New research highlights the low level of awareness among the British public when it comes to the scale and scope of ongoing humanitarian crises around the globe, writes Raya Homsi.

The nature of our work at Human Appeal means we are continuously tracking the numerous ongoing humanitarian crises around the world and are acutely aware of the relief efforts needed to combat them. However, we understand this isn't the case for most individuals, which is why we recently conducted research with YouGov into the awareness of the scale and scope of global crises among the British public.

Commissioned to mark the anniversaries of the ongoing humanitarian emergencies in both Syria and Yemen, the survey shows that a quarter of UK adults are currently unaware of the severity of long-running worldwide aid crises. Across all the conflict zones identified in the research, only a quarter of UK respondents could correctly match the key humanitarian conflict to the country. For example, when asked to pick which country currently has the greatest number of people facing starvation at nearly 23 million, 25 per cent of UK respondents didn't know this was the urgent issue facing Afghanistan, while 56 per cent of respondents answered this was occurring in other areas of humanitarian crisis.

The research clearly demonstrates that long-standing conflicts, some of which have been going on for nearly two decades, are much less familiar among the British public than those that are currently gaining the most news traction. While there is still some media coverage of these, such as that in Afghanistan which dominated the August 2021 news cycle during the Taliban takeover, the lack of consistent updates and clarity of message results in confusion – like we are seeing now against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The pace at which breaking news dominates the global news cycle means that long-running crises ultimately lose out on media coverage which is essential in raising awareness.

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It has been almost two months since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, and the harrowing scenes being reported across the globe serve as a constant reminder of the atrocities Ukrainians currently face. But while the inspiring work of brave journalists who continue to operate in the warzone is crucial in maintaining the media narrative, news of other global humanitarian emergencies continues to fall down the ladder.

Through our work on the ground in Syria, we are seeing concerning similarities between the ongoing war in Ukraine and longer-standing crises. Both Ukraine and Syria currently face issues in establishing humanitarian corridors to allow for the safe passage of refugees. We're hearing of daily attempts to implement a humanitarian corridor from the port city of Mariupol, where upwards of 100,000 civilians are still trapped. Planned corridors are met with last minute failures or hijacks, with shortages in supplies resulting in starvation as reported by those trapped in a steel works in Mariupol.

Syria, which the UN states has the world's largest internally displaced population at roughly 6.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), has only one humanitarian corridor remaining, which is currently at risk of not having its cross-border UN mandate renewed this year. Syrian humanitarian corridors were also ambushed by Russian shelling, with Sasha Ghosh-Simionoff, an expert on Syria, claiming Russia's approach to corridors in Ukraine was straight out of the Syria playbook.

Of course, Human Appeal stands with every human, and each humanitarian crisis is of equal importance to us, but we feel more needs to be done by media outlets to raise awareness of existing conflicts that still require global attention and support. Measures such as providing regular updates on the current situation in affected countries, breaking down the complex issues of humanitarian emergencies into more easily digestible pieces of content, and showcasing the unique first-hand perspectives of NGOs still actively working on the ground in conflict zones can all help maintain and raise levels of awareness among the public.

NGOs also have a responsibility to leverage their social audiences, using their platforms as a tool to increasingly tell the stories of humanitarian issues that aren't receiving the attention they deserve in the news. The onus not to forget lies with all of us. As we've seen with environmental issues, the public can hold officials more accountable to humanitarian pledges and protest deviations at the ballot box.

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