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Red Cross Says Media Reports Mainly Negative News About Africa


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching a new initiative aimed at getting the media to report the good as well as the bad news from Africa. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.

Spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Paul Conneally, tells VOA that media coverage of Africa focuses almost exclusively on war, famine and poverty.

He says a survey conducted among high-level policy makers in more than 30 donor governments affirms this perception. He says success stories in Africa are being overlooked in favor of stories that reinforce the image that the continent is a basket case.

"More than 75 percent of the stories in Africa were negative. And, this despite the fact that there are many positive indications that the African economy is going from strength to strength, that governments are becoming more accountable. And we just wanted to facilitate this discussion and this initiative to try and focus a more positive light on the continent of Africa," he said.

Conneally agrees humanitarian organizations are faced with a dilemma. He says aid agencies seeking funds for relief operations in Africa have to stress the suffering of Africans who lack food or health care. Yet, this, he says just reinforces the image of Africa as being beyond hope.

He says it is important to balance these negative perceptions with positive images. He says there are many success stories, which usually go unreported. For instance, he notes the Red Cross has almost tripled its ability to respond to emergencies, while natural disasters in Africa have more than doubled in the past two years.

"Additionally to that, we have succeeded primarily through the community level, dedication, and commitment and skill of Red Cross-Red Crescent volunteers to reduce mortality through measles by some 91 percent over the last four years," added Conneally. "This is a phenomenal achievement by any success, by any standard. And, if you scan the media today, you will not find the story. It is completely beneath the radar."

A majority of those surveyed say they are optimistic about Africa's future, but none are very optimistic. Only two of the respondents in the 30 donor governments say they are pessimistic.

The greatest concerns for Africa's future are centered on economics and governance, followed by conflict and external relations, food security, climate change, HIV/AIDS and slow progress toward the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.


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