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Analysis shows 10 humanitarian crisis stories the media missed in 2020

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Australians’ news consumption rose dramatically in 2020 as COVID-19 swept the globe, but new analysis from the aid agency CARE has revealed the 10 humanitarian crisis stories which received the least media coverage.

Topping the list is Burundi, a densely-populated African country where around 11 million people occupy land less than half the size of Tasmania. An ease in political turmoil saw many Burundian refugees return home in 2020, increasing demand for already scarce farmable land. The country has the highest rate of chronic malnourishment in the world, and floods and other climate-related disasters have worsened the hunger crisis.

“Given that Burundi is ill-prepared for major emergencies, the country has the highest rates of chronic malnourishment in the world. Pre-COVID (2016/2017), the national average stunting rate was 56 percent – well above the emergency threshold of 40 percent,” the report said.

Meanwhile, in Guatemala, thousands have been waiving the white flag since April 2020 to signal their need of food. Before the pandemic occurred, some 3.3 million people out of a population of 14.9 million were already in need of humanitarian aid.

“Among the most affected households, many have lost all or part of their incomes as a result of curfews and business closures. Most Guatemalans work in the informal sector without any social protection,” the report said.

Closer to home, the UN estimated more than 4.6 million people in Papua New Guinea — more than half the population, were in need of humanitarian aid. The country has so far avoided a significant outbreak of COVID-19, but is battling tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria epidemics, as well as the reintroduction of Polio in 2018.

“In a country where the majority of the population relies on subsistence farming to meet daily nutritional needs,123 malnutrition among both children and adults was further impacted by the closure of fresh food and fish markets between March and June 2020 due to COVID-19 containment measures,” the report said.

“While COVID-19 dominated headlines in 2020, for many people around the world, the pandemic is just one more crisis they have to battle through,” said CARE Australia CEO Peter Walton.

“Governments in wealthy countries have understandably been boosting spending at home, and it will be important that they also boost their international aid budgets. As this pandemic has shown us, the wellbeing of everyone in the world is intrinsically connected — no one is safe unless everyone is safe,” he said.

Besides Burundi, Guatemala, and Papua New Guinea, the 10 under-reported crises span the Central African Republic, Ukraine, Madagascar, Malawi, Pakistan, Mali and Zambia.

CARE’s analysis covered more than 1.2 million online news articles in English, Arabic, French, German and Spanish. 45 humanitarian crises  — each affecting at least 1 million people — were tracked for media mentions.

In contrast, the launch of the PlayStation 5 received 26 times as much media coverage as all 10 humanitarian crisis stories combined.

The combined coverage of the 10 crises was also less than that of entertainer Kanye West’s bid for the US Presidency, and the Eurovision Song Contest.

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