It's that time again, when everyone compiles their year-end Top 10 lists.
And, given the kind of work I do, one that most captures my attention each year is the list of the top 10 humanitarian crises, compiled by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).
Below is a list of this year's top 10, presented as hyperlinks to detailed information about each.
Read this list, click through to details about each crisis, and then count your own blessings.
Unrelenting violence stalks civilians throughout eastern DR Congo
"Throughout 2009, the civilians suffered continuous violence from different armed groups in eastern Congo. Hundreds of people were killed, thousands of women, children, and, sometimes, men were raped and hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes. Guerilla warfare has replaced armed clashes in North Kivu where combatants spread terror by looting and burning houses in reprisals against the perceived support of communities to different factions..."
Somalis endure violence and lack of access to health care
"In 2009, the Somali population continued to fall victim to indiscriminate violence, while severe drought plagued parts of the country. Millions of people urgently require health care, yet the enormous gap between the needs of Somalis and the humanitarian response on the ground continues to widen. Ongoing abductions and killings of international and Somali aid workers is thwarting the efforts of humanitarian organizations to respond, and the public health-care system remains in near total collapse..."
Precarious situation for people in southern Sudan and Darfur
"Medical humanitarian emergencies persisted throughout 2009 in several parts of Sudan. In addition to the ongoing crisis in Darfur, people in southern Sudan faced a deteriorating situation marked by escalating violence, disease outbreaks, and little or no access to health care..."
Thousands injured during the final stage of Sri Lanka's decades-long war
"As fighting raged earlier this year between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in northeastern Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of civilians were trapped for months in a war zone reduced to a narrow strip of jungle and beach, with no aid and limited medical care. A few months before the final phase of the country’s decades-long civil war, humanitarian aid agencies, including MSF, had to leave the areas most affected by the fighting, at the request of the government..."
Civilians suffer from violence & neglect in Pakistan
"Pakistan was convulsed by intense violence throughout 2009. Conflict between the Pakistani army and armed opposition groups in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) displaced more than two million people, while numerous bombings in major Pakistani cities killed hundreds and injured thousands. In the province of Balochistan, a long-running conflict continued beyond the media’s glare. Across the country, people suffer from a general lack of health care, and Pakistan features one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the region..."
Politics of aid leaves many Afghans cut off from humanitarian assistance
"As the war in Afghanistan escalated in 2009, Afghan civilians endured increasing levels of violence throughout the country. The insecurity has damaged an already beleaguered health-care system, leaving only a few poorly functioning hospitals and clinics in provincial capitals. Afghans in need of any health care must now make an impossible choice: risk traveling hundreds of miles through a war zone to seek a medical care or allow a condition to worsen until it becomes life-threatening only to arrive at a health structure where services are greatly diminished..."
Civilians trapped in violent war in Northern Yemen
"Five prior unsettled wars in Yemen’s northern Saada Governorate led to a sixth in 2009, the most intense so far. The Yemeni army ratcheted up its offensive against a rebel group drawn from the dominant community in the region, and the humanitarian fallout was unprecedented. Civilians and non-military targets such as hospitals were heavily affected by fighting. Hundreds of thousands were displaced and humanitarian assistance came to a virtual halt. A malnutrition emergency was discovered among children uprooted from their homes. For the first time, a foreign neighbour, Saudi Arabia, was drawn into the conflict, further complicating the plight of civilians..."
Woefully inadequate funding undermines gains in childhood malnutrition treatment
"An estimated 3.5 to 5 million children die each year from malnutrition-related causes -- one death every six seconds..."
Funding for AIDS treatment stagnating despite millions still in need
"In 2005, world leaders at the G8 summit in Scotland pledged support for universal AIDS treatment coverage by 2010, a promise that encouraged many African governments to launch ambitious treatment programs and that helped to expand coverage to more than 4 million people in developing countries. And now those same leaders are retreating from the pledges made, leaving governments and millions of people with HIV/AIDS at a dangerous loss..."
Lack of R&D and scale up of treatment plagues patients with neglected diseases
"More than 400 million people are at risk for the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) visceral leishmaniasis (kala azar), sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and Buruli ulcer. The first three are among the deadliest of all the NTDs, and all four have been highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as especially troublesome due to treatment and diagnostic tools that are old, ineffective, or worst, simply non-existent, and with patient populations stuck in remote or insecure areas with little or no access to health care. Even worse, research and development (R&D) of new medicines and diagnostics is woefully under-funded. Unless there is a substantial increase in resources available for national control programs for active diagnosis and treatment of patients, investment in prevention initiatives, as well as dedicated R&D for new tools, victims of these will remain neglected..."