02/12/2018 10:47 EST | Updated 02/12/2018 10:47 EST

Shining A Light For Those Who Suffer In Silence

Jake Lyell for CARE International
Ranchubije (12) washes dishes in Kibabi Camp in Masisi Territory, North Kivu Province, where CARE is working to help survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and to provide emergency assistance to people displaced by the conflict. .CARE - Democratic Republic of Congo - March, 2013

Every year we reflect on the top newsmakers, but what about those lost from the headlines?

International humanitarian agency CARE recently released a study looking at the top 10 under-reported crises of 2017. The analysis investigated those crises that affected more than one million people and received the least global media attention.

The top three were Burundi, Eritrea, and surprisingly North Korea at number one, which had an overwhelming focus on nuclear brinkmanship and limited coverage of the food crisis unfolding across the isolated country.

The report was conducted to highlight the connection between media coverage, political action and humanitarian funding. Six of the 10 most under-reported crises also appear in the UN's list of most underfunded emergencies in 2017.

So how do we better shine a light on those away from the cameras?

It seems obvious, but we do need more reporters travelling beyond the major hotspots and highlighting those crises Canadians may not be aware of. And these stories need dedicated space to be seen and heard.

I do not believe this limited coverage is driven by a lack of empathy for people in Mali or the DRC. Many reporters I have worked with yearn to travel and uncover hidden stories. The dramatic surge of attention to the crisis in Syria in late 2015 also clearly demonstrated that Canadians care about those who may seem forgotten.

However, finding the funds to adequately cover the situation in a country like Chad can be a challenge as newsrooms shrink. We also cannot forget that in too many countries governments prevent journalists from accessing affected communities, while warring parties disregard press freedom and put the lives of reporters at risk.

We all have a role in improving the coverage for forgotten crises. Aid organizations can do a better job in responsibly highlighting crises and sharing the stories of those in need.

The onus is also on news consumers. With ad dollars shifting from traditional media, we need to be active subscribers and support those organizations that deliver quality coverage. I say "active" because it's critical we both remind news outlets about the type of journalism we want and encourage our friends to subscribe as well.

For those with more to give, donors and philanthropists can help with new journalism fellowships aimed at neutral in-depth foreign coverage. The R. James Travers Foreign Corresponding Fellowship run through Ottawa's Carleton University is a fine example.

It was launched in memory of long-time reporter Jim Travers who believed that as Canadians become increasingly connected to the world beyond, what was once thought as foreign news is now local. In the past few years, recipients of this $25,000 fellowship have produced high-quality international reports on topics ranging from the Syria crisis to maternal health in Tanzania.

Shrinking news budgets expose a need for more donor-funded opportunities for international coverage, conducted in accordance with established ethical codes.

As we work to address the costs of foreign reporting, we cannot ignore those barriers that prevent access to affected communities and threaten the lives of journalists.

Humanitarians often talk about the importance of respecting the impartiality of aid workers. A similar argument can be made of the need to allow reporters to cover stories with full access and safety. The international community needs to hold to account those who block press freedom and deliberately target journalists.

If these stories are not allowed to be told, 2018 will see another year where too many continue to suffer in silence.

Darcy Knoll is a communications specialist for CARE Canada

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