North Korea is home to the world’s least reported humanitarian crisis, according to the Switzerland-based NGO Care International.
In its “Suffering in Silence” report published on Monday, the organisation said journalists have concentrated on rising political tensions in the Korean Peninsula instead of North Korea’s ongoing food shortage.
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“While much media focus has been on nuclear brinkmanship, the humanitarian situation has been overlooked,” the group said.
Some 18 million North Koreans, around 70 percent of the country’s population, do not have sufficient access to nutritious food, according to the UN.
The worst drought to hit the country since 2001 worsened food shortages in 2017, as crop production including rice and potatoes fell, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Care documented 51 reports during 2017 on humanitarian issues in North Korea.
By comparison, 7,017 reports were published regarding widespread flooding in Peru, the tenth most under-reported crisis, according to Care.
The media inadequately covered crises in Eritrea, Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the group said.
In 2017, more than 700,000 people lacked access to enough food and water in Eritrea.
In Vietnam, 11,000 hectares of farmland was destroyed by a typhoon.
More than 5,500 people were forced to flee their homes in Congo due to violence.
Laurie Lee, Care’s interim secretary-general, told Al Jazeera more than 70 million people are affected by the crises highlighted in the report.
“Without media coverage of those crises, it is hard to receive public donations, and push for political change,” he said.
“Media heavily influences decision-making processes to change policies, and also decides on aid budgets … six of the 10 most under-reported crises this year also appear in the UN’s list of most underfunded emergencies in 2017.”
Care has called for the media to investigate the causes of crises.
“Dwindling funds leave fewer journalists available to cover disasters, particularly those in war-torn countries that are extremely difficult to access, yet telling the world about people who are facing their darkest hours is more important than ever,” Lee said.
At least 81 reporters were killed while on assignment in 2017, according to the International Federation of Journalists.
Although the number of deaths was down from a total of 93 in 2016, the IFJ cautioned that an unprecedented number of journalists were jailed last year, with more than 250 still in prison as of December 31, 2017.