R&D.
"AIDS coverage never touches upon the near-total lack of research and development into tools specifically adapted for patients most affected by AIDS," de Torrente said. "One example is the fact that there are no pediatric versions of easy-to-take antiretroviral (ARV) combinations like those that exist for adults. Without research and development into such medicines, hundreds of thousands of children will continue to die needlessly every year."
Even though there was a general increase in international reporting, insecurity in war zones again contributed to preventing journalists from reporting on some of the world's most dangerous regions.
"People all over the U.S. tell us how much they want to show solidarity and do more to help others in crisis around the world. But how can they when a crisis is virtually invisible?" de Torrente said. "Millions of people are struggling through crises in places that rarely, if ever, get mentioned in the U.S. news, and in our experience, silence is the best ally of injustice."