Spread of Ebola
The Ebola crisis began in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The World Health Organization reported that more than 20,000 people likely have been infected. Thousands of children lost their parents to the disease and millions more no longer attend school.
The virus gained worldwide notice when international healthcare workers in West Africa became infected and returned home for treatment. The spread of Ebola led to worldwide efforts to develop new vaccines. The international community raised money and workers to contain the epidemic. However, about 8,000 people have died from Ebola so far and health officials expect many more deaths.
Fear of flying
In early March, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared from radar. The plane carried 239 people. It was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Nine months later, the plane remains lost despite an extensive search from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.
In July, Malaysia Airlines suffered another tragedy. A missile hit Flight 17 as it flew over Ukraine. All 298 passengers and crew were killed in the attack and crash that followed.
A few days later, a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in bad weather in Taiwan. Forty-eight people were killed. The next day, July 24, there was another deadly plane crash. An Air Algerie flight crashed in northern Mali killing all 116 people on the plane.
The year ended with the deadly crash of AirAsia Indonesia flight 8501 into the Java Sea. All 162 passengers and crew are believed to have been killed.
Conflict in Ukraine
Pro-European activists in Ukraine made major gains this year with the ousting of the country’s pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych and the election of current President Petro Poroshenko. However, in late March, Russia annexed the Crimea area of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and many European nations objected to the move. Separatist groups continue to fight Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine. Russia is providing arms to the separatists.
The U.S., European Union and other governments ordered economic restrictions against Russia for its actions in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions, along with falling oil prices, have led to severe economic problems in Russia.
The conflict in Ukraine continues.
Worst year ever for children
The United Nations Children’s Fund says 2014 has been the worst year ever for children in areas affected by conflict. UNICEF estimates 230 million children live in countries and areas where armed groups are fighting.
In April, more than 270 girls and women were kidnapped from a school in Nigeria. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility. The group released a video recording of its leader, Abubakar Shekau. In the video, he says, “I abducted your girls…By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.”
On December 16, the Pakistani Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar. Over several hours, seven gunmen executed 132 children and at least nine adults. Pakistani security forces stopped the attack. All the gunmen were killed.
Children were also victims of poverty and the violent illegal drug trade in Latin America. Throughout 2014, more than 50,000 children fled to the United States through Mexico. They traveled without their parents or other adults. The children are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Not all tragedies involving children were related to conflict, however. In South Korea on April 16, a passenger boat sank in the Yellow Sea as it travelled from Incheon to Jeju. At least 250 school children on the boat were killed. About fifty adults also drowned.
Rise of the Islamic State
In June, the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or ISIL took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. A day later, the group captured Tikrit, the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Later the group captured two more towns in the eastern province of Diyala.
The militants then began calling their group the Islamic State. They seized large areas of northern Syria and Iraq. The areas contained several oil fields. The oil wealth has helped the group pay for its operations.
In August, President Obama ordered airstrikes against the Islamic State as the militant group threatened to take over Kurdish-controlled territory. The group answered by releasing a video showing its execution of an American reporter.
The Islamic State threatened more such killings. It has since executed another American reporter, Steven Sotloff, and French aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig. IS released videos of both beheadings.
China’s conflict with its neighbors
In May, tensions increased between China and Vietnam when China deployed oil-drilling equipment to the South China Sea. Both countries claim the waters. China and Vietnam clashed at sea as anti-Chinese protests turned deadly in Vietnam.
China said its claims to the sea date back 2,000 years. It claimed to be the first nation to “discover, name and explore” islands under dispute among China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China also has said repeatedly that it has the right to ignore legal cases on issues related to sea borders.
In other news...
Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June. Israel retaliated by attacking Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, first with missiles and then with ground forces. At least 2,000 Palestinians died.
Activists held weeks of demonstrations across the United States to protest police killings of African-Americans. The protests began after a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. Later, another officer in New York choked to death an unarmed black man. Protests increased after grand juries decided against charging either officer with a crime.
The events led to nationwide discussion and debate about the state of race relations in America.
I’m Christopher Cruise.
Editor's Note: Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the flight was from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur.
What do you think of this list? Are there stories on it that you believe should not have been on it? Are there stories that are not on it that you think should be? What are your top stories of the year? And what do you think the top stories of 2015 will be? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the comments section.