Suffering In Silence: The 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2017

The year 2017 was marked by scores of humanitarian crises: armed conflicts, devastating natural disasters, climate shocks, hunger, millions of people fleeing their homes. 


There is a place on earth where every day, on average, over 5,000 people have to flee their homes. There is a country in which nearly half of all young children are malnourished. Do you know these places? If the answer is “no”, you are not alone. The news media is facing daunting challenges covering domestic news – which can lurch from issue to issue based on little more than a tweet – let alone all the death and destruction happening globally. A dizzying array of disasters, wars and other crises rage across the world, making it hard to focus on all of them. Dwindling funds leave fewer journalists available to cover disasters, particularly those in war-torn countries that are extremely difficult to access. Yet telling the world about people who are facing their darkest hours is more important than ever.

The year 2017 was marked by scores of humanitarian crises: armed conflicts, devastating natural disasters, climate shocks, hunger, millions of people fleeing their homes. The Syrian war – and the massive refugee crisis it has spawned – is headed into its eighth year. After more than 1,000 days of war, the number of cholera cases in Yemen passed the one million mark. The world shuddered at horrific images of children starving to death. The most powerful Atlantic hurricane season in a decade wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and southern United States. Almost one million refugees from Myanmar sought shelter and safety in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh after a catastrophic outbreak of violence in their home country.

In 2017, the world was reminded again that crises can take many shapes and have various causes. From natural to manmade, from conflict to climate-shocks, from displacement to persecution. Whatever the backdrop or cause, they share one trait: unimaginable suffering for millions of women, men and children.

While most of these crises made the headlines, there are others which barely made the news. Rarely do we hear about people suffering in parts of the world that are not popular tourist destinations, considered a low priority for global security or simply too hard to reach. And when crises are underreported, they are often consequently underfunded. Public awareness and funding for humanitarian causes are closely intertwined. Six of the 10 most under-reported crises in this report also appear in the UN’s list of most underfunded emergencies in 2017.

Women and girls suffer the most in disasters. They are less likely to survive natural disasters than men, are also often the last ones to eat during drought and are at increased risk of being attacked during conflict. Social inequality and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war leave them highly vulnerable and less able to protect themselves during disasters.

CARE acknowledges that each emergency is unique in its causes, needs and complexities, and the suffering of one group of people is not comparable with the suffering of another. This report does not intend to rank crises as “better or worse” or critique media exposure, but instead looks objectively at news coverage as a means to show how much – or little – of the world’s attention was focused on humanitarian crises in 2017.

CARE produced this report to highlight those crises that, though large, have gotten so little attention. “Suffering In Silence” is a call for the global community to help and to advocate for people in crises who are otherwise forgotten.

As humanitarian organisations, CARE International and others work hard to deliver aid to places that are difficult to reach. In order to create meaningful change, all actors have to work together. Those with a voice in public, from media representatives to politicians, have a social and moral responsibility to support crises that are mostly off the radar.