Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Doctors without Borders: The Top Ten Most Underreported Stories of 2007

This past weekend we went to the traveling Doctors without Borders Refugee Camp exhibit, which was in San Diego. There are 42 million people worldwide who have been displaced from their homes due to conflict of some kind. As we were leaving, they were giving away pamphlets and free posters, and one was about stories that haven't really made the news. So I did more research on their website and found a slideshow on the "Top Ten Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2007." Do you know about these events?

Tens of thousands of Somalis are living in camps like this one north of the capital Mogadishu, suffering from a lack of water, food, and access to medical treatment. The violence in Somalia escalated this year to some of the worst levels in over 15 years, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from the capital.

Women collecting water from a spring outside the city of Harare, Zimbabwe. Rampant unemployment, skyrocketing inflation, food and water shortages, and political instability continued to wrack Zimbabwe in 2007. The national health-care system threatens to collapse under the weight of this political and economic turmoil with the most acute consequences potentially for the estimated 1.8 million Zimbabweans living with HIV/AIDS. Currently, less than one-fourth of the people in urgent need of life-extending antiretroviral (ARV) treatment receive it; this translates into an average of 3,000 deaths every week.

A doctor examines a tuberculosis (TB) patient in Thailand. In spite of the rising human toll due to TB, there have been no advances in treatment since the 1960s and the most commonly used diagnostic test was developed in 1882 and only detects TB in half of the cases. For those with multidrug-resistant TB or HIV/AIDS, the prospects for survival are even bleaker.

Mothers feed their children ready-to-eat food (RUF) product Plumpy'Doz at a mobile nutrition center in Niger. Five million children under the age of five die of malnutrition every year. Nutrient-dense ready-to-use foods (RUFs) can save the lives of acutely malnourished children and can even prevent children from becoming malnourished. But so far these products are only available to a tiny fraction of the severely malnourished children who need them.

A wounded woman and child receive treatment at a surgical program in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, an area close to the frontlines of the ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces. Targeted bombings, suicide bombings, abductions, arbitrary arrests, and other violent acts make day-to-day life in Sri Lanka increasingly precarious. Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans in need of humanitarian assistance have been displaced since the resumption of major fighting in August 2006.

A displaced woman recovers after amputation surgery in a hospital in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Under constant threat of attack, hundreds of thousands of people in the DRC have fled their homes this year; many have been displaced multiple times. The rate of sexual violence is alarmingly high.

Graciela and her family are a few of the millions of Colombians who have had to flee their homes to escape ongoing violence spurred by the country's narcotics trade. Armed groups fighting for territorial control have a stranglehold on many rural areas of Colombia, forcing children into militias, and murdering those suspected of collaborating with rivals.

Parent and child wait to receive health care at a clinic in Myanmar. Faced with high malaria and HIV rates, the impoverished population is provided with little assistance—only 1.4 percent of the regime's budget supports health-care services. In spite of the overwhelming need, there are few humanitarian aid groups working in the country due to government restrictions and, for those on the ground, operating in an independent and impartial manner is difficult.

A mother sits with her child in Massabiou, Central African Republic (CAR), a village that was attacked by armed militia in April, causing thousands to flee. Those who have returned are now destitute, without food, water, or shelter. In 2007, villages in northeastern CAR were attacked, pillaged, and burned, forcing people into the surrounding inhospitable forest, and severely restricting their access to health care.

Mothers of kidnapped Chechans protest in park in Grozny. It has been four years since the intense fighting between the Russian government and rebel forces in Chechnya, yet the region remains highly volatile.

Click here to see the slideshow on their website, which includes more details. I'm sure they will come out with one for 2008 soon.


  1. Awesome post brook E. I hope Grad school is fun and stuff.

    If i may add on to this: many don't know that the decades long conflict in the DRC (or more accurately, Africa's great lake region) has seen more people die in the last ten years than Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan combined. And what is even more sad, only 10% of the estimated 3.5 to 4 million dead died as a result of violence. The remaining 90% (mostly IDP's) were women, children and the elderly. But hey, isn't that always the case?

    I'd love to read about some the stuff you're reading and writing about...but i can imagine your weekly reading is quite heavy...

    miss you guys!

  2. sorry, a correction: i meant to write that the 90% were as a result of disease and malnutrition of which 40% were women and children. I might of made the elderly thing up...but it's probably not too far off either. Okay, katie and i are going to smoke some crack. GOTTA GO!

  3. Joel,
    I really appreciate your comments because without a doubt, they make me laugh out loud, even when they are about a serious topic like gay marriage and adultery or the deadly conflict in the DRC. I will actually be writing a post about the DRC soon... stay tuned. Love you buddy!

  4. i love the DRC!! Most of my studies of Africa have been located in that region -- especially the refugee situation in the Kivu region, the town of Goma, in particular. If you're interested in any literature, especially pdf files, i have quite a few -- the topics: foreign relations with Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi; the illicit trade of natural resources; IDP in the Goma region; a basic run down of the current conflict; and a bunch more. let me know if you'd like me to email you something or if you're wondering if i have anything don't hesitate to ask.

    love ya,

  5. Haven't heard about these stories until now. Makes me thankful it is not the case here in our country. It's really sad to hear about the plight of these people. My highest respect and admiration to the doctors that are helping out there. Travelling doctors will be happy to learn about the medical alliance, check it out.