That “Other” Humanitarian Crisis

This past year, the genocide in Sudan had to compete with the heated presidential campaign for the media’s attention. And now with that over, the continuing slaughter has become an afterthought to the horrific tsunami crisis in Southeast Asia.

Still, reports do trickle out of Sudan, and today’s Reuters dispatch does the victims of that sad land a disservice by understating the number of persons who have lost their lives. The article states, “The fighting has killed tens of thousands and forced almost 2 million to flee their homes in Darfur, a vast arid region in western Sudan.”

It’s not yet known exactly how many people have been killed but all signs point to a loss of life larger than “tens of thousands.” Reuters’ report is most likely based on an estimate released by the World Health Organization last October, nearly three months ago. It has not been revised since then, although people continue to die. Furthermore, as the Associated Press reported at the time, the WHO estimate “does not include those killed in fighting, including militia and government attacks on villages or on fleeing refugees.” In other words, it included only those Sudanese who managed to make it to refugee camps before dying.

One Sudan researcher, Eric Smith, estimates the number dead at 370,000.

It’s bad enough that U.S. media have paid scant attention to a humanitarian crisis of almost unimaginable scale. It’s worse when the few reporters who do turn their attention that way understate the import of the crisis.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.