News Media Ignore Climate Change-Driven Humanitarian Crises in Africa
The world’s media have failed to cover the devastating impacts of climate change in Africa. According to a report, “Suffering in Silence,” from CARE International, nine of the ten most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2019—including drought, displacement, conflict, epidemics, and food insecurity–took place in Africa, but “have received little of the world’s attention” due to inadequate news coverage.
(The top-ranked crisis outside of Africa, according to the report involved North Korea, where more than forty percent of the population is impacted by inadequate access to food or clean drinking water.)
Common Dreams quoted Sally Austin, CARE International’s head of emergency operations: “It is shocking to see how little media reporting there is about human suffering related to global warming in the South, the lack of political action to address this injustice, and solutions applied to ease the burden for communities.” The CARE International report analyzed forty crises, ranking the number of online news articles mentioning each country and respective crisis. As Julia Conley wrote, CARE documented how millions of people in Africa “are ‘suffering in silence’ even as the climate crisis gains more international attention, thanks to grassroots climate activists like Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, and students all over the world.”
Drought has led to loss of livelihood in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Madagascar, and many other countries in southern Africa where agriculture is a primary source of income for many people. In Madagascar, CARE International found that 2.6 million people are affected by drought; in Kenya, half a million children are malnourished; and in Eritrea half of the children under five years old are stunted due to malnutrition.
CARE’s report highlighted potential solutions, including seven ways to “shine a light on forgotten crises,” including specific guidance for governments and policy-makers, aid agencies, businesses, the public, and the media. Included in its recommendations for media, CARE noted, “Media attention on under-reported issues helps to move the mainstream narrative from numbers to impact and from outcomes to root causes.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, corporate news coverage of CARE International’s report has been sparse. The only major US establishment news outlet to cover the report appears to have been CBS News in January 2020. CBS reproduced CARE’s top ten list, but reported nothing about CARE’s recommended solutions.
Julia Conley, “Largely Driven by Climate Crisis, 9 Out of 10 Least-Reported Humanitarian Crises of 2019 Were in Africa,” Common Dreams, January 28, 2020, www.commondreams.org/news/2020/01/28/largely-driven-climate-crisis-9-out-10-least-reported-humanitarian-crises-2019-were.
Yvonne Wabai, “Suffering in Silence: 9 out of 10 Most Under-Reported Humanitarian Crises of 2019 Are in Africa,” The African Exponent, January 28, 2020, www.africanexponent.com/post/6895-suffering-in-silence-9-out-of-10-most-under-reported-humanitarian-crises-of-2019-are-in-africa.
Student Researcher: Kara Winslow (University of Vermont)
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