While everyone else has been looking back at what happened around the world in 2017, I’ve been thinking about the things people thought might happen but… Well, just didn’t.
1) Famine in East Africa
“No there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time.” Well that’s not just a 2017 thing, although you can find snow on Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro all year round. But back in March, it looked like 16 million people might perish in a famine because of drought in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia. It didn’t happen, partly because of the generosity of the British public, who gave £54 million in donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee, topped up by £10 million from the UK taxpayer. People died, but not as many as we feared and because the global community acted, the UN didn’t declare the crisis a famine. “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” Well with around 400 million Christians living in African, it’s a fair bet that they probably do, yes.
2) Polio irradication
Polio was not irradicated in 2017. Close, but no cigar. There were just 12 cases in just two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan, as you’re asking). “What we’re looking at now is sort of the endgame of polio eradication,” said the man in the white coat at the Gates Foundation in October. Well, “sort of”. Bill Gates himself knows a good investment when he sees one but he’s going to have to wait at least another year before popping the champagne corks on this one. When he finally does, he’ll be able to rest easy in the knowledge that he’s saved an estimated $50 billion that polio is predicted to cost low income countries.
3) Peace in Yemen
After two years of fighting, there’s no sign of giving peace a chance in Yemen. The UN says it’s the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. There’s been a big row over Christmas about ending the blockade and getting aid getting in. The BBC says 17 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and seven million are totally dependent on food assistance. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children. Others suggest more than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
4) Peace in Syria
Syria’s not really been in the news so much this year but as they say in that Save the Children video that’s now been viewed almost 60 million times, just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
5) Genocide in Myanmar
History could yet remember 2017 very differently, it’s too soon to tell. What has happened this year to the Rohingya might eventually be declared by the UN as the first officially declared genocide since Rwanda in 1994. Once again, the generosity of the British public has been on display, as the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal coincided with our Christmas shopping.
6) The crime of the century
Fourteen of the world’s worst ’Mr. Big’s got busted. So they didn’t get away with million dollor mega heists and 2017 won’t go down as the year of the crime of the century. The International Corruption Unit of the UK National Crime Agency successfully investigated, prosecuted and returned bundles of cash in stolen funds that had been laundered through the UK after being pilfered from developing countries. They also brought to justice UK citizens and companies caught paying bribe in developing countries. Over the last 10 years, since DFID began supporting UK law enforcement agencies, 27 cases have been successfully prosecuted and over £170 million has been confiscated or returned.
7) Malaria no more
Despite a long running historical downward trend in global malaria cases, 2017 was the year malaria fought back. The World Health Organisation blames inadequate investment in controlling the disease in what those boffins call “high-burden countries”. They say 2017’s reduction in funding to fight malaria represents the “greatest threat” to gains the world has made. Which is great news for the world’s most deadly animal: the mosquito. But not so good for Cheryl Cole or almost half the world’s population who are at risk. Expect to see a big push on this from Malaria No More when London hosts the Common Wealth Heads of Government in 2018.
Richard Darlington is Campaign Director for 25 leading international development NGOs. Follow him on Twitter @RDarlo