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Silence is deafening for those at risk

Canadians need the facts on crucial global issues like climate change, conflict and migration that are going to affect future generations in a very meaningful way.

Written by Kevin Dunbar, Director Global Programs and Impact for CARE Canada, and Simran Singh, Senior Humanitarian and Gender Advisor for CARE Canada

 

2018 was a horrific year for humanitarian crisis.

An economic collapse in Venezuela has caused more than three million people to flee to neighbouring countries in search of food, water and stability.

The conflict in Syria continued with still no end.

Years of war have left more than 80 per cent of Yemen’s population in need of humanitarian assistance.

While you may have heard of these crises, many of those in need live in countries that rarely make the news, such as Madagascar, Chad or the Central African Republic.

It is these forgotten crises that CARE wanted to shine a light on with its third annual report, Suffering in Silence: The ten most underreported crises of 2018.”

The report highlights those crises affecting more than one million people that made the fewest headlines last year in English, French and German media. In so doing, it seeks to raise the profile of these crises and advocate for those who may feel forgotten.

The research found man-made crises and natural disasters in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines, Chad, Niger, Central African Republic and Sudan garnered few headlines. The most underreported crisis was Haiti, where last year, drought contributed to more than 2.8 million people in need of assistance.

A key trend emerging is how climate change plays an increasing role in much of the suffering. In places like Madagascar and Ethiopia, extreme weather, such as cyclones and drought, are having a devastating impact on those least equipped to handle the strain.

Coupled with this, we’re too often seeing that it is women and girls outside the headlines that are left threatened.

In a crisis, women and girls are the first to be trafficked for sex or child labour, the first to be exploited as tools of war, and the last to eat.

For those living in makeshift shelters far from the spotlight, limited funding means aid dollars struggle to meet basic needs. This often leaves women and girls at greater risk as money is channeled towards basics like food or water, while vital reproductive health services or programs to protect women from violence are shortchanged.

Media attention and interest from the Canadian public is directly linked to levels of funding for emergency response efforts. At the same time, sustained media coverage also provides an opportunity to shift the narrative about women and girls. They are not simply helpless victims, but have significant potential to lead their community’s recovery efforts.

This is a story that needs to be told.

"For those living in makeshift shelters far from the spotlight, limited funding means aid dollars struggle to meet basic needs. This often leaves women and girls at greater risk as money is channeled towards basics like food or water, while vital reproductive health services or programs to protect women from violence are shortchanged."

We all have a role

Canadians need the facts on crucial, yet polarizing, global issues like climate change, conflict and migration that are going to affect future generations in a very meaningful way. One photo can turn the world’s attention to an issue, the media plays such a vital role in drawing public attention to forgotten and neglected crises.

There are actions Canadians can take that have an impact. Whether it’s signing a petition, paying for quality journalism or making a donation, no action is too small.

There is a shared responsibility – among Parliamentarians, political and community leaders, as well as businesses and humanitarian organizations – to keep Canadians informed about humanitarian emergencies and their potential implications for Canadian business, security and moral responsibility in the world.

We, as Canadians, also need to put pressure on our government to ensure these crises are not ignored, and use their power to negotiate an end to conflicts so people can return home and re-build their lives.

Politicians can also work with civil society organisations to learn more about crises occurring in the world. By using this information to formulate questions, speeches and motions and community outreach, Parliamentarians can help direct wider public attention towards the world’s forgotten crises.

Canada is a diverse country and its citizens have connections that transcend our borders. What happens in southern Ethiopia, for example, is of concern to friends and families in Toronto or Winnipeg. Climate change is of risk to all of us, we are the first generation to feel its impacts and the last who can do anything about it.

The silence is deafening for those at risk. We need to speak up and provide more opportunities for diverse voices to be heard.

Make March for Women

More than 32 million women and girls around the world are facing humanitarian emergencies. They deserve a humanitarian response system that fully upholds their rights and addresses their needs.We believe the rights of women and girls can’t wait.