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Africa, South Asia Top UN List of Forgotten Stories


The United Nations has placed Liberia at the top of its list of news stories the world should hear more about. Four of the 10 most forgotten stories involve conflicts in Africa.

The list released Monday includes stories that, in the opinion of U.N. officials, escape the glare of world media.

Where two years ago, humanitarian groups were trying to call attention to the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, this year's focus has shifted to Liberia, and the challenge it faces in recovering from years of civil strife.

Director of the U.N. Public Information Office Shashi Tharoor says in the past, Liberia drew intense media attention for the alleged misdeeds of former president Charles Taylor.

But now, with Taylor in jail in Sierra Leone, and a new president in Monrovia, Tharoor says the equally dramatic story of Liberia's revival is being largely ignored.

"This is a country, which, when there was war, and killing, and conflict, that got attention," he said. "When we finally have brought about a peace and the U.N. does feel very proud about what it has accomplished, when we have been able to see a fair and free election, that has elected a strong woman leader, then the spotlight moves away and it's again focused on a jail cell in Sierra Leone where a bad man, a not yet convicted bad man, is awaiting trial."

The U.N. has been compiling the list since 2004 to call attention to items that might otherwise be lost in the multitude of stories about war, disease and poverty.

Last year's list included the little-known battle to prevent crippling injuries suffered by women during childbirth, a condition known as obstetric fistula. Tharoor says a series of stories that appeared as a result of the list helped raise awareness and money for the cause.

"I'm not saying that this alone solves the problem, but it means that suddenly something that no one was conscious about, suddenly when you talk to someone, 'Oh! obstetric fistula, we read about that, what was that all about?' and at least you've opened a small crack in the door," he said.

In addition to Liberia, this year's list of forgotten stories includes three other conflict-ridden African nations. Among them are the Democratic Republic of Congo, described as a country in transition from civil war to peace and democracy; Somalia, where a security vacuum compounds the effects of a severe drought; and Ivory Coast, said to be on a "knife's edge" due to fears of renewed violence that could destroy a hoped-for political reconciliation.

South Asia placed two stories on the list; the tragedy of children caught in Nepal's 10-year war with Maoist rebels, and the aftermath of the earthquake that struck India and Pakistan last year.

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