Our 10 most popular stories of 2018

Investigations, exclusives, and special reports dominate our most-read stories this year, but there’s room for some timely analysis and the odd news feature. Find out which IRIN articles created the most buzz in 2018 (by unique pageviews, most-viewed first). And once you’re on top of the news, why not test yourself with our year-end quiz?

Cameroon’s anglophone war, part 1 and part 2

Emmanuel Freudenthal became the first journalist to spend time with an anglophone armed group, trekking for a week with them in the sun and rain, across rivers and up steep hills, through dark rainforests and fields of giant grass. In this two-part series, he explored the make-up and motivation of the Ambazonia Defense Forces, and how the civil war brewing in Cameroon was changing the lives of fighters, civilians, and refugees.

A gun in the foreground as soldiers stand in file in mismatched clothing


EXCLUSIVE: Oxfam sexual exploiter in Haiti caught seven years earlier in Liberia

IRIN found that the man at the centre of Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal was dismissed by another British NGO seven years earlier for similar misconduct. A former colleague revealed that Roland van Hauwermeiren was sent home from Liberia in 2004 after her complaints prompted an investigation into sex parties there with young local women.

People walk in the distances abstractly


Understanding Eastern Ghouta in Syria

In February, the UN said nearly 400,000 civilians were trapped in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, the latest battleground in a series of bloody rebel defeats in Syria’s cities. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and his Russian allies seemed poised for a major ground offensive on the besieged insurgent enclave. Syria analyst Aron Lund unpicked what we knew, and what we didn’t.

A dust cloud from an explosion on a city


Audit finds UN refugee agency critically mismanaged donor funds in Uganda

This damning internal probe by the UN into waste and corruption in refugee operations in Uganda in 2017 went unnoticed by many. Ben Parker read the fine print and exposed the extent of mismanagement by the UN’s refugee agency, including a $7.9 million contract for road repairs awarded to a contractor with no experience in road construction.

Two girls in a refugee camp one with her arm on the other


Eritrea-Ethiopia peace leads to a refugee surge

Inter-ethnic conflict over scarce resources saw more people internally displaced in Ethiopia in the first half of 2018 than in any other country. In the second half of the year, peace and an open border with Eritrea saw a sudden spike in Eritrean refugees. Addis Ababa-based reporter James Jeffrey travelled to the border regions to speak to new arrivals.

Closeup of two Eritrean men looking away from the camera


Inside the EU’s flawed $200 million migration deal with Sudan

As millions of dollars in EU funds flow into Sudan to stem African migration, asylum seekers say they are increasingly afraid and living in fear of exploitation. In interviews with dozens of Eritreans and Ethiopians, as well as local journalists and lawyers, reporter Caitlin Chandler documented allegations of endemic police abuse, including extortion, violence, and sexual assault.

An obscured portrait of a man's face behind purple and white drapes


Former Save the Children staffers speak out on abusive culture under Justin Forsyth

2018 was a year in which #AidToo scandals tarnished the image of the sector. In February, Justin Forsyth resigned from UNICEF, becoming the highest-profile departure in the widening scandal sparked by the Oxfam sexual exploitation case. Former colleagues of Forsyth told IRIN of their disappointment at what they saw as a half-hearted apology that failed to properly acknowledge his past misconduct.

A man with a notebook sits on the floor with two people facing away from the camera


EXCLUSIVE: Audit exposes UN food agency’s poor data-handling

The year that brought us GDPR disclaimers also brought some belated realisation in the aid sector about the importance of data protection. In January, after an internal audit slammed failings across its systems, the World Food Programme told IRIN’s Ben Parker it was “working to get ahead of the curve” on data-handling, would address weaknesses, and spend more on systems.

Two cards like credit cards that read: Humanitarian Assistance


EXCLUSIVE: Refugees in Sudan allege chronic corruption in UN resettlement process

Sudan, again. This time allegations of corruption within the UN’s refugee resettlement operations in Khartoum. Investigating the programme over a 10-month period, journalist Sally Hayden uncovered a bribery scheme that prompted it to be shut down while the UN refugee agency mounted an investigation. Her follow-up in July found further problems as potential witnesses expressed fears of retaliation and concerns over a lack of protection.

Outside of an office with barbed wire


Yemen PR wars: Saudi Arabia employs UK/US firms to push multi-billion dollar aid plan

In a year in which Yemen was described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the aid largesse of Saudi Arabia came under the microscope. IRIN revealed the extent of Riyadh’s PR offensive as critics suggested its multi-billion dollar aid plan amounted to propaganda and could reduce imports of vital goods into a key port held by the Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia’s opponents in the three-year war.

Men in camo, one with a camera, offload aid on a pallet

(TOP PHOTO: Refugees from anglophone areas of Cameroon in camps across the border in Nigeria. CREDIT: Emmanuel Freudenthal/IRIN)


From #AidToo and UN mismanagement to Cameroon and a siege in Syria Our 10 most popular stories of 2018 posspophead.jpg Feature Aid and Policy Migration Conflict Geneva IRIN Cameroon Uganda Sudan Global Syria Yemen


TUNIS, The Tunisian coastguard on Sunday rescued 45 migrants near the Kerkennah Islands off the country’s eastern coast, the National Guard said.The migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were found “in good health” after their boat broke down near …


GENEVA, The World Health Organization warned that growing unrest in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was disrupting efforts to rein in an Ebola outbreak, threatening gains made in fighting the deadly virus.The security situation in the Ebola-hit Be…

Nigeria Targets 26M People in Yellow Fever Campaign

ABUJA A vaccination center in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is swarming with people, a sign that Nigeria’s campaign to vaccinate more people against yellow fever appears to be making headway.As part of the effort, Nigeria’s government partnered with the Wo…

Former Botswana President Feuds with Government over Trump

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA Donald Trump is a contentious topic in Botswana, where the government is uneasy over a former leader’s harsh criticism of the American president.The spat pits Ian Khama, who stepped down as president in April after a decade i…


CAPE TOWN, S. Africa, South African Environmental Affairs Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, joined the chorus of condemnation, against the removal of blacks from a public beach in Cape Town.The removal of black beach-goers is “discriminatory,” the minister …

Deaths Mar Bangladesh Election; Turnout Appears Thin

DHAKA, BANGLADESH Clashes between supporters of Bangladesh’s ruling party and its opponents killed two people and wounded nearly a dozen Sunday, a government official and police said, as the country voted in a general election after violence-plagued ca…

French, Niger Troops Kill Islamist Insurgents in Joint Operation

PARIS French and Nigerien troops killed around 15 Islamist militants in a joint air and ground operation in south west Niger on Dec. 27, France’s armed forces and Defense Ministry said on Sunday.The air raid and ground assault took place near Tongo Ton…

2018 in Review: Migration

By-products of so many of the conflicts and natural disasters IRIN covers are thousands of families forced from their homes. But countless more people are driven from their villages, cities, or homelands by persecution, slow-burning crises, or economic…