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New Survey Shows Most Britons Unaware of African Conflicts

A new survey by the British Red Cross finds most Britons are unaware of major conflicts in the world, besides Iraq and Afghanistan where the British military is engaged. Less than one percent of those surveyed identified the major African conflict zones of Sudan or Somalia. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

When asked earlier this month by the ICM polling company, about 2,000 Britons could easily name Iraq and Afghanistan as two countries experiencing conflict, but after that it got much tougher.

Nearly 20 percent could not name five other countries currently feeling the effects of conflict.

Charles Antoine-Hofmann is with the British Red Cross, the humanitarian agency that commissioned the survey.

"That is quite a striking finding as such for us because obviously there are a large number of conflicts around the world, which are not really spoken about, which are experiencing really serious situations when it comes to civilians being affected by conflict from both direct and indirect consequences," he said.

According to the International Rescue Committee, more people have died for instance in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the past decade than anywhere else in the world. The aid agency estimates that 5.4 million people have died from war-related hunger and disease since war first broke out there in 1998.

Despite this, Antoine-Hoffman says awareness in Britain is extremely low.

"There is certainly enough evidence to show us that this is probably one of the most deadly conflicts in the world and certainly more than Afghanistan and Iraq," he noted. "That is not to minimize the brutality and seriousness of these places of course, but I think the Democratic Republic of Congo is a striking example, and there are other examples as well."

As Antoine-Hoffman says, the survey is part of a new British Red Cross campaign to raise awareness about all conflict zones and the brutal impact they are having on ordinary people.

"Obviously the whole point is not to put any blame on the public for not knowing about these places," he said. "It is a much broader and difficult problem in terms of the role of the media in talking about these situations and also us, that is part of our exercise actually when we are launching today the Civilians in Conflict month. It is really about raising awareness on these situations in these different countries and also on the effects of conflict on civilian populations."

Although the survey looked at just British views on conflict, Antoine-Hoffman suspects the same kinds of findings would probably occur elsewhere in the developed world.