January 15, 2001, New York - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today issued its third annual list of the most under-reported humanitarian stories of the year. The organization compiled the list to call attention to human crises that were largely ignored by the U.S. press during 2000.
"There has been a virtual blackout of international news during the final chapter in the presidential race," said Joelle Tanguy, executive director of the U.S. office of MSF. "But news of human suffering, from Chechnya to Indonesia, has been obscured by election coverage all year. It is unconscionable that in three presidential debates, including one ostensibly devoted to foreign affairs, not one of the issues on our list surfaced."
New items on this year's list included Nigeria's health care system, whose chaotic state poses enormous challenges for the new, democratic government; and Bangladesh's Rohingya refugees, members of a persecuted ethnic minority who fled Myanmar (Burma) in 1992 and now languish without a permanent home or nationality. "It is notable that many of the items on this list are repeats from previous years," said Ms. Tanguy. "The devastating and ongoing wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Angola, for example, continue to be neglected by the U.S. media despite diplomatic gestures from the U.S. government toward each of these countries," said Ms. Tanguy. "In addition, the lack of progress on researching and making affordable life-saving medicines for people in the developing world is an issue that deserves better coverage."
While wars claimed thousands of lives this year, infectious diseases - and AIDS in particular - took many more. While the spread of the AIDS epidemic is better covered each year, the "Top Ten List" calls attention to the tragic, and under-reported, failure of pharmaceutical manufacturers to make good on their promises to reduce the prices of AIDS medications in the developing world.
MSF delivers medical aid to victims of wars, natural and man-made disasters, epidemics, and social and geographic isolation in nearly 90 countries. In 2000, more than 3,000 MSF volunteers brought aid not only to the world's "hot spots" but to many places that fall outside the glare of the media's spotlight. A full account of the "Top Ten" crises follows.
The complete MSF 'Under-Reported Stories of 2000.
Since the Asian economic crisis and fall of President Suharto in 1998, Indonesia has been in crisis, and in 2000, clashes erupted throughout the world's fourth most-populous country. The political struggle among the old guard and new forces of democracy is accompanied by reawakening tensions among some of the 300 ethnic groups spread out over 13,000 islands.
"Ethnic cleansing" is taking place in North Maluku, while a bloody civil war unfolds on the streets of Ambon. The provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya have become stages for violent confrontations over issues of independence, and hundreds (sic) of thousands of East Timorese remain trapped in West Timor after fleeing organized militia attacks in the wake of East Timor's vote for independence.
More than one million people have been displaced, and the health services are as unprepared for these people as they are for the leagues of war-wounded. Although no national statistics are kept on humanitarian need, wherever MSF teams go, they find thousands of people living on the edge of survival.
ALSO FROM MSF:
MSF Activity Report 2000: Indonesia
MSF in Indonesia
For more information, visit Médecins Sans Frontières website at http://www.msf.org/
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