According to a recent poll of aid agencies by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the most under-reported crisis of 2018 was the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Meanwhile, Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, commented that, ‘the brutality of the conflict is shocking, the national and international neglect outrageous… I have seldom witnessed such a gap between needs and assistance’.
Other ‘forgotten crises’, according to the agencies polled, include the Central African Republic, Lake Chad Basin, Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Burundi, Nigeria and, for the first time, Venezuela. Highlighting such ‘reporting gaps’ is important because international news coverage plays a key role in raising awareness of and drawing attention to humanitarian crises, in order to secure the funding needed to help.
Research makes clear that humanitarian journalism is itself in crisis. Our survey of over 1500 individuals involved in the aid sector revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of mainstream news coverage of humanitarian affairs. 73% of respondents agreed that mainstream news media does not produce enough coverage of humanitarian issues. News coverage was also criticized for being selective, sporadic, simplistic and partial.
Over 20,000 news outlets were examined to find out how many were regularly reporting on humanitarian affairs. Only 12 –including Al Jazeera English, the Guardian Global Development site, IRIN News, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Voice of America– covered the four humanitarian events analyzed: The ongoing crisis in South Sudan, the 2016 Aceh earthquake, the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and the 2017 UN appeal for humanitarian funding.
Humanitarian issues were mentioned in only one in five (19%) items on the news bulletins of the BBC World Service.