Africa is home to nine of the world’s 10 most neglected crises: ‘Is there some racism here?’

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Nine of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to an international aid group, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Each year, the group publishes the list of the 10 most neglected displacement crises in the world to draw attention to the emergencies that have been forgotten.

In an annual assessment released Wednesday, Cameroon, for the second year running, topped the list as the most neglected crisis in 2019.

“Three separate emergencies faced the African nation: an exacerbation of Boko Haram attacks in the north, a violent conflict in the English-speaking west, and a Central African refugee crisis. Ineffective conflict resolution, global news silence and a massive aid funding shortfall all contributed to the country topping this year’s list,” the NRC said in a release.

The neglected crisis list is based on a review of over 40 displacement crises based on three criteria: lack of funding, lack of media attention, and political and diplomatic neglect. Cameroon scored high on all three, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Venezuela, Mali, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic and Niger.

Venezuela was the only non-African entry on the list, with the Sahel region becoming prominent in this year’s list than previous ones. According to the NRC, “Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Niger all embroiled in the extreme violence that engulfed the region, yet with massively underfunded aid appeals,” adding that Niger and Burkina Faso appeared on the list for the first time.

9. Central African Republic (CAR)
Photo: NRC

“The deep crises represented by millions of displaced Africans are yet again the most underfunded, ignored and deprioritized in the world. They are plagued by diplomatic and political paralysis, weak aid operations and little media attention. Despite facing a tornado of emergencies, their SOS calls for help fall on deaf ears,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the NRC.

The international aid group said the novel coronavirus pandemic is expected to worsen conditions for the countries on the list in 2020.

“Covid-19 is spreading across Africa, and many of the most neglected communities are already devastated by the economic shocks of the pandemic. We need solidarity with these conflict-stricken communities now more than ever, so the virus does not add more unbearable disaster to the myriad of crises they already face,” said Egeland.

Over the years, some crises have received more attention and support than others. The NRC has blamed this on the lack of geopolitical interest or perhaps those affected by these conflicts are far away for many to identify with. It, therefore, believes that more information about these people and their situations will be an essential step towards improving their conditions.

Sadly, this has not been the case as world powers continue to ignore them, leading to a lack of funding to run aid operations.

“There is little diplomatic political efforts to end the crisis, leading to less journalists going there, leading to less attention and less donor money, therefore fewer aid workers there,” Egeland said in an interview with Aljazeera.

On the back of protests that have engulfed the world following the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the United States, Egeland wondered if the current pattern of neglected crises is the stark evidence of everyday racial bias.

“Maybe in this age when we discuss all of the structural racism around the world, is there some racism here?” he asked.

“How come Africa is time and again being at the bottom of this attention, resource, diplomacy list. A life in Africa should be of as much value as a European or an American or an Asian.”

To improve the attention neglected crises receive, the NRC recommends diplomatic efforts towards political solutions, more flexible and predictable funding, and more investment in advocacy.

It further encourages all to speak up about these crises.