Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The conflict in DRC is the deadliest in the world. Between 1998 and 2002, an estimated 3.8 million people have died as a consequence of the war.
It far exceeds the death toll of other recent crises, including Bosnia (estimated 250,000 dead), Rwanda (800,000), Kosovo (12,000) and Darfur (70,000).
An estimated 1,200 people die each day in the DRC, half are children. There are also alarmingly high rates of sexual violence against women in the eastern province of North Kivu.
Dominic Nutt at Christian Aid says: ‘This is an ongoing issue that should be a story, and I mean that morally and also in terms of sheer amount of stories you’d get if you were to cover it.”
Central African Republic (CAR)
Squeezed between Darfur and Chad, people of the CAR are fleeing both internal and regional fighting.
More than 220,000 people have been forced from their homes, with 150,000 left internally displaced and 70,000 who have fled the country.
The volatile dynamics of the region and extreme poverty make this one of the world’s most fragile yet unknown crises with the potential to threaten international peace and security in Central Africa.
Tony Large, of Reuters AlertNet, claims: ‘CAR is probably the big forgotten crisis of our time, for a combination of reasons.
‘It’s one thing to fly into Sri Lanka after the tsunami but quite another launch an operation in the CAR, in terms of getting visas but also in sheer cost.”
For almost 20 years, the Lord’s Resistance army has waged war on the Ugandan government and local Acholi people. The rebel militia has abducted more than 20,000 children for use as soldiers and sex slaves. An estimated 90 per cent of people in Acholiland live in refugee camps. In 2007 at least half a million people were affected by a drought, the third in six years.
Tony Durham at ActionAid says: ‘I would say that Northern Uganda is a simpler situation that the Congo, where there are so many sections and different rebel armies. It comes down to fairly long-standing ethnic grievances. Nor is access so much a problem. It’s not as dangerous as Iraq or Afghanistan and they get covered. But then, the crisis in Uganda has nothing visible to do with the war on terror, with oil or corporations.”
For almost two decades, internal conflict in Somalia has had devastating consequences on the health of its people. The estimated life expectancy is 47 years and more than 25 per cent of children there die before their fifth birthday.
In 2006, violent conflicts between the militia and Ethiopian-backed Transitional Government was compounded by torrential rains and flooding that left thousands of families homeless and destroyed crops. Few aid agencies can work in Somalia because the violence is so widespread and the country’s clan structure so complex.
According to Clare Rudebeck at Oxfam, ‘This is another very serious humanitarian situation, with 391,000 displaced from Mogadishu since fighting broke out earlier this year, but you don’t see a lot of coverage, mostly because journalists find it very difficult to get in.”
In four decades of conflict between the government and rebel militia, three million people have been driven from their homes, giving Colombia the world’s third largest displaced population; 35,000 people have been killed since the early 1990s in fighting exacerbated by drug wars.
Landmines are present in almost all provinces of the country. At least 10,000 children are recruited each year into urban militias.
According to Shima Islam at Unicef: ‘Colombia is humanitarian crisis you don’t hear much about even though but there is a huge problem with child soldiers. There is also a massive internally displaced population and a problem with street children, but because there are no natural links with the UK, it’s a country that you don’t really hear that much about.’
The democratic constitution set up to replace Soviet rule in 1992 gives almost total power to the executive, currently president Islam Karimov.
His government has branded those with dissenting views ‘enemies of the state’and added hundreds of Muslims to the thousands already imprisoned for their religious beliefs. The state controls the media, and journalists working for foreign media outlets have been attacked frequently.
Tom Porteous at Human Rights Watch UK says: ‘Given the appalling human rights crisis in Uzbekistan, and what an important area in the world it is strategically because of the oil and gas and its geographical location between Russian, China, Iran and Afghanistan, there’s not nearly enough media coverage of it.”