M23 rebels near the town of Mutaho, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. File picture: REUTERS
M23 rebels near the town of Mutaho, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. File picture: REUTERS

Nairobi — Six of the world’s 10 most neglected crises are in Africa, where conflict has uprooted millions of people, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said on Thursday. The council attributed the continent’s dominance in this regard to a lack of media attention, aid and political will.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where years of civil war have led more than five-million people to flee their homes, topped the NRC’s annual list this year. South Sudan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Central African Republic and Nigeria also featured.

NRC secretary-general Jan Egeland said that while Syria was the bloodiest war in the world with millions displaced over the last eight years, it was not considered to be among the most neglected crises as it was receiving global attention.

Conflicts in Africa, he said, were viewed differently.

"Many displaced from these countries do not end up as refugees in the Mediterranean, and are not visible for us in the north — so these crises get too little diplomatic and media attention," Egeland told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Also, some of these conflicts are so protracted — there has been a humanitarian crisis in one way or the other in South Sudan for the last 30 years. So we have to fight this sense of hopelessness. It can change, and it must change."

Other countries on the list were Venezuela, Myanmar and Yemen, while the Palestinian territories also featured.

More than 65-million people globally have been uprooted from their homes and forced to seek safety and shelter elsewhere — either inside their countries or as refugees in foreign nations — largely due to violence, the UN says.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Syria had the most displaced people in 2016, with Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq also recording large numbers. None of these countries were featured on the list of most neglected displacement crises.

The NRC examined 24 crises across the world in 2017 and established the list based on the level of political will — between locally armed parties as well as international efforts — such as peace-making efforts to resolve the conflict.

It also monitored the amount of coverage given to the crises by local and foreign media, and examined the amount of humanitarian aid being available by international donors to meet the needs of people who are driven from their homes.

Egeland said the price of neglecting the crises in Africa was being paid by mothers unable to feed their children, youth deprived of education and entire nations becoming increasingly dependent on emergency aid.

Matthew Clancy, humanitarian policy spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross, agreed with the list’s findings and said it was no coincidence most of the countries on the list were affected by conflict.

"While natural disasters often trigger international media attention and funding, protracted conflicts like the DRC’s rarely make the headlines," he said.

"They are neglected by the international community, despite the fact that violence is fuelling a massive humanitarian crisis in which millions are uprooted from their homes."

Thomson Reuters Foundation