Each year, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) publishes a list of the ten most neglected displacement crises in the world. The purpose is to focus on the plight of people whose suffering rarely makes international headlines, who receive no or inadequate assistance, and who never become the centre of attention for international diplomacy efforts.
This is the list for 2021.
For the first time, all of the ten crises are on the African continent.
That many African countries are figuring high on the list is far from new. For example, the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) has become a textbook example of neglect, featuring in this list five times in a row.
Most international media outlets rarely cover these countries beyond ad hoc reporting on new outbreaks of violence or disease, and in several African countries the lack of press freedom is exacerbating the situation. Then there’s donor fatigue, and the fact that many African countries are deemed to be of limited geopolitical interest.
The low level of funding limits the ability of humanitarian organisations both to provide adequate humanitarian relief and to do effective advocacy and communication work for these crises, creating a vicious circle.
Seldom has the selectivity been more striking.
In response to the tragic crisis in Ukraine, we have witnessed an outpouring of humanity and solidarity. Political action has been swift. Donor countries, private companies and the public have all contributed generously. The media has been covering the crisis around the clock.
At the same time, the situation is deteriorating for millions of people afflicted by crises taking place in the shadows of the Ukraine crisis.
Hunger levels are on the rise in most of the countries on the neglected crises list, compounded by rising wheat and fuel prices caused by the war in Ukraine. Parents have been forced to cut back on meals for their already malnourished children. Humanitarian organisations have been consistently sounding the alarm since the start of 2022, but the necessary action is yet to be taken by the international community.
On top of this, funding for these neglected crises is under threat. Several donor countries are now considering, or have decided, to reallocate funds from other parts of the world to the Ukraine crisis and the refugee response in Europe.
It is a recipe for disaster. And it will be felt first and foremost by people whose names we do not know and whose stories have gone untold.
Let’s look at what we can learn from the Ukraine response.
The speed at which the UN, the EU and other international partners acted in response to the war in Ukraine should inspire the same urgency for solutions and support to the most neglected crises of our time.
Increased awareness about these crises is an important first step towards action.
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