Today, the European Commission, in partnership with the Maltese Presidency and UNICEF, organised an event to draw attention to crises that receive limited international attention in spite of growing needs. These are the so-called "forgotten crises": severe, protracted humanitarian situations caused by natural disasters or armed conflicts, where the affected populations receive insufficient international aid and attention, notably in terms of media coverage. This has inevitable consequences on the affected communities, who are often among the most vulnerable and impoverished.
Androulla Kaminara, Director for Africa, Asia, Latin America, Caribbean and Pacific for EU Humanitarian Aid, commented: "Today, we are experiencing the biggest gap between global humanitarian needs and humanitarian funding. In this context, we cannot afford to simply 'forget' some of the worst humanitarian crises that are taking place all over the world."
As a global leading humanitarian donor, the European Union is at the forefront of identifying and intervening in crises that are not sufficiently addressed by the rest of the world. In 2004, the EU introduced a Forgotten Crisis Assessment Index, which helps identify the most overlooked crises on a yearly basis. The index is based on a country's vulnerability level (according to INFORM, the Index for Risk Management), media coverage, public aid per capita, and a qualitative assessment carried out by EU humanitarian experts.
The 2016-2017 Forgotten Crisis Assessment includes 12 crises – from the armed conflict in Colombia to the Sahrawi refugee crisis in Algeria, from the ongoing clashes in Mindanao (Philippines) to the conflict in Northern Mali. The EU is working hard on all these fronts: every year, some 15% of EU humanitarian budget is allocated to tackle forgotten crises.
Today's event shed a special light on two cases considered "forgotten crises" – Myanmar and Chad.
For the past six decades, Myanmar has been marred by multiple internal conflicts linked to the country’s ethnic diversity. These insurgencies have given rise to a large number of armed groups, triggering humanitarian crises in several regions. This is particularly the case in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, where insurgent groups control large swathes of territory. Over 525 000 people across the country are in need of humanitarian assistance, and recent fighting has resulted in more displacements.
The population of Chad is faced with a complex and long-standing humanitarian crisis that has its roots in under-development, climate change, natural disasters and the spill-over of conflicts in the Lake Chad basin, Central African Republic, Sudan and Libya. The country has one of the highest severe acute malnutrition rates among children in Africa, and almost 500 000 people are severely food insecure and require emergency food assistance.
Director Androulla Kaminara was joined by Patrick Mifsud (Chair of COHAFA under the Maltese Presidency), Lilian Kastner (Senior Emergency Advisor at UNICEF Chad), and Michael McGrath (Save the Children Country Director for Myanmar). UNICEF Senior Advisor Marie France Bourgeois moderated the panel discussion, followed by a stimulating Q&A session with the audience which included participants from most EU Member States, leading INGOs and UN agencies, other donors (USAID), and EU institutions. Among the key points that emerged are the sustained need for humanitarian and development actors to work together more closely, in particular in the context of protracted and neglected crises, and the opportunity offered by new media technology (including social media and grassroots communication) to compensate for the lack of attention that mainstream media devote to forgotten crises.