Clashes in India among Ten’ most underreported humanitarian stories of 2006 : MSF Report

New York – The staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, Colombia, Chechnya and various parts of India, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among the “Top Ten” Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006, according to the year-end list released today by the international humanitarian medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Clashes in central India

Ongoing conflict in several parts of India – including northeastern Assam and Manipur states highlighted in last year’s Top 10 Underreported Humanitarian Stories list – Report says that it has gone virtually unnoticed by the outside world for years. In central India’s Chhattisgarh state, clashes between Maoist insurgents, Indian security forces and Hindutva sponsored militias, also known as Salwa Judum, has been occurring for more than 25 years, resulting in the displacement, sometimes reportedly forced, of more than 50,000 civilians.

Others flee into neighboring states while thousands of people have lost their livelihoods and have little access to their land, food, essential healthcare or emergency medical services. MSF provides medical treatment in camps for displaced people in Dantewada district, located in south Chhattisgarh. Medical teams also provide mobile health services and nutritional support to those in need in remote rural areas.

Surprisingly, the situation in Chhatisgarh is only one of several armed conflicts occurring throughout India for years, with civilians caught between various belligerent parties. As a consequence, many people continue to live in an atmosphere of fear and violence with little or no access to health care.

“We know that media coverage does not generate improvements on its own,” said MSF (USA) Executive Director Nicolas de Torrente. “However, it is often a precondition for increased assistance and political attention. There is perhaps nothing worse than being completely neglected and forgotten.” Many conflicts worldwide are profoundly affecting millions of people, yet they are almost completely invisible,” said MSF (USA) Executive Director Nicolas de Torrente. “Haiti, for example, is just 50 miles from the United States and the plight of the population enduring relentless violence in its volatile capital Port-au-Prince received only half a minute of network coverage in an entire year.”

According to Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the online media-tracking journal The Tyndall Report, the ten countries and contexts highlighted by MSF accounted for just 7.2 minutes of the 14,512 minutes on the three major U.S. television networks’ nightly newscasts for 2006. Treating malnutrition, TB, and Chechnya were mentioned, but only briefly in other stories. Five of the countries highlighted by MSF were never mentioned at all.

The 2006 “Top 10” list also focused on the devastation caused by TB and malnutrition.

Read the complete Report at MSF website

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