03 January 2013

What Stories were Under-Reported in 2012?

End of the year reviews seem to highlight what too place over the period. UNICEF Canada came up with a list of the 10 underreported child survival stories in a December report. "[T]here are many stories that do not get told, including the story of the 19,000 children who die every day from causes that are easily preventable and the global efforts to end these senseless deaths," writes UNICEF Canada President and CEO David Morely in his introduction to the report. The lists includes:
  • Meningitis: MenAfriVac campaign reaches 100 million in two years
  • Drowning deaths: Reluctance to report in Asia a “silent emergency”
  • Babies of child brides: These children 60 per cent more likely to die before first birthday
  • Malaria: Effects of climate change raising the threat of malaria
  • Malnutrition: Child malnutrition hitting crisis levels in Yemen
  • Tetanus: Kiwanis project aims to eliminate tetanus worldwide
  • Bill-C398: Canada’s parliament voted down a bill proposing changes to Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime, which would help export low cost medicine to the world’s poor.
  • Birth asphyxia: UN working to end a common cause of newborn deaths
  • Diarrhea: A major issue for 2.5 billion people without proper sanitation
  • Pneumonia: Vaccine finally reaching remote areas of Ghana
International stories, especially those that do not involve war and death on a large scale, are often in the margins of American media. Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News's Chief Health and Medical Editor, explained this fall that the global health stories that will make it onto programming will be something really big like an Ebola outbreak. That is when he and the team are dispatched to location to report on the story.

It explains why the Ebola outbreak in DRC and Uganda in the middle of last year included an 'exclusive' report from Besser in the Ugandan ward that treated victims. Plenty of other important global health stories did not make much of a splash. India passing one year without polio got attention, but considering the achievement one could argue that it warranted even further press. Rising rates of malnutrition across the Sahel registered a small blip compared to the attention garnered by the Horn of Africa in 2011 during the famine.

Then there was the cholera outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone and the persistence of cholera in Haiti that all evidence points to was the fault of the UN. The discovery of totally drug resistant TB in India led to some mainstream coverage, but it faded rather quickly at a time when further data emerged regarding the problem of growing drug resistant TB, the lack of new drugs (now changed with the new FDA approval of a TB drug) and the deadly connections between TB and people living with HIV/AIDS. Let's not also forget about the increasing number of cases of dengue in India.

Other major events like the massive flooding in Nigeria and Tanzania registered little if any attention. The civil war in Syria remains on a slow burner only getting more attention thanks to consistent casualties and brave reporters who are sending dispatches from the country and surrounding areas.

Then there the fact that Latin America and Asia are simply under-reported in their entirety. China gets coverage when discussing its leadership or in a story that illustrates some way that it competes with the US. India makes it into news every so often, but stories like the decision of the UK to cease aid to the country remain regional rather than international.  Burma's entry into democracy got attention, but the ethnic conflict that is displacing the Rohingya people is going on without much information.

For Latin America, the stories boil down to gang violence in El Salvador, drug violence in Mexico and the FARC rebels in Colombia. Brazil, a country that deserves plenty of development attention, brings about a few stories here and there, but the looming World Cup and Olympics are framing the narrative. Can't forget the occasional mention of Socialist countries like Cuba and Venezuela. Overall, the stories from the region are few and far between.

What other stories related to aid and development were underreported in 2012? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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