6 Humanitarian Crises That Aren’t Making the Evening News

The civil war in Syria has been spilling into US headlines lately, especially since allegations of chemical weapon use have thrown a spotlight on President Obama. A major humanitarian crisis like the one displacing millions in Syria calls into question our commitment to the protection of human rights abroad- a discussion that has dragged on for decades. But Syrians aren’t the only people suffering in the world right now. Here are 6 heartbreaking human rights crises that aren’t making it onto the evening news.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

War has marred this central African nation since 1998, and in those 15 years, over five million people have lost their lives. To put that staggering figure into perspective, the Syrian death toll topped 60,000 after nearly two years of fighting; the DRC’s yearly toll averages out to be 333,000. Sometimes referred to as ‘the greatest war in the world that no one has ever heard of,’ the conflict began when the Interahamwe militia group was pushed over the Rwandan border into the DRC after the infamous genocide there and started terrorizing Congolese civilians. And while violence continues to erupt across the eastern countryside, the vast majority of the conflict’s victims meet non-violent ends from preventable things like pneumonia, diarrhea, and malnutrition.


Ethnic tensions have caused pockets of violence to break out along Kyrgyz borders, which have remained unclear since its 1991 split with the Soviet Union. A 2010 imbroglio in the southern city of Osh claimed hundreds of lives and sent thousands fleeing when Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs clashed in the streets. Nearly three years later, racial violence continues to disrupt the daily lives of innocent people. Just days ago, a fight on the Kyrgystan-Tajikistan border resulted in the destruction of roads and the taking of hostages, exposing further the need for defined borders.


Chronic drought and perpetual food insecurity have exacerbated a violent conflict in this west African nation, forcing hundreds of thousands of Malians to take refuge in neighboring countries. Rebel groups with links to al Qaeda invaded the north last year and continue to hold several major cities despite the French military’s recent intervention. Basic public services, including the entire healthcare and hospital system, have collapsed in the wake of the violence.


Over 125,000 people have fled their homes to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where ethnic tensions between Buddhists and Muslims first came to a head in 2012. Humanitarian aid has been stymied at every turn by restrictions and intimidation; there have even been reports of local police tearing down temporary shelters and forcing refugees back into the conflict zone. To make matters worse, thousands of displaced people are squatting on patty fields, which will be completely submerged when monsoon season comes.


A 2008 war with neighboring Russia left much of Georgia in tatters and displaced thousands. Though most of the fighting has subsided, Russia continues to occupy major cities Abkhazia and South Ossentia, where security conditions remain unstable. Human rights activists are calling for aid to the scores of refugees still unable to return their homes.

North Korea

Kim Jong-un’s recent nuclear shenanigans have gotten the world’s attention, but most people are unaware of the human rights disaster quietly unfolding behind the scenes. Hunger and fear rule the population, and the hope of escape or relief is virtually non-existant thanks to iron-clad border restrictions. The regime maintains a “guilt by association” law wherein a family member can be punished  for the suspected crimes of their relatives up to three generations later. Thousands of Koreans are sent to ‘Holocaust-style’ prison camps, where unspeakable horrors- like feeding children to dogs- are the norm. Outside of the camps, conditions are so desperate that reports of cannibalism have trickled out of the Hermit Kingdom. Sadly, North Korea’s state-induced isolation prevents the international community from addressing or even knowing the full extent of the crisis.

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