The food crisis in Haiti is the most under-reported humanitarian disaster in the world.
The food crisis in Haiti is the most under-reported humanitarian disaster in the world.

Ten humanitarian crises we're not talking about

When horrifying images of the earthquake in Haiti emerged in 2010, they were so shocking that Hollywood stars jumped to the country's aid, raising millions to it back on its feet.

Yet, just nine years later, the country is falling apart and no one seems to care.

Humanitarian organisation CARE International has identified the food crisis in Haiti as the most under-reported crisis of the past year in its annual report Suffering in Silence.

The report identified 10 crises that most people probably haven't heard about because they received the least amount of international media coverage.

Eight of these crises are happening in Africa but one is right on Australia's doorstep.

Typhoon Mangkhut displaced more than one million people in the Philippines when it hit in September 2018 but the disaster is not on most people's radars.

"The world's attention is fairly easily captured by a natural disaster, but when human suffering has multiple causes it can be harder to tell the story," CARE Australia's emergency response manager Stefan Knollmayer said.

"Most of the food crises on the list are caused by a combination of natural and human-made factors, including droughts, wars, fragile economies and the effects of climate change."

Another barrier to reporting is how difficult it can be to access dangerous areas like the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"As a result, Australians are not only hearing very little about the conflict, but they've also heard very little about the new ebola outbreak that has killed 500 people in the DRC since August 2018."

1. HAITI: ON THE EDGE OF SURVIVAL

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010 killed hundreds of thousands of people and the devastation made global headlines.

Actor and director Sean Penn moved to the Caribbean island to run a relief camp and still holds yearly fundraisers for the region that have featured stars like Madonna. He was just one of the many people touched by the tragedy and wanting to help.

People walk down a street amid earthquake rubble in Port-au-Prince. Picture: Gregory Bull
People walk down a street amid earthquake rubble in Port-au-Prince. Picture: Gregory Bull

Yet nine years later, public interest has waned and when a food crisis hit the country last year, it barely received any media coverage.

More than half the country's population is facing the threat of hunger and 22 per cent of the children are chronically undernourished.

This month hundreds of thousands of protesters participated in violent demonstrations to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise over skyrocketing prices for basic goods and allegations of corruption.

Goods in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation have doubled in price in recent weeks: A sack of rice now costs $US18 ($AU25) and a can of dry beans around $7 ($AU9). In addition, a gallon (about three litres) of cooking oil has gone up to nearly $11 ($AU15) from $7.

Thousands of demonstrators marched in the street. Picture: Dieu Nalio Chery
Thousands of demonstrators marched in the street. Picture: Dieu Nalio Chery

 

Residents line up to buy propane gas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Picture: Dieu Nalio Chery
Residents line up to buy propane gas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Picture: Dieu Nalio Chery

Inflation has been in the double digits since 2014, and the price hikes are angering many people in Haiti, where about 60 per cent of its nearly 10.5 million people struggle to get by on about $2 ($AU2) a day.

A recent report by the US Agency for International Development said about half the country is undernourished.

Drought conditions in northern Haiti and further disasters including hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Maria have all exacerbated the situation.

It's been estimated that about 2.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

2. ETHIOPIA: HUNGRY AND FORGOTTEN

This African country is still struggling to recover after two consecutive years of drought that have left about eight million people in need of food assistance. Another 9.5 million are in needs of things like education and shelter.

"The country faces recurrent drought and severe land degradation in many areas, increasingly as a consequence of global climate change," the report said.

"This undermines communities' capacity to recover from significant loss of assets resulting in poverty, high food insecurity and high malnutrition, especially among young children and women. One out of 10 children under the age of five suffers from wasting."

It's been estimated that it takes farmers about four years to recover from drought and they will likely rely on aid during that time.

Dried water beds and arid conditions dominated the Ethiopian landscape in 2016.
Dried water beds and arid conditions dominated the Ethiopian landscape in 2016.

3. MADAGASCAR: ON THE FRONTLINE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Almost half of all children in Madagascar have had their growth stunted after years of drought, partly due to the effects of the 2016 El Nino, which was aggravated by climate change.

About 1.3 million are at risk of hunger and more than 257,000 people are likely to face severe hunger.

The country was impacted by two cyclones in 2018 and this affected about 212,200 people and displaced about 74,200.

Diseases have added to country's troubles. In 2018 there were about 103 cases of suspected bubonic and pulmonary plague, as well as a measles outbreak that impacted about 6,500 people.

Central Coast dentist Tony Collins visited Madagascar slums in 2016.
Central Coast dentist Tony Collins visited Madagascar slums in 2016.

 

Half of all children in Madagascar are stunted. Picture: Tony Collins.
Half of all children in Madagascar are stunted. Picture: Tony Collins.

4. DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: VIOLENCE, DISEASE AND MALNUTRITION

The DRC has survived more than 20 years of violence and has the 10th highest refugee population in the world.

Many of the refugees are the country's residents but it is also home to more than 530,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

Declining agricultural activity means about 12.8 million face the threat of hunger.

About 8.5 million people are at risk of epidemics due to outbreaks of cholera and the Ebola virus.

There's also a high rate of sexual and gender based violence due to ongoing violence and tensions between different communities.

5. PHILIPPINES: DESTRUCTIVE TYPHOON

Typhoon Mangkhut was the strongest tropical cyclone the world faced in 2018, battering the Philippines' Luzon island with Category 5 winds of over 200km/h.

More than a million people were displaced and 82 people were killed, most of them due to massive landslides and flash floods.

High levels of poverty, low sanitation, malnutrition among children and low vaccination rates left people particularly vulnerable to the typhoon's impacts.

The typhoon had its greatest impact on farmers and fisherfolk whose livelihoods were stripped away by the storm.

The Philippines is one of the most hazard-prone countries in Asia and the Pacific, with about 20 tropical cyclones hitting the country every year.

6. CHAD: STRUGGLING TO MEET NEEDS

This landlocked country in north-central Africa is the second hungriest country in the world, according to the World Hunger Index.

More than four million people had only limited access to food in 2018. Food shortages have been caused in part by climate change, which has led to reduced crop production.

In the past 55 years, Lake Chad has shrunk to nearly one 20th of its original size because of high demand for agricultural water and changing climate patterns.

Political violence and insecurity also limit humanitarian and media access.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, it is hosting more than 450,000 refugees from neighbouring countries.

7. ETHIOPIA: SILENT DISPLACEMENT

No country saw more people internally displaced because of conflict in 2018.

Waves of violent attacks between April and July forced about one million people to flee their homes. People were killed, houses were burnt down, damaged and looted.

While some have returned to their homes, many are still living in camps where food is not adequate, women and girls are at risk of exploitation and there are hygiene and sanitation issues.

8. NIGER: POOR SHARING MEALS WITH THE POORER

There's been an increase in the number of people struggling to meet their food needs and Niger ranked last in the 2018 Human Development Index that looks at life expectancy, education and per capita income factors.

The landlocked country has seen its fertile land slowly turn into desert and its resources are also stretched due to an influx of refugees from neighbouring Nigeria.

Its border regions suffer from frequent attacks and insecurity.

In the rural areas of Niger, villages like Kagadam are close knit communities where families and neighbours depend on each other to survive. Picture: Josh Estey
In the rural areas of Niger, villages like Kagadam are close knit communities where families and neighbours depend on each other to survive. Picture: Josh Estey

9. CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: OFF THE RADAR

This landlocked country is among the most violent countries in the world and aid agencies have been forced to reduce or suspend their operations after attacks on aid workers tripled.

Despite having a wealth of natural resources, armed groups and political turmoil have continued to fuel tensions in the country and about 60 per cent of the population are in need of aid and desperate for food.

Armed groups roam the streets in even the smallest villages and widespread violence has destroyed health, water and sanitation systems.

Some girls have turned to "survival sex" as a way to make it out of the crisis alive, some of them are even being pushed into it by desperate parents. Girls as young as 13 years old reportedly sell their bodies for as little as 50US cents (AU0.70 cents).

A Christian man chases a suspected Seleka officer in civilian clothes with a knife near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, in 2013. Picture: Jerome Delay
A Christian man chases a suspected Seleka officer in civilian clothes with a knife near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, in 2013. Picture: Jerome Delay

10. SUDAN: A DECADE OF HUNGER AND CONFLICT

About 5.5 million people are on the edge of survival in Sudan thanks to 15 years of conflict, chronic poverty and climate shocks.

Frequent drought threatens about 19 million hectares of farmland and temperature increases driven by climate change have been well about the global average. The country also suffered from heavy rains and flash floods in 2018.

Sudan hosts one of the highest numbers of refugees in Africa, with 923,000 seeking help, but it also has almost two million of its own domestic refugees.

The annual inflation rate in Sudan reached nearly 70 per cent by the end of September 2018, leading to a continued rise in the cost of living and shortages in basic resources like fuel.

Abuk Garang holds her 7-month-old son William Deng, as she and others walk to a food distribution site in 2017 in South Sudan. Picture: AP
Abuk Garang holds her 7-month-old son William Deng, as she and others walk to a food distribution site in 2017 in South Sudan. Picture: AP

Continue the conversation charis.chang@news.com.au | @CharisChang2

Oprah Winfrey stands with actor Sean Penn in a camp for people displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake. Picture: Lionel Lafortune
Oprah Winfrey stands with actor Sean Penn in a camp for people displaced by the devastating 2010 earthquake. Picture: Lionel Lafortune
Southern and eastern African countries suffered through years of drought. Picture: UNICEF
Southern and eastern African countries suffered through years of drought. Picture: UNICEF