Nine of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to an international aid group.
For the second year in a row, Cameroon topped the annual index released by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) on Wednesday, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Meanwhile, the Sahel region comprised a larger portion of the top 10 than in previous years, with Burkina Faso and Niger joining Mali in the ranking for the first time and reflecting the growing security and humanitarian crisis unfolding amid the region’s multi-layered conflict.
2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
3. Burkina Faso
7. South Sudan
9. Central African Republic
Also on the list were Burundi, ranking fourth, South Sudan, at seventh, Nigeria, at eighth and the Central African Republic at ninth. Venezuela, which ranked fifth amid a humanitarian crisis driven by a flailing economy, sanctions and political instability, was the only country in the top 10 outside of Sub-Saharan Africa.
The NRC ranks countries based on three criteria: Lack of political will on both the part of in-state and international actors; lack of media attention; and lack of international aid.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the NRC, said the countries on the list were victims of a “vicious cycle of neglect” perpetuated by disinterest from world powers who see little strategic value in resolving them.
“There is little diplomatic political efforts to end the crisis, leading to less journalists going there, leading to less attention and less donor money, therefore fewer aid workers there,” he said.
Drawing a link to protests that have swept the world following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of white police in the United States, Egeland questioned if the location of the most neglected crises belied a larger racist pattern.
“Maybe in this age when we discuss all of the structural racism around the world, is there some racism here?” he asked. “How come Africa is time and again being at the bottom of this attention, resource, diplomacy list. A life in Africa should be of as much value as a European or an American or an Asian.”
Cameroon and DRC top list again
By the end of 2019, half a million people fled their homes in the Far North Region of Cameroon amid fighting between the government and Boko Haram. The armed group carried out 100 attacks in 2019, killing more than 100 people.
Meanwhile, in the country’s south, nearly 700,000 people had been internally displaced in the conflict that followed after separatists in 2017 launched an armed campaign to establish an independent homeland for Cameroon’s English-speaking minority. During that period, about 52,000 people also fled to neighbouring Nigeria.
Cameroon has also had to contend with 280,000 refugees crossing the border from neighbouring CAR in 2019.
Meanwhile, journalists in the country reportedly face arbitrary detention and prosecution. Reporters Without Borders ranks Cameroon 134 out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index, while international journalists rarely gain access to the conflict areas, leading to a dearth of coverage, NRC’s report concluded.
Humanitarian funding also lags, with a 2019 United Nations Appeal only garnering 43 percent of the funds needed.
The DRC received similar neglect, the report said, despite facing the largest number of newly displaced people on the continent: 1.7 million in 2019.
That number included hundreds of thousands who fled armed fighters and ethnic violence in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu provinces. In early 2020, fighting in Ituri brought the total number of internally displaced in that province alone to one million people.
The crises in the DRC was further compounded by an Ebola outbreak in eastern regions and a hunger crisis.
Still, a 2019 UN appeal for aid was met only 37 percent by donors.
Sahel’s worsening crisis
Countries in the Sahel region have also grown in prominence on the list.
Parts of the largely semi-arid region in recent years have been engulfed by a “fireball of conflict” that involves multiple armed groups, military campaigns by national armies and international partners as well as local armed groups.
Burkina Faso, which has experienced the spill-over from the conflict since 2018, ranked third on the NRC’s list this year, after having never ranked previously.
Last year, the number of displaced people increased five times to nearly 500,000 in Burkina Faso, according to the report. Hunger has also risen sharply, with more than 1.2 million people needing food assistance by the end of 2019.
Mali and Niger ranked sixth and 10th on this year’s list respectively, with all three meeting about half the humanitarian funding needs outlined by the UN in 2019.