Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – December 11

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – December 11

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cover Photo: New York Times, Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

Latest News for December 4 – December 11, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of December 11.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 485,965 confirmed cases, 6,967 deaths.
Myanmar: 103,166 confirmed cases, 2,174 deaths.

Bangladesh’s government relocated 1,640 Rohingya refugees from camps in Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char island despite human rights concerns about conditions on the island. The government plans to move a total of 100,000 refugees to the new camp on Bhasan Char in order to ease overcrowding. Refugees living in the new camp have described cramped living conditions and restricted access to medical care. Human rights groups have called on Bangladesh to allow the UN to conduct an assessment of facilities on Bhasan Char and provide unrestricted humanitarian access to the island, neither of which have been granted. (The New York Times)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  1,392,133 confirmed cases, 38,308 deaths.
Venezuela: 105,852 confirmed cases, 933 deaths.

UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration have launched a $1.44 billion plan to respond to the needs of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. Approximately 5.4 million people have left the country due to the ongoing economic, political, and health crises in Venezuela. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by refugees and migrants and has made many of them reliant on emergency assistance to meet their health, shelter, food, protection, and education needs. The response plan intends to strengthen the capacity of national and local governments to support displaced Venezuelans and ensure that their needs are met. (UNHCR)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 119,414 confirmed cases, 1,008 deaths.

On Monday, health officials in Gaza announced that COVID-19 testing had stalled due to a lack of testing kits. Heath workers usually carry out between 2,500 and 3,000 tests each day, all of which are run through a single lab. The health ministry is calling on the World Health Organization and the Palestinian Authority to send medical supplies. In Gaza alone, there have been nearly 25,600 cases and 150 deaths due to COVID-19. (Al Jazeera)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 119,720 confirmed cases, 3,289 deaths.

Residents of Kara Tepe camp, the former site of a military firing range, have found unexploded bombs and other military debris strewn about the area. The findings have reinforced concerns about the safety of camp residents, particularly from dangers associated with toxic levels of lead in the soil. Human Rights Watch has called on the Greek government to assess the site’s soil lead levels and publish the results. (Middle East Monitor)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 142,187 confirmed cases, 1,170 deaths.

The head of Lebanon’s central bank announced that government subsidies of flour, fuel, and medicines may end in two months. Lebanon’s severe economic crisis, compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has caused tens of thousands of people to fall into poverty. The end of the subsidies will likely affect the poorest households the most. (BBC News)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 429,280 confirmed cases, 8,603 deaths.

Seven COVID-19 patients died after a government-run hospital in northern Pakistan ran out of oxygen. More than 200 patients in the hospital had their oxygen reduced for several hours due to delays in delivery. Hospital staff reportedly asked the families of patients to buy oxygen tanks themselves. Pakistan is currently dealing with a surge in cases as if it faces a second wave of infections. (BBC News)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 20,468 confirmed cases, 1,319 deaths.

At least 49,827 Ethiopian refugees have entered Sudan after fleeing violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The refugee camps in Sudan are ill-equipped to meet the needs of the growing population and often lack basic necessities due to insufficient humanitarian aid. Pregnant women and people with chronic diseases are unable to access necessary health services and there are concerns about the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, among the refugees. (Radio Dabanga)

According to a new report by Imperial College London, only 2% of COVID-19 deaths in Khartoum have been recorded. The report estimates that, as of November 20, 16,090 deaths have not been included in official COVID-19 figures. Sudan is currently experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections and the government is responding by subsidizing medicine and expanding its clinical capacity to treat patients. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 8,787 confirmed cases, 476 deaths.

According to Physicians for Human Rights, the medical system in Daraa province in southern Syria has not been rebuilt since the Syrian government retook control in 2018. Many medical facilities were destroyed during the fighting. Currently, only 38% of hospital beds are available and there are significant shortages of medicines and equipment. The majority of doctors from the area have been displaced and humanitarian organizations that previously provided aid to the population were forced to leave. (Middle East Eye)


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,085 confirmed cases, 607 deaths.

A coalition of 29 relief organizations have warned that the US plan to designate Ansar Allah, commonly known as the Houthis, as a terrorist organization would exacerbate humanitarian efforts in Yemen. Roughly 80% of Yemen’s population live in areas under the control of the Houthis, requiring aid organizations to coordinate with the group in order to access populations in need. The designation would create new barriers for aid delivery at a time when Yemen is on the brink of famine. (Al-Monitor)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – December 4

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cover Photo: VOA News

Latest News for November 20 – December 4, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of December 4.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 471,739 confirmed cases, 6,748 deaths.
Myanmar: 93,600 confirmed cases, 1,998 deaths.

The government of Bangladesh is planning to relocate 2,500 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island on December 4. Several human rights organizations have condemned the move due to safety concerns and have called on Bangladesh to allow UN teams to visit the island and evaluate conditions. There are already 306 refugees on Bhasan Char and the government plans to ultimately relocate 100,000 from Cox’s Bazar. (Dhaka Tribune)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  1,334,089 confirmed cases, 37,117 deaths.
Venezuela: 103,067 confirmed cases, 905 deaths.

Heavy rains following Hurricane Iota killed at least 33 people and forced over 61,000 to abandon their homes during the month of November. A large number of deaths are due to mudslides that have destroyed buildings and blocked roads. On Colombia’s island of Providencia, 80% of homes were destroyed by the hurricane. (Associated Press)

Colombia’s health state of emergency will continue for three additional months to combat the spread of COVID-19. Face masks are required in public and large gatherings are banned, but international flights and most economic activities are allowed. Currently, there are over 57,000 active cases of COVID-19 in the country. (US News)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 106,312 confirmed cases, 873 deaths.

On Tuesday, Gaza recorded 815 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, the positive testing rate has reached 30% in recent days. There have been 22,000 cases of COVID-19 in Gaza and its main COVID-19 ICU is now at 90% capacity. (NPR

Unemployment in Gaza has risen to 82% due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Over 160,000 workers have been affected by the closure of companies and the collapse of the public transportation and construction sectors. Those that are able to find employment often work longer hours for reduced pay. (Middle East Monitor)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 109,655 confirmed cases, 2,606 deaths.

Frontex, the EU’s border agency, is accused of covering up illegal pushbacks of migrants by the Greek authorities. On several different occasions, Frontex agents are said to have witnessed the Greek Coast Guard repel migrants from Greek waters and leave them stranded in flimsy rafts. Frontex officials then allegedly suppressed reporting of the incidents. Over 1,000 asylum seekers are believed to have been illegally expelled from Greece in violation of international law. (The New York Times)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 132,776 confirmed cases, 1,067 deaths.

The majority of Lebanon’s population is expected to live in poverty in 2021 due to the severe economic crisis facing the country. According to the World Bank, Lebanon’s economy is forecasted to shrink 19.2% in 2020 and an additional 13.2% in 2021. The local currency has lost 80% of its value and government revenues have shrunk drastically. Lebanon is seeking billions of dollars in aid from donor countries and the IMF, but the financial, social, and governance reforms that are required have not been met. (Al Jazeera)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 406,810 confirmed cases, 8,205 deaths.

Pakistan has closed all of its schools in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, 19% of which were linked to educational institutions. The overall rate of people testing positive has reached 7.41% and there are currently 2,485 patients receiving treatment for the virus in hospitals. The government has also restricted non-essential public gatherings, but has ruled out another lockdown to avoid hurting the economy. (Reuters)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 18,535 confirmed cases, 1,271 deaths.

Sudan’s government does not intend to implement a second lockdown despite a severe second wave of COVID-19 infections. Sudan’s prime minister, Abdallah Hamdok, justified the decision by citing the negative impact the first lockdown had on the economy and living conditions. Sudan’s fragile health system is ill-equipped to manage the pandemic and some doctors in Sudan believe that the real number of COVID-19 cases is much higher than government figures reflect. (Radio Dabanga)

More than 40,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan and are now living in three camps in eastern Sudan. Refugees in the camps have limited access to water and are forced to live in crowded conditions, increasing the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. Health workers are setting up isolation centers in the camps and are educating residents on methods to avoid the spread of the virus. Sudan’s government is also in the process of establishing a fourth camp to ease overcrowding. (Voice of America)

Sudan has recorded 46 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus in 2020, including two new cases in late November. Sudan’s Health Ministry cited the outbreak of COVID-19 as a contributing factor to the spread of polio this year. Following delays due to funding shortages, the Health Ministry has launched a polio vaccination campaign with the goal of reaching 8.6 million children. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 8,147 confirmed cases, 432 deaths.

Three million Syrian refugees in northern Syria are in urgent need of emergency relief according to the UN. Displaced Syrians are in dire need of shelter, heating fuel, blankets, and clothes to survive winter. The number of food insecure Syrians has also risen to 9.3 million, including 4.6 million children. (Al Jazeera)

Health officials in northern Syria have recorded 13,500 cases of COVID-19 and 117 deaths, though officials believe the real numbers are much higher. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians live in overcrowded camps that are currently dealing with outbreaks of the virus. The rising number of cases has led to 80% of ICU beds in the north filling up, putting immense strain on the region’s fragile health system. (Al-Monitor)


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,081 confirmed cases, 607 deaths.

The World Health Organization is in the process of carrying out a polio vaccination campaign with the goal of reaching 5.5 million children under the age of five. The ongoing conflict in Yemen has created significant challenges for health workers to access supplies and reach all segments of the population. In August, a polio outbreak occurred in Yemen’s north-west after years of missed vaccinations. (Reuters)

The UN warns that Yemen is on the brink of famine as parts of the country are already experiencing famine-like conditions. Over 16 million Yemenis, more than half the population, are expected to face crisis levels of food insecurity by June 2021. The number of people facing emergency levels of food insecurity, meaning that urgent action is needed to save their lives, is also predicted to increase from 3.6 million to five million. (UNICEF)

Even if Famine is not formally declared in Yemen, people are already starving to death and severe acute malnutrition is causing chronic health problems among the population. Children are especially vulnerable as fetal and neonatal malnutrition can impact brain development and may cause mental health problems. (The New Humanitarian)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – November 20

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cover Photo: Al Jazeera/Ricardo Maldonado Rozo/EPA-EFE

Latest News for November 13 – November 20, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of November 20.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 441,159 confirmed cases, 6,305 deaths.
Myanmar: 74,882 confirmed cases, 1,676 deaths.

The government of Bangladesh announced that it will reunite the 306 Rohingya refugees kept on Bhashan Char, a flood-prone island, with their families in Cox’s Bazar. The decision to move the refugees follows months of condemnation from humanitarian organizations over the detainment of the refugees against their will and allegations of abuse and poor living conditions. Bangladeshi authorities insist that the facilities on Bhashan Char are suitable for habitation and plan to follow through with relocating 100,000 Rohingya refugees to the island from Cox’s Bazar. (Radio Free Asia)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  1,218,003 confirmed cases, 34,563 deaths.
Venezuela: 98,350 confirmed cases, 860 deaths.

Hurricane Iota, the first category five hurricane to hit Colombia, has damaged 98% of infrastructure on Colombia’s island of Providencia and killed at least one person. Damaged communications infrastructure and dangerous weather conditions have isolated the island, hindering a full assessment of the damage as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid. (Aljazeera)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 79,822 confirmed cases, 676 deaths.

According to the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, Gaza is ill-equipped to deal with a major spike in COVID-19 cases. Mladenov cited Gaza’s crippled health system, weak infrastructure, poor living conditions as causes for concern. An estimated 40% of Palestinian households have lost more than half their income during the pandemic and many are facing food insecurity. Mladenov specifically noted that women and children in the occupied Palestinian territories are disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19. (Middle East Monitor)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats:  82,034 confirmed cases, 1,288 deaths.

Greece plans to build new camps for asylum seekers and reduce the maximum length of stay in its overcrowded camps. The country currently hosts over 90,000 migrants, 19,000 of whom reside in camps with poor living conditions. The new camps are expected to be completed by fall of 2021 and asylum seekers will no longer be kept on the islands for more than six months. (Reuters)

Tens of thousands of refugees have been quarantined indefinitely in Greece’s island camps where they are unable to social distance and lack access to masks. Lockdowns of camps continued during the summer, despite the fact that most camps had no positive cases and Greece opened up for tourism. Restrictions have disrupted access to social services, legal aid, and child education. (VICE)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 111,946 confirmed cases, 868 deaths.

Following a rise in COVID-19 cases, Lebanon entered a lockdown on Saturday that will continue until the end of November. During the month of October, 42,000 people contracted COVID-19 in Lebanon, 277 died, and hospital ICU beds reached 80% capacity. Despite the health crisis, many Lebanese are unable to comply with lockdown measures due to the ongoing economic crisis that has led to 55% of the population living in poverty, double compared to last year. (Deutsche Welle)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 365,927 confirmed cases, 7,248 deaths.

Pakistan is experiencing its highest spike in COVID-19 cases since July with new daily cases rising above 2,000. On Sunday, the percentage of tests that were positive was 7%, more than double the rate over the last four months. Pakistan responded by banning public gatherings out of concern that hospitals will be overwhelmed with cases. (Reuters)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 15,299 confirmed cases, 1,179 deaths.

Over 27,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan, fleeing violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Humanitarian organizations, including UNHCR and the World Food Programme, are responding to the crisis by delivering aid, but conditions are expected to worsen as more refugees arrive. (Radio Dabanga)

Sudan’s Ministry of Health recorded 319 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and 59 people died from the virus in a two-day period. Ministry of Health officials have cautioned that the government may implement a new lockdown due to poor adherence to health guidelines among the general population and limited testing capacity. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 6,991 confirmed cases, 363 deaths.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Northwest Syria has reached 10,633, with 89 confirmed deaths and 400 new cases recorded daily. In Idlib governorate, half the population lives in temporary shelters with limited access to running water and are unable to social distance. The area has 15 quarantine centers for mild cases and five hospitals, equipped with only 80 ventilators, for severe COVID-19 cases. (Middle East Eye)


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,072 confirmed cases, 605 deaths.

The UN and international relief organizations are removing American staff from northern Yemen in anticipation of the United States designating Ansar Allah a foreign terrorist organization. The capital city of Sana’a and the majority of Yemen’s population live in areas currently under the control of Ansar Allah. The designation is expected to hinder humanitarian response efforts and lead to greater food insecurity as the country faces famine. (Foreign Policy)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – November 13

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cover image by UNRWA/Yazan Fares.

Latest News for November 6 – November 13, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of November 13.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 427,198 confirmed cases, 6,140 deaths.
Myanmar: 64,453 confirmed cases, 1,480 deaths.

Daily COVID-19 infections in Bangladesh have risen in recent weeks as the government prepares for a surge in cases during the winter. Authorities have extended the closure of educational facilities until December 19, but many other restrictions have been lifted. According to Nazrul Islam, a member of the national technical advisory committe for COVID-19, many people are refusing to follow follow health guidlines for wearing masks and social distancing. (Reuters)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  1,165,326 confirmed cases, 33,312 deaths.
Venezuela: 95,750 confirmed cases, 838 deaths.

New waves of Venezuelan migrants are making their way to Colombia as lockdowns end and the economy reopens. Many Venezuelans returned to Venezuela this year when COVID-19 restrictions eliminated opportunities to work. The journey has become more dangerous due to border closures and migrants have a fraction of the resources and support they had in previous years. (World Politics Review)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 72,967 confirmed cases, 617 deaths.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health is requesting COVID-19 testing kits from the World Health Organization as cases continue to rise. Al-Aqsa Hospital, the main health facility serving central Gaza, is facing severe shortages of medical equipment and oxygen. The hospital’s intensive care unit is struggling to operate as the health situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate. (Middle East Monitor)

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA), which serves 5.7 million Palestinian refugees, has run out of funding. The organization will be unable to pay the full salaries of 28,000 employees involved in humanitarian efforts. Almost 17,000 Palestinian refugees have contracted COVID-19 since the begining of the pandemic. (UN News)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 63,321 confirmed cases, 909 deaths.

The Greek government has ordered a national lockdown following a surge in new COVID-19 cases. Over 10,000 new cases were recorded in a single week, representing 20% of all cases in Greece since the pandemic began. The three-week lockdown is intended to ease the strain on the health system that has slowly recovered from the decade-long financial crisis. (Voice of America)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 100,703 confirmed cases, 775 deaths.

Up to 60% of brand name drugs have become unavailable in Lebanon as the country faces a severe shortage of medications. Lebanon imports 85% of medications and is currently dealing with a historic financial crisis. The majority of Lebanon’s population has fallen below the poverty line and many are unable to access life-sustaining medications for chronic conditions. (AP News)

Lebanon will institute a two-week lockdown on Saturday in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. In October, 42,000 new cases were recorded and 277 people died. Hospitals in Lebanon are struggling to manage the health crisis and some are unable to admit patients in critical condition. The restrictions, which will continue until November 29, are expected to further harm Lebanon’s collapsing economy. (BBC News)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 349,992 confirmed cases, 7,055 deaths.

Tens of thousands of people living in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, are at risk of respiratory disease due to pollution. Air quality levels are expected to continue deteriorating in the winter, putting additional strain on Pakistan’s health system as it grapples with COVID-19. (AP News)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 14,401 confirmed cases, 1,116 deaths.

Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission expects 20,000 Ethiopian refugees to enter the country after fleeing violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Local authorities along the border are preparing for the influx of refugees and are calling for federal and international assistance. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 6,486 confirmed cases, 333 deaths.

There are at least 7,059 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Northwest Syria as of November 4. 524 new cases were recorded on November 3, the highest number of cases in a single day. The Northwest, with a population of four million, has only nine hospitals dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients and lacks the capacity to process more than 1,000 tests per day. Local authorities instituted a week-long lockdown on November 6 to slow the spread of the virus. (Doctors Without Borders).


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,072 confirmed cases, 603 deaths.

The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that Yemen will experience devastating famine within the next few months unless funding needs are immediately met. The WFP has received only $1.5 of the $3 billion required to run its humanitarian operations in Yemen. (Aljazeera)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – November 6

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Latest News for October 30 – November 6, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of November 6.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 416,006 confirmed cases, 6,021 deaths.
Myanmar: 57,935 confirmed cases, 1,352 deaths.

The government of Bangladesh is seeking to relocate 100,000 Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char, a silt island 37 miles off the coast of Bangladesh. The government cites rising rates of violence and human trafficking in Cox’s Bazar’s overcrowded camps as justification for the move. Conditions on Bhasan Char, which sits only six feet above sea level, have been described as prisonlike by the 306 rohingya who were relocated there against their will and are unable to leave. (BBC)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  1,108,084 confirmed cases, 32,013 deaths.
Venezuela: 93,480 confirmed cases, 814 deaths.

An estimated 300 Venezuelans enter Colombia each day despite the closure of land borders. The majority of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia are undocumented and informally employed. When COVID-19 lockdowns began, 100,000 Venezuelans returned to Venezuela in hopes of accessing government assistance, but most of them are expected to re-enter Colombia. When the borders eventually open, as many as 200,000 Venezuelans are predicted to enter Colombia within three to five months, bringing the total number of Venezuelans in Colombia to two million. (Reuters)

Many Venezuelans with COVID-19 or other health conditions are choosing to remain in their homes due to Venezuela’s broken health system. 30% of Venezuela’s doctors have left the country according to the Federation of Venezuelan Doctors. United Doctors of Venezuela, a non-governmental group, reports that at least 231 health care workers have died from COVID-19. In some hospitals, families of patients are forced to fill the void by feeding and caring for their relatives. (AP News)


Ecuador

Official COVID-19 Stats: 171,783 confirmed cases, 12,730 deaths.

3.1 million children in Ecuador will fall into multidimensional poverty by the end of 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19 according to a recent study by UNICEF. Approximately 715,000 households are estimated to suffer from one or more deprivations in education, food, housing, health, work, and health care. (ReliefWeb)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 68,500 confirmed cases, 580 deaths.

The Response Plan for the occupied Palestinian territories is only 49% funded. Between October 20 and November 2, 7,500 new cases of COVID-19 were reported and 81 people died. In Gaza, the number of people in ICU beds doubled within a week, but the WHO believes that the health system can manage the current caseload. (ReliefWeb)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 46,892 confirmed cases, 673 deaths.

A small fire broke out in a camp on Samos Island, destroying 15 tents. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is unknown. The camp on Samos is the most overcrowded in Greece with more than 4,200 people kept in facilities built to hold less than 650. (ABC News)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 89,186 confirmed cases, 683 deaths.

A Syrian man living as a refugee in Lebanon set himself on fire outside of the UN office in Bir Hassan after being unable to afford medical treatment for his sick daughter. Only one million of the 1.5 to two million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are registered with the UN, leaving  hundreds of thousands with barriers to accessing healthcare. (Middle East Monitor)

Lebanon’s Interior Ministry has ordered lockdowns in 115 towns and villages after a surge in COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, 1,600 new cases were recorded across Lebanon. Social gatherings are banned and many educational institutions will close. There are also concerns that the health sector will be further burdened by the flu season. (The Daily Star)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 338,875 confirmed cases, 6,893 deaths.

The disruption of polio vaccinations due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns has caused a spike in polio cases. As many as 40 million children in Pakistan were not vaccinated due to the suspension of the vaccination program on March 26. Though the campaign was resumed in July, the disruption and ongoing restrictions hinder vaccination efforts. Eighty cases of wild poliovirus and 64 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus have been reported in 2020. (Medical Xpress)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,943 confirmed cases, 837 deaths.

Regions of Sudan are experiencing blackouts from power cuts by electrical companies due to unpaid bills. The loss of electricity to the capitals of North Darfur and Red Sea state have exacerbated health, economic, and security conditions. Hospital generators are unable to sustain operations due to fuel shortages and access to water is also threatened. (Radio Dabanga)

One-fourth of Sudan’s population is facing food shortages due to a combination of flooding, rising food prices, COVID-19, and economic collapse. Millions of Sudanese also face challenges in accessing water, medical care, and basic commodities. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 6,040 confirmed cases, 305 deaths.

According to health officials in Northwest Syria, there have been at least 5,075 cases of COVID-19 and 42 deaths. More than 860 cases are among health workers, leading to fears among the general population that doctors and nurses are spreading the virus and that hospitals are unsafe. Nearly 1.5 million people live in overcrowded camps where 330 cases have been recorded and few people wear masks. (Aljazeera)

The recent escalation of conflict in Northwest Syria has created fears of new waves of mass displacement. So far this year, attacks on civilian homes and infrastructure across Idlib has displaced an estimated one million people. At the same time, heavy rains this week have caused flooding in nine IDP camps. IDPs are also dealing with the threat of COVID-19 as winter approaches. (Save The Children)

Two humanitarian workers were killed in Northwest Syria while traveling to work with children affected by the conflict. Northwest Syria is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for children. Between January and March 2020, 236 children were injured and 273 were killed by violence. (UNICEF)


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,067 confirmed cases, 602 deaths.

2,212 households were displaced in Yemen during the month of October, bringing the total number of displaced households this year to 26,376. The majority of the October displacements were people fleeing conflict in the northern governorates of Marib and Al Jawf. COVID-19 restrictions on movement and reinforced anti-migrant policies have led to the forced transfer of thousands of migrants across governorate borders and the detainment of thousands more. (ReliefWeb)

Parts of Yemen are experiencing the highest rates of acute malnutrition among children under five in the country’s history. Six years of conflict and COVID-19 have devastated Yemen’s economy and caused food prices to increase 30% as supplies dwindled. Acute malnutrition has risen 10% in southern Yemen and severe acute malnutrition has increased 16% in 2020. (The Telegraph)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 30

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Latest News for October 23 – October 30, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of October 30.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 404,760 confirmed cases, 5,886 deaths.
Myanmar: 50,403 confirmed cases, 1,199 deaths.

A recent study found that women living in poor areas of Dhaka are unwilling to give birth at medical facilities. The reluctance is rooted in fears of hidden costs, lack of support from family, norms of honor and shame, and poor communication on female health issues. While 61% of wealthy women choose to have a caesarean delivery, the same is true for only 13% of poorer women. (EurekAlert)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  1,041,935 confirmed cases, 30,753 deaths.
Venezuela: 90,876 confirmed cases, 784 deaths.

Colombia is preparing to distribute the eventual COVID-19 vaccine as the number of COVID-19 cases in Colombia passes 1 million. Colombia’s free vaccination program provides 21 different vaccinations to 50 million Colombians and also covers the 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants in the country. The government plans on spending $78 million on transportation, information campaigns, warehouse expansions, and personnel to deliver the vaccine to the first 10 million people. Health workers, people with pre-existing conditions, and people over 60 will be vaccinated first. (Reuters)


Ecuador

Official COVID-19 Stats: 166,302 confirmed cases, 12,622 deaths.

An oil spill in the Amazon river is affecting the lives of 27,000 indigenous people as they continue to struggle with COVID-19. Indigenous communities have been hard-hit by COVID-19 due to high levels of poverty, insufficient infrastructure for health and transportation, and a lack of support from the government. In addition to losing access to clean water, the contaminated river is the source of 70% of the communities’ food. (Americas Quarterly)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 64,237 confirmed cases, 545 deaths.

Unemployment in Gaza has reached 70% as three-quarters of all factories remain closed due to COVID-19. 250,000 people are currently unemployed, including 140,000 who lost their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19, and Gaza’s economy has lost $40 million. Sami Al-Ammasi, the head of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, is calling for the creation of an emergency fund to assist those affected and their families. (Middle East Monitor)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 34,299 confirmed cases, 603 deaths.

Frontex, the EU border agency, has been accused of illegally pushing back asylum seekers in the Aegean sea following a joint investigation by several news outlets. There are six documented instances where the agency was directly involved in, or in close proximity to, pushbacks. There are also accusations that the Greek coast guard has been directly involved in pushbacks of asylum seekers. (The Guardian)

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is urging the Greek government to scale up and improve the COVID-19 response in Vathy camp. The camp has had more than 100 cases of COVID-19 among a population of 4,300. Some people have been forced to quarantine in dirty containers without access to running water, bedding, or toilets. MSF staff in the camp report that many residents are afraid to seek medical attention out of fear of being quarantined. (Médecins Sans Frontières)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 77,778 confirmed cases, 610 deaths.

A recent report by five humanitarian organizations found that women are facing increased risks and are unable to access assistance following the Beirut blast. The destruction of homes and shelters have increased the risk of gender-based violence and fear of abuse, harassment, and discrimination deter women from seeking humanitarian assistance. The report calls for a more tailored approach to address the specific needs of marginalized groups, including female-headed households that represent 51% of the affected population. (CARE International)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 331,108 confirmed cases,  6,775 deaths.

Pakistan’s health and surveillance systems designed to eradicate polio are simultaneously supporting the COVID-19 response. Existing surveillance networks, medical teams, data management systems, and call centers are being used to track COVID-19 cases and correct misinformation while continuing to fight the spread of polio. (World Health Organization)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,772 confirmed cases, 837 deaths.

The World Bank has created a $22 million emergency fund for COVID-19 relief in Sudan. Multiple crises, including historic flooding, have engendered widespread hunger and more than 4.5 million people are currently at risk of vector-borne. Sudan’s Central Pharmacists’ Committee has warned of dire shortages of essential drugs for chronic and life-threatening diseases. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 5,633 confirmed cases, 281 deaths.

One-third of children under five in Syria are suffering from chronic malnutrition. COVID-19, a weak economy, and inflation have caused many Syrians to fall below the poverty line as food prices rise. According to Save the Children, one in eight children in Syria have had their growth stunted due to malnutrition. The number increases to one in six children in the Northwest where 1.5 million IDPs live in camps. (The New Humanitarian)

COVID-19 is spreading uncontrolled within overcrowded refugee camps in Idlib. Daily testing remains low and only symptomatic people who come forward are tested, leading to positive test rates of up to 40%. The stigma around the disease deters many from seeking testing or medical aid when symptoms develop. There are only 600 doctors in Northwest Syria serving a population of four million. The humanitarian situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming winter due to shortages of medical supplies, food, and fuel. (BBC)


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,066 confirmed cases, 600 deaths.

Nearly 100,000 children under the age of five are at risk of dying from malnutrition as Yemen faces famine. COVID-19, an economic crisis, and the ongoing conflict have all contributed to food insecurity in Yemen as funding from donors has dropped significantly. In August, the UN shut down over one-third of its humanitarian aid programs due to funding gaps. Serious malnutrition in southern Yemen has risen 10% in 2020, but has risen 15% among children under five. At least 250,000 breast feeding women need treatment for malnutrition. (The Guardian)

A study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimates that 2,100 Yemenis may have died due to COVID-19. Researchers analysed satellite images of known cemeteries and calculated the number of excess deaths between April and September. The estimate is a reflection of people who may have died as a direct result of contracting COVID-19 or indirectly due to COVID-19 related disruptions in healthcare and other services. (Reuters)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 23

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Latest News for October 16 – October 23, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of October 23.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 394,827 confirmed cases, 5,747 deaths.
Myanmar: 41,008 confirmed cases, 1,005 deaths.

International donors have pledged $597 billion to support the humanitarian response for Rohingya Refugees living in Bangladesh. The additional funding meets the $1 billion target set for 2020. Nearly a million Rohingya live in crowded camps in Bangladesh after fleeing violence by the Myanmar military in 2017. Attempts at repatriation have repeatedly failed as refugees refuse to return without guarantees of basic rights. (Reuters)

A group of 35 civil society groups have called on the United States and other countries to recognize the violence committed against the Rohingya as acts of genocide. The government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, despite them living in Myanmar for generations. In 2017, the military carried out a violent campaign against the Rohingya under the guise of counterinsurgency. UN officials have found evidence of ethinic cleansing and have warned about ongoing acts of genocide against the Rohingya remaining in Myanmar. There is currently an ongoing genocide investigation being carried out in the the International Court of Justice. (Aljazeera)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  981,700 confirmed cases, 29,464 deaths.
Venezuela: 87,644 confirmed cases, 747 deaths.

Colombia’s migration agency has reported that over the past month, Venezuelan migrants have resumed crossing into Colombia through informal crossing points. Colombia’s borders are currently closed until at least November 1. The number of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia was 1.73 million at the end of July and is expected to increase to 2 million within three to five months from when the border reopens. (Reuters)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 60,670 confirmed cases, 506 deaths.

According to UN OCHA, there are 1,893 active cases of COVID-19 in Gaza. Between October 5—19, 1,400 new cases of community transmission were reported and five people died, bringing the death toll up to 28 in Gaza. The COVID-19 response plan for the occupied Palestinian territories is only 49% funded. (ReliefWeb)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 27,334 confirmed cases, 534 deaths.

Oxfam and the Greek Council of Refugees have condemned living conditions at the new refugee camp at Kara Tepe. The camp’s 8,000 residents are living close to the sea in tents that do not provide adequate protection from the weather and are not suited for winter. The camp does not have a drainage and sewer system and there is scant access to running water. Health care services are limited and there is no access to legal aid for asylum seekers. (Aljazeera)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 67,027 confirmed cases, 552 deaths.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the Lebanese economy will shrink 25% this year. The economies of the MENA region are expected to contract 5% overall due to the effects of COVID-19, but the pre-existing economic crisis in Lebanon has made it highly susceptible to the economic shock of the pandemic. (Al Jazeera)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 325,473 confirmed cases, 6,702 deaths.

Up to 1.4 million children in Pakistan are at risk of homelessness following historic flooding. Long-term disruptions to child education is expected due to dozens of schools being damaged or destroyed by flooding. There are also concerns about the spread of diseases like COVID-19, malaria, and dengue among the displaced. The destruction of crops have also led to fears of food shortages, especially in rural areas. (Save the Children)

Pakistan’s COVID-19 mortality rate has increased 140% compared to previous weeks. The National Command and Operations Center, the body in charge of managing Pakistan’s COVID-19 response, has warned that stricter measures, including lockdowns, will be put in place if people fail to follow health guidelines. (The Hindu)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,724 confirmed cases, 836 deaths.

The Darfur Displaced and Refugees General Coordination has requested help from international humanitarian aid organizations in supporting the thousands of people displaced by historic flooding in recent months. Displaced persons living in camps suffer from shortages of food, water, and shelter and there are now high incidence rates of malaria and diarrhea. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 5,267 confirmed cases, 260 deaths.

COVID-19 Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) Survey: Northwest Syria – September 2020. The goal of this survey is to understand the gaps that exist in the knowledge, attitudes and practices of the Syrian population with regards to COVID-19 and to provide partners with information to find ways to fill the gaps. This factsheet presents descriptive statistics from the survey data collected from 1,939 respondents, conducted by REACH in Idlib and Aleppo governorates in Northwest Syria. Descriptive statistics include each specific KAP indicator, disaggregated by governorate, sex, and rural/urban population. (ReliefWeb)


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,061 confirmed cases, 599 deaths.

In order to expand health care access for Yemeni children, UNICEF and the European Union are supporting The Community Health Worker Project. The project trains female health workers from targeted areas in child care and reproductive health. The community health workers play a lifesaving role in areas that lack access to health facilities and provide vital immunization and nutrition services for children. (Forbes)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 16

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Latest News for October 9 – October 16, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of October 16.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 384,559 confirmed cases, 5,608 deaths.
Myanmar: 32,351 confirmed cases, 765 deaths.

ACAPS recently released a report focusing on the gendered impact of COVID-19 on Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh. The Report found that women, children, transgender persons, and those with disabilities all face additional barriers to accessing health services. Gender-based violence and child marriage is also increasing as access to support has become more restricted. (ReliefWeb)

Nearly 30,000 Rohingya children are participating in the UNHCR’s mental health program during lockdown in Cox’s Bazar. The program aims to help children learn to manage anxiety and depression by discussing their feelings in group settings with other children their age. (UNHCR)


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  930,159 confirmed cases, 28,306 deaths.
Venezuela: 85,005 confirmed cases, 714 deaths.

According to local health officials, intensive care units in Bogota are at 64% capacity. There are 89,925 active cases as the country continues to implement selective quarantine measures until the end of October. Land and sea borders remain closed and large public events are banned, but international flights and restaurant dining is permitted. (Reuters)

Approximately 130,000 Venezuelan migrants have returned to Venezuela due to outbreaks of COVID-19 in host countries. Many of those who return are confined in unsanitary and overcrowded quarantine centers with limited access to food, water, and medical care. In many cases, people are detained for weeks longer than the WHO recommended 14 days. (Human Rights Watch)


Ecuador

Official COVID-19 Stats: 150,360 confirmed cases, 12,306 deaths.

The WHO recently donated medical kits and supplies to Ecuador’s Ministry of Health to support ambulances working in the Amazon region. The donation includes masks, thermometers, and portable oxygen tanks. (World Health Organization)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 57,441 confirmed cases, 471 deaths.

The World Health Organization delivered five COVID-19 examination kits to the Gaza Health Ministry. The kits will enable health workers to conduct 10,000 COVID-19 tests. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that of the 55,951 Palestinians who have contracted COVID-19 and the 455 who have died, 4,100 of the cases and 26 of the deaths were in Gaza. (Middle East Monitor)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 23,495 confirmed cases, 469 deaths.

Residents of Kara Tepe camp, built following the destruction of Moria camp, are reportedly suffering under poor conditions. Despite having an official capacity of 8,000, Kara Tepe currently hosts 9,370 of the 12,000 people displaced from Moria. The camp lacks electricity, sanitary facilities, and sufficient food delivery. Social distancing is impossible in the camp and limited testing has led to fears of a COVID-19 outbreak. The camp’s proximity to the sea has exposed residents to harsh weather and the risk of flash flooding will increase in winter. The area’s former use as a military training site also puts residents in danger of brain and kidney damage from particles of lead in the air and ground. (ACAPS)

The European Union is in the process of negotiating a Pact on Asylum and Migration to improve the distribution of asylum seekers among member states. There are concerns among humanitarian organizations that the new pact fails to solve the humanitarian crises and human rights violations occurring within the EU, specifically in Greece. Refugees International has called on the Greek government to increase funding and capacity for refugee integration and investigate allegations of abuses and illegal pushbacks. (The New Humanitarian)


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 1,399 confirmed cases, 501 deaths.

The COVID-19 mortality rate among Palestinians in Lebanon is 2.4%, more than double the national rate. As of October 5, there have been 1,282 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Palestinian refugees and 31 deaths. Of the 224,901 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, an estimated 36,000 will need intensive care. (Middle East Monitor)

Lebanon’s health system is suffering from shortages of medications and supplies. Some health professionals are working in damaged facilities and others are furloughed due to the economic crisis or quarantined due to COVID-19. An increasing number of people are avoiding preventative care for financial reasons and are only seeking medical attention when their conditions worsen. (Direct Relief)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 321,218 confirmed cases, 6,614 deaths.

The government of Pakistan is instituting limited lockdowns in Karachi, Islamabad, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as the country experiences a surge in cases. Daily infection rates have doubled compared to August with 615 new cases reported on October 14. The recent outbreak is linked to the reopening of schools and universities in September. (Asia Times)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,691 confirmed cases, 836 deaths.

56 people have died and more than 2,000 have suffered from high fevers and bleeding in Northern State. It is unknown whether many of the infected are suffering from COVID-19 or Chikungunya. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 4,931 confirmed cases, 238 deaths.

The Autonomous Administration for North and East Syria (AANES) has started allowing residents of Al-Hol camp to return to their homes. The camp hosts 70,000 people, including the families of ISIS fighters. As many as 24,000 Syrians will be released from the camp in order to relieve overcrowding that the ANNES says has made the situation unsustainable. Camp residents with close ties to ISIS will not be allowed to leave. (Voice of America)

The Syrian government is preparing for a surge in COVID-19 cases as experts raise concerns that the true extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in Syria is unknown. According to the WHO, limited testing by the government means that the actual number of COVID-19 cases in Syria is significantly higher than reported. The UN has warned that 90% of new cases cannot be traced to a known source, an indication that there is widespread community transmission. The number of infections among health workers is rising and the health system is suffering from shortages of medical staff and supplies. (BBC


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,057 confirmed cases, 597 deaths.

Since the start of 2020, there have been nearly 200,000 suspected cases of Cholera in Yemen. The number of cases is 72% lower compared to the same period in 2019. The WHO attributes the fall in the number of new cases to efforts to improve water treatment in Yemen and the building of diarrhea treatment centers. (Middle East Monitor)

Fighting has intensified in Al Hudaydah governorate, killing 38 civilians and displacing 73 households. A health center was struck by fighting, restricting healthcare access for 32,173 households. (ReliefWeb)

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 9

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Latest News for October 2 – October 9, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of October 2.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 374,592 confirmed cases, 5,460 deaths.
Myanmar: 22,445 confirmed cases, 535 deaths.

The UN is calling on Bangladesh to do more to combat child marriage as part of its goal to eliminate the practice by 2041. The rate of child marriage has fallen from 90% in 1970 to 51%, but prolonged school closures and economic hardship from COVID-19 are increasing the risk of underage marriage. (Reuters)

Additional Readings 

Refugees International: Complex Road to Recovery: COVID-19, Cyclone Amphan, Monsoon Flooding Collide in Bangladesh and India
World Vision: Rohingya Refugee Response COVID-19 Report, September 2020


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia: 877,683 confirmed cases, 27,180 deaths.
Venezuela: 80,404 confirmed cases, 671 deaths.

Thousands of Venezuelans are leaving their country as the economics of other South American countries begin to recover from the economic shocks of COVID-19 and lockdowns. Over five million people have left Venezuela since 2015. According to migrants, the pandemic has made the journey tougher and more dangerous. The closing of land borders has caused many migrants to turn to illegal border crossings that are controlled by criminal groups. Shelters that previously housed migrants have also closed due to concerns of spreading the virus, forcing migrants to sleep on the streets. Colombian officials have said they expect 200,000 more Venezuelan migrants to enter the country before the end of the year. (BBC)


Ecuador

Official COVID-19 Stats: 145,045 confirmed cases, 12,141 deaths. 

The International Monetary Fund has approved a $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility agreement to help Ecuador manage and recover from COVID-19. The goal of the program is to stabilize the economy, expand social assistance programs, and improve transparency on revenue and spending. The new financing will provide funding for health and education services and support vulnerable Ecuadorians through the use of cash transfers. (International Monetary Fund)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 54,355 confirmed cases, 422 deaths.

Suicides in the occupied Palestinian territories have increased since last year as the mental health crisis has worsened. According to a 2017 study, the main causes of mental health deterioration in Gaza are violence, poor living conditions, increasing poverty, and a sense of hopelessness. COVID-19 and the worsening economic situation have contributed to increases in gender-based violence and a spike in calls to mental health hotlines. The mental health system in Gaza is underdeveloped and lacks the resources and personnel to make mental health services accessible. (UN OCHA)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 20,947 confirmed cases, 424 deaths. 

Residents of Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos may be at risk of lead poisoning due to the area’s prior use as a military firing range. Asylum seekers in the camp have found shrapnel and used ammunition fragments strewn about the site. Toxicologists warn that invisible residue may be harming residents, especially children and pregnant women. There are currently 8,630 people living in Kara Tepe. (Aljazeera)

Despite promises by the European Commission for a fresh start on migration following the destruction of Moria camp, thousands of asylum seekers remain trapped in overcrowded camps in Greece. Kara Tepe camp, which has 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases, reportedly has no showers, is overcrowded, and many residents are forced to sleep on dirt and rocks. Vathy camp, located on the island of Samos, has 90 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,500 residents despite having the capacity for only 650. (Doctors Without Borders)

Additional Readings 

The New Humanitarian: Greece’s ‘New Tactic’ of Migrant Expulsion From Deep Inside its Land Borders
Human Rights Watch: Greece: Investigate Pushbacks, Violence at Borders


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 49,744 confirmed cases, 439 deaths.

Hospitals in Lebanon are struggling to manage the COVID-19 crisis as new cases surge. Several hospitals were severely damaged by the Beirut port explosion in August and the financial crisis has left many medical facilities unable to pay bills and purchase supplies. Intensive care units are at 82% capacity and some hospitals have begun doubling prices and furloughing staff in order to remain open. New cases of COVID-19 are also rising as restaurants, shops, and bars remain open and partial lockdowns are loosely followed. (Reuters)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 317,595 confirmed cases, 6,552 deaths.

According to the Government of Pakistan, 39 million children were vaccinated against polio during a nationwide campaign from September 21 to 25. Immunization efforts were previously interrupted in February by the outbreak of COVID-19. More immunization campaigns will be conducted during the last week of October in select districts. (ReliefWeb)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,670 confirmed cases, 836 deaths. 

West Darfur has declared a State of Health Emergency following 41 confirmed cases of chikungunya fever. The number of Malaria cases in the state is also increasing following an unusually heavy rainy season. The governor of West Darfur, Mohamed El Doma, is calling on UN agencies and other organizations for assistance as many health facilities in the state are overcrowded and lack adequate medical supplies, staff, and capacity to respond to the health crisis. (Radio Dabanga)

Sudan’s Ministry of Health, with the support of the WHO and UNICEF, will begin a national polio vaccination campaign this month. The goal of the campaign is to immunize 8.6 million children under the age of five. Thousands of children missed vaccinations this year due to COVID-19 and cases of polio emerged in Sudan in August. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 4,566 confirmed cases, 215 deaths. 

At least 148 Syrian medical workers have died from COVID-19 according to unofficial reporting by the Syrian Medical Association. The head of the Syrian Lawyers Union has also reported that a large number of lawyers have died and suggested that COVID-19 may be spreading through the state courts. The cemetery designated for COVID-19 victims in Damascus is averaging 40 burials per day and is currently in the process of digging a mass grave capable of holding thousands of bodies. The official number of COVID-19 deaths from the Syrian government is 209. (Reuters)

Three humanitarian workers were injured by a car bomb in Al-Bab city in Northwest Syria. Syria Relief & Development, a humanitarian organization, reported that the injured were part of a COVID-19 referral system working to contain the spread of the virus. Northwest Syria is recording 100 new cases of COVID-19 daily as health facilities suffer from shortages of staff and equipment. (The New Arab)   

The World Health Organization estimates that 50% of Syria’s 550 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed due to conflict. According to the UN, up to 70% of healthcare workers have fled the country, leaving only 1 doctor per 10,000 people. In Northwest Syria, where COVID-19 cases increased 1000% in September, health workers make up 35% of all confirmed cases. (Newsweek)

Additional Readings

Aljazeera: In COVID-Hit Syria, People ‘Prefer to Die Than Come to Hospital’


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,054 confirmed cases, 594 deaths.

Funding shortages have caused over one-third of the UN’s humanitarian programs in Yemen to reduce operations or shut down entirely. This includes reductions in food distributions across the country and cuts to services at 300 health facilities. So far this year, donors have given $1.6 billion to humanitarian efforts, only 40% of what the UN requires to supply water, food, shelter, and medicine to the 24.3 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian aid. (ReliefWeb)

The humanitarian situation in Yemen is deteriorating as several different crises worsen simultaneously and funding is cut. The true number of COVID-19 cases and deaths is likely significantly higher than official figures and humanitarian groups are concerned that a second wave will hit. Cholera remains a serious threat, infecting an estimated 180,000 people in 2020 and killing at least 48 as of August. Tens of thousands of Yemenis were also affected by widespread flooding that forced many to flee their homes. At the same time, funding for humanitarian response efforts is running out as donor countries deal with retracting economies at home and cite concerns about aid obstruction and diversion in Yemen. (The New Humanitarian)

Two-thirds of Yemenis are food insecure and millions are on the verge of starvation. Nearly six years of conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and crippled the economy. Action by all actors involved in the conflict have directly exacerbated the humanitarian crisis by cutting off humanitarian access and destroying infrastructure. (The Economist

Additional Readings 

Action on Armed Violence: The Impact of Explosive Violence on Children in Yemen
Reuters: Yemen’s War Shifts Focus to Marib, Thousands of Displaced at Risk

Our Global COVID-19 Response: 6 Months In

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, MedGlobal increased the scope and scale of its medical responses, providing critical supplies and training for the COVID-19 response while continuing to support core health services. We know that COVID-19 has the most severe impact on vulnerable communities, and our COVID-19 response has particularly focused on supporting healthcare access for refugees, displaced people, and other marginalized populations. We have supported COVID-19 prevention and response efforts in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and the United States. As the pandemic continues, we will continue to work with local medical professionals to innovate our health response to best protect health staff and support communities with a range of health services.

Our Global Response in Numbers:

  • Responded to COVID-19 outbreaks in 10 countries.
  • Provided more than $1.85 million towards the COVID-19 response globally
  • Donated over 982,000 items of personal protective equipment (PPE) and over 37,000 critical medical supplies, such as PCR machines, oxygen cylinders, ventilators, sanitizing materials, and other supplies to help communities protect themselves from COVID-19 and to treat those who are affected.
  • Trained 393 healthcare workers.
  • Reached more than 1.75 million people through our COVID-19 response in just 6 months.

Join us in supporting communities around the world with critical healthcare.

How We Are Responding to COVID-19

Over the last 6 months of the pandemic, our medical teams have worked to meet the specific needs of vulnerable communities in 10 different countries. We could not have done this work without all of our donors, including the Latter-day Saints Charities, who have generously supported our life-saving COVID-19 programs. Our core objectives in our global COVID-19 response are: 

  • Protect Health Workers. During the pandemic, physicians and health staff have become frontline workers who risk their lives daily to treat patients. Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gloves, and gowns, is critical in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 from patients to the medical professionals who treat them. MedGlobal has distributed over 982,000 items of PPE to health workers around the world. MedGlobal particularly focuses on supporting health staff in countries like Yemen and Syria, where health infrastructure has been decimated by war and there are less than half the health workers necessary to meet the WHO’s benchmark for basic health coverage.
  • Serve Patients with COVID-19. For patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms who require hospitalization, oxygen is key. Working with health facilities that primarily treat refugees, displaced persons, and other vulnerable communities, MedGlobal identified the key needs and best means of oxygen provision to fit the local contexts. In Colombia, Gaza, and Syria, we provided ventilators to support COVID-19 patients in hospitals, as well as CPAP and BIPAP machines, which are non-invasive ventilators for people suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms. In Syria and Yemen, MedGlobal distributed hundreds of oxygen concentrators to hospitals, which will deliver oxygen to COVID-19 patients and others with respiratory distress. 
  • Improve COVID-19 Testing Capacities: In underserved areas around the world, the lack of access to COVID-19 testing can lead to a wider spread of the virus. In Gaza, hospitals suffer from a 65% shortage of laboratory supplies, which affects COVID-19 testing and other needs of patients. MedGlobal supported the local testing capacity in Gaza by providing 10,000 test kits and a critically needed PCR machine, to allow for more rapid testing. Domestically, MedGlobal also supported the Saint Anthony’s Hospital in Chicago, which primarily treats underserved communities of immigrants and people of color, with a PCR machine and test kits. 
  • Train Health Workers in Critical Skills: Training for medical professionals in COVID-19 prevention and patient management is critical, as health workers adapt to this unfamiliar context. Based on the local health worker needs, MedGlobal launched online trainings focused on key COVID-19 response and preparedness practices. We initiated two online training series for clinic staff Bangladesh to help them best treat Rohingya refugee communities in the Cox’s Bazar camps, and a four-part online training for physicians and nurses in Santa Elena, Ecuador who were facing the epicenter of Ecuador’s coronavirus outbreak. 
  • Support Mental Health: The fear of contracting COVID-19, isolation from social distancing, difficulties from significant changes in daily life, and other added stresses are taking a mental health toll. The MedGlobal team believes that mental health is a priority alongside physical health, and has scaled up its mental health and psychosocial support through activities like training for Bangladesh clinic staff in promotion of mental healthcare for the staff themselves, and a mental health referral network in downtown Beirut following the port explosion.
  • Build Health Facility Capacity: Many health facilities in conflict-affected and low-resource settings already lacked key infrastructure and equipment pre-COVID, and found themselves overwhelmed as the pandemic hit. In Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and in our headquarters of Chicago, Illinois, MedGlobal worked with local health facilities to identify key needs, and provide the most-needed supplies. We worked to improve hospitals’ and isolation units’ capacity for patient management through donating critical supplies and equipment like hospital beds, infrared thermometers, disinfectant, PCR machines and ktis, and more. 
  • Lead Health Education for Communities: Community-based health awareness and education campaigns are key to ensure that people are informed about how to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Around the world, MedGlobal has worked with local communities and health workers to support health education campaigns ensuring that local knowledge and cultures inform COVID-19 prevention and response work. MedGlobal distributed educational brochures on social isolation and personal hygiene to quarantine centers in Gaza, led health education sessions for clinic patients in Bangladesh on handwashing and COVID-19 symptoms, and launched a training series for health workers in Ecuador who led their own COVID-19 education campaigns based on MedGlobal training.

Our International Response 

Bangladesh 

Over 900,000 Rohingya refugees currently live in camps in Cox’s Bazar. The living conditions in these camps are grim, with a lack of sanitation and medical facilities, shortage of soap, extreme overcrowding, and poor water quality. On May 14, the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed inside the camps. 

MedGlobal’s primary health clinic, which we support alongside OBAT Helpers and Prantic, in Cox’s Bazar has remained open to provide ongoing care for Rohingya refugee patients. Working with MedGlobal health experts, clinic staff established triage procedures, clinical management protocols, and health education sessions for patients on handwashing, social isolation, and COVID-19 symptoms. MedGlobal also initiated two online training series for clinic staff, on the topics of COVID-19 management practices and the promotion of mental healthcare for the staff themselves and their patients. MedGlobal helped to provide the clinic with supplies to adapt to the pandemic, including over 4,800 PPE sets and critically needed supplies like infrared thermometers. The MedGlobal team is also in the process of building a central oxygen line to Ukhia Upazila Health Complex. In addition to the on-the-ground health response, MedGlobal detailed the latest health needs and challenges during the pandemic in a report based on comprehensive needs assessments, Rohingya Refugees & COVID-19: Facing the Pandemic in the World’s Most Densely Populated Refugee Camps.

Colombia 

Colombia hosts 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants and refugees. While Colombian hospitals provide free emergency care to migrants, non-emergency services are not covered and overwhelmed health facilities make healthcare difficult to access. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation. 

MedGlobal partners with Institucion Prestadora de Servicio Medcare Colombia S.A.S. to operate a primary care clinic supporting maternal and child health services in Cúcuta, Colombia, on the border of Venezuela. In this setting, MedGlobal supports Venezuelan migrants, refugees, and underserved Colombians, primarily pregnant women and young children. As COVID-19 spread in Colombia, MedGlobal adapted our services to scale up COVID-19 response support while continuing to provide comprehensive maternal and reproductive health services. MedGlobal donated 3 portable ventilators to University Hospital Erasmo Meoz in Cúcuta, which are used for a newly constructed COVID-19 treatment center, and 330 hygiene kits to the local community. MedGlobal also redirected local medical clinic staff to help with the COVID-19 response based on the overall community needs.

Ecuador 

Ecuador’s COVID-19 outbreak wreaked havoc on Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city with over 2.7 million inhabitants. The city became the epicenter of the outbreak in Ecuador and thousands died during the early months of the pandemic.

MedGlobal worked with urgency to support this community, providing over 70,000 PPE items and medications for 6,000 patients in Santa Elena, more than any other NGO. MedGlobal and our partners Parametria and the MUEVE Foundation also supported 500 families of displaced Venezuelans in Guayaquil neighborhoods who were greatly impacted by COVID-19 with food and hygiene kits. In partnership with Santa Elena Governorate and Parametria, MedGlobal launched a four-part virtual training for health workers in Santa Elena. These health workers conducted home visits for patients, primarily those with non-communicable diseases, and led COVID-19 education campaigns based on MedGlobal training. MedGlobal also provided training on basic concepts on clinical management of COVID-19 patients for local physicians and nurses. We also helped conduct a survey to learn more about socio-demographics and perceptions and knowledge of COVID-19 within the province, to help better inform the response.

Gaza

COVID-19 cases were first documented in Gaza in early March, but the virus did not begin to spread rapidly until August. Gaza’s fragile health system, with only 87 ventilators, is ill-equipped to manage the needs of its 2 million people.

Along with our partner Rahma Worldwide, MedGlobal has donated critical supplies to local hospitals, including over 630,000 PPE items and 12,000 hand sanitizers. MedGlobal also provided 10,000 COVID-19 test kits and a critically needed PCR machine, to help build testing capacity and stem the spread of the virus. Furthermore, MedGlobal distributed educational brochures on social isolation and personal hygiene to quarantine centers. In addition to the COVID-19 response, MedGlobal continues to support core healthcare in Gaza. MedGlobal and Rahma Worldwide together fund the pediatrics ICU department of the Kamal Adwan Hospital. This emergency pediatrics department is critical, particularly as the people in Gaza are cut off from external healthcare, and its medical staff have saved over 100 children’s lives. MedGlobal also supports life-saving dialysis treatments for patients with cancer or kidney disease.

Greece

MedGlobal has been providing healthcare to refugees in the Moria camp on Lesvos Island, Greece, since 2018 by supporting a health clinic along with our partner Kitrinos Healthcare. MedGlobal particularly supported the salaries of a local physician and nurse. In the first few months of the pandemic, MedGlobal launched an online training for health clinic staff on COVID-19 preparedness and clinical management of COVID-19 patients.

On September 8, devastating fires tore through the overcrowded Moria camp, burning the camp to the ground and forcing thousands of refugees and asylum seekers to flee. This fire occurred just one week after COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the camp.The fire destroyed the health clinic MedGlobal supports, along with all of its medical equipment, supplies, and medicine in the clinic. Thankfully, our clinic staff, partners, and their families are safe. MedGlobal is now working with Kitrinos to assess how best we can support healthcare for refugees and migrants on Lesvos Island as they cope with displacement, uncertainty, and the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lebanon

Lebanon is facing a spiralling economic crisis and growing needs among the population, while simultaneously trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, Lebanon remains the country with the largest number of refugees per capita, including over 1.5 million Syrian refugees. In collaboration with our partner Multi Aid Programs (MAPs), MedGlobal has supported health facilities in Bekaa with medication and over $12,000 of critically needed PPE. These facilities primarily serve Syrian refugees, who are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. MedGlobal has also provided the facilities with over 55,000 medications and over 20,000 of the most needed medical supplies, so their health providers can continue to serve refugees and members of the local community.  

The devastating Beirut port explosion on August 4 further exacerbated the political, economic, and humanitarian crises in the country. In addition to our COVID-19 response, MedGlobal launched an emergency response, which established a medical tent that provided care for affected individuals during the first month post-blast, when hospitals were most overwhelmed. MedGlobal also provided local hospitals with critically needed supplies, to fill gaps following the surge in healthcare needs after the explosion. MedGlobal is providing medications and PPE to Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut and, in collaboration with United Hands Relief and Development, supporting Rizk Hospital in Beirut with the most needed medications, supplies, and equipment.

Sudan

In Sudan, communities are facing the COVID-19 pandemic alongside other crises like a recent polio outbreak and the effects of record-breaking floods. Throughout Sudan, health facilities are facing major shortages of medications and funding to mitigate COVID-19 and other health crises. MedGlobal responded to the COVID-19 crisis in Sudan by supporting 8 hospitals in Khartoum, Al-Gezira, North Kordofan, West Kordofan, Qadarif, and Sennar, through the provision of PPE and medical equipment. MedGlobal provided over 86,000 PPE items to local health workers and supplied hospitals with their most critically needed supplies, such as non-contact thermometers and oxygen regulators. Along with this support, MedGlobal is also in the process of building an oxygen generator at Nyala Teaching Hospital in South Darfur, which will be able to support patients with extreme COVID-19 symptoms or other respiratory illnesses in an extremely underserved community.

Syria

In Syria, the conflict has led to staggering levels of death and need inside the country, decimated the country’s medical infrastructure, and led to the world’s largest displacement crisis. The impact of the pandemic is adding to an already dire humanitarian situation in Syria, nine years into the emergency conflict. 

In northwest Syria, MedGlobal, alongside our partner Rahma Worldwide, has worked to provide oxygen concentrators, crucial to help COVID-19 patients experiencing severe symptoms to breathe, and other support to health facilities and isolation units in Darkoush and Idlib City. MedGlobal also worked with local partners to distribute over 58,000 PPE items and 5,000 personal hygiene kits to support vulnerable Syrian families in the Atmeh IDP camp. Additionally, in August MedGlobal began to provide 200 oxygen concentrators and 100 CPAP and BIPAP machines, or non-invasive ventilators to help people who are suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms breathe, to cities throughout Syria in partnership with local independent NGOs. These medical supplies will support upwards of 2,000 people, primarily those with COVID-19 who are not financially able to access healthcare, over the next 6 months in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Hama, Zabadani, Bludan, and Safita.

Yemen

More than five years of conflict, health crises, and malnutrition have left 80% of Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance. Only half of Yemen’s healthcare facilities are fully functional, but of these, many lack basic equipment, including the gloves, masks, and oxygen necessary for treating COVID-19 patients. 

Since the COVID-19 outbreak spread to Yemen, MedGlobal, in coordination with our local partners Rahma Worldwide and Life Foundation, has supported local hospitals and isolation centers with supplies to protect medical staff as they treat patients, and critical oxygen and medical equipment to treat those with severe COVID-19 symptoms. We have provided over 98,000 PPE items to protect medical staff – particularly important in Yemen, where there are only 10 healthcare workers for every 10,000 people, less than half of the WHO benchmark for basic health coverage. MedGlobal also provided 139 oxygen cylinders to several hospitals in governorates across Yemen. Oxygen supplies to treat patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms is particularly critical in Yemen, as the official COVID-19 mortality rate is 29%, over 5 times the global average. With COVID-19 numbers spiking, MedGlobal worked with local medical professionals to put together the report A Tipping Point for Yemen’s Health System: The Impact of COVID-19 in a Fragile State which documented the deaths of over 100 health workers in Yemen from COVID-19 and provided policies recommendations. In addition to the COVID-19 response, MedGlobal continues to support local hospitals in Aden, Marib, Al-Hudaydah, Taiz, Hadramout, and Sana’a with critical medicine, ultrasound machines, cardiac equipment, surgical supplies, and hospital beds.


Our Domestic Response:

Domestically, MedGlobal is committed to supporting hospitals and testing sites which focus on supporting particularly marginalized and underserved communities. These communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with both higher rates of infection and mortality from the virus. The latest overall COVID-19 mortality rate for Black Americans is 2.4 times as high as the rate for White Americans, and in several states like Arizona, the COVID-19 mortality rate for Indigenous people is more than 5 times that of other groups. This dramatic disparity has roots in the centuries of structural racism in the United States, which is itself a public health crisis.

Chicago

In Chicago, African Americans account for more than half of all COVID-19 cases and 72% of COVID-19 related deaths, despite making up 30% of the population. MedGlobal is proud to support Saint Anthony Hospital in Chicago, which is a safety-net hospital that primarily treats underserved communities of immigrants, people of color, and those facing economic hardship. MedGlobal donated over 12,000 PPE items, a point-of-care ultrasound device, and a PCR machine, which will allow for rapid COVID-19 testing, to Saint Anthony Hospital. We also helped Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) to launch a much-needed drive-through community testing site in Chicago, in order to reduce the barriers to seeking testing, and supported testing center staff with over 9,000 PPE items.

Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation spans across a 27,413 mile area and has a population of 173,000 people. A third of households lack access to electricity and running water and healthcare facilities have only 1 bed for every 900 residents, a third of the national average. As of October 4, the Navajo Nation has had over 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 559 deaths. 

MedGlobal provided support for the Chinle Comprehensive Healthcare Facility, a hospital which serves as the healthcare hub for the Navajo Nation in Arizona. We donated medical supplies and equipment that are critical to treat COVID-19 patients, and recruited nurse volunteers who were urgently needed to staff the hospital.

Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 2

MedGlobal will be putting out a Weekly Humanitarian News Digest, with a compilation of key news stories related to our countries of operation. Each week, we will highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We will also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Latest News for September 25 – October 2, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of October 2.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 364,987 confirmed cases, 5,272 deaths.
Myanmar: 14,383 confirmed cases, 321 deaths.

Health officials in Bangladesh are concerned about a surge of COVID-19 cases in winter as many Bangladeshis return to life as normal. Some observers in Bangladesh believe that a lack of daily briefings by the government has led to a decrease in awareness and concern among the general public. Many poor Bangladeshis are also unable to follow safety guidelines that affect their ability to work. The chairperson of the national technical advisory committee on coronavirus, Mohammad Shahidullah, has warned that the lack of adherence to safety guidelines could make the spread of COVID-19 more dangerous. Deutsche Welle

Additional Readings 
Tackling fear, mistrust and COVID in Bangladesh camps


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia: 829,679 confirmed cases, 25,998 deaths.
Venezuela: 75,122 confirmed cases, 628 deaths.

The Colombian government is extending “selective quarantine” through the month of October. Selective quarantine, which allows air travel and restaurant dining, began at the start of September. People are still asked to avoid gathering in large groups in order to control the spread of COVID-19. Reuters

Border communities in Colombia are struggling to deal with both the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of tens of thousands of Venezuelan refugees. In the La Guajira region, where 92% of the population lives in poverty, there are 95,000 Venezuelan migrants in critical need of food and healthcare. Quarantine measures have exacerbated conditions by forcing people into overcrowded shelters with limited access to food, water, and electricity. The New Humanitarian


Ecuador

Official COVID-19 Stats: 138,584 confirmed cases, 11,433 deaths. 

Volcanic ash from a recent eruption has destroyed 11,198 hectares of crops, affecting over 24,500 farmers. Ecuador’s National Risk Management Service distributed 26,250 volcano kits to those affected and the Ecuadorian Red Cross has provided basic health items and livelihood kits to 1,000 families. ReliefWeb

The World Bank approved a $40 million loan to improve living conditions for Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian and Montubio peoples. The investment is intended to support one million people as they recover from the effects of COVID-19 and address barriers to education and employment that the groups face. World Bank


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 51,062 confirmed cases, 376 deaths.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health is reporting massive shortages of laboratory supplies that have reduced COVID-19 testing by half. As of October 1, the ministry has reported 3,075 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 deaths. According to the ministry’s spokesperson, Gaza is dealing with shortages of 47% of all medications, 33% of medical supplies, and 65% of laboratory and blood bank supplies. Middle East Eye

Additional Readings 
In crowded Gaza, public embraces mask-wearing to fight COVID-19


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 18,475 confirmed cases, 391 deaths. 

UNHCR is ramping up immediate support for asylum seekers affected by the Moria camp fire. The destruction of the camp left 12,000 people homeless and Greek authorities have so far moved 9,400 of them to the new camp at Kara Tepe. UNHCR is providing emergency shelter and core relief items. The agency has also called on the Greek government and the EU to improve conditions in the camp and ensure comprehensive and humane solutions for asylum seekers. ReliefWeb

This year, 1,066 asylum seekers have been relocated from Greece to other EU members. The relocation program involves collaboration between UN agencies, the Greek government, and EU member states with funding from the European Commission. The core focus of the program is relocating unaccompanied minors and other “vulnerable people” from greece. ReliefWeb

Greek officials have reported the first death from COVID-19 among refugees. On Sunday, a 61-year-old man from Afghanistan died in an Athens hospital where he had been receiving treatment for the virus. The man had been living in Malakasa camp, which has been under quarantine since its first COVID-19 case was detected on September 7. The camp hosts 3,000 people. Aljazeera


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 40,868 confirmed cases, 374 deaths.

1 in 4 children in Beirut are expected to have their education disrupted following the Beirut port explosion. The blast damaged 163 schools with a combined student population of 85,000 and repairs are expected to take up to a year to complete. The academic year begins in mid-October. IRC

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, 90% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have lost either a portion or all of their income. This has left many Syrians unable to pay rent. Between January and June, 4,613 Syrians were evicted from their homes and 27,410 Syrians were at risk of eviction. Because 88% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon lack legal residency, very few are willing to challenge forced evictions. Syria Direct


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 313,431 confirmed cases, 6,499 deaths.

Pakistan has begun running a Phase 3 clinical trial for Ad5-nCoV, a vaccine candidate for COVID-19, while dealing with long-standing fears within the country about vaccinations. Previous campaigns for well-established vaccines, such as for polio, were undermined by disinformation and attacks against health workers. Many Pakistanis are hesitant to receive vaccinations due to fears that the vaccine, or the person administering it, serves a nefarious purpose. Reuters


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,653 confirmed cases, 836 deaths. 

Nearly 830,000 people have been affected by unprecedented flooding across Sudan. As heavy rain and flooding continue to exacerbate the humanitarian situation, UN OCHA has warned that aid organizations are running out of funding. Sudan has received only 15% of the $110 million needed for healthcare and 22% of the $71.6 million needed for water and hygiene needs. Aljazeera
An unidentified disease has killed 10 people and left hundreds in critical condition in Sudan’s Northern State. Symptoms of the disease include fever, bleeding, and decreased levels of blood platelets. The Northern State Ministry of Health has declared a state of emergency in affected areas as hospitals are strained and near collapsing. Radio Dabanga


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 4,247 confirmed cases, 202 deaths. 

The health system in Northwest Syria is in danger of collapsing from an outbreak of COVID-19. There are only 600 doctors providing healthcare to 4 million people in Northwest Syria. As of September 24, there were 760 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 35% of which were among health workers. People in Aleppo are allegedly asked to provide their own medicine and are bribing hospital staff for beds. Middle East Monitor

Save the Children warns that 700,000 children in Syria are facing hunger. The total number of food-insecure children in the country has risen to 4.6 million and 1 in 8 are currently experiencing stunting or chronic malnutrition. AP News


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,043 confirmed cases, 588 deaths.

Yemen is facing famine as half of its children already suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, has said that the WFP needs $500 million in the next six months in order to provide food to Yemenis at just half the usual ration rate. Even if funding is provided, famine may still occur due to delays and barriers in delivering aid. The New York Times

Programs providing critical aid have been cut at 300 health centers across Yemen due to lack of funding. The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lisa Grande, said that only $1 billion had been received out of the $3.2 billion needed. Food distributions are also being reduced as Yemen faces famine. Aljazeera

COVID-19 and the Vulnerable: Avoiding a Greater Crisis

This blog post was written by Andrew Moran, Policy and Advocacy Intern at MedGlobal. Andrew has a BA in Political Science from Yale University. This post reflects his personal opinions. 

As countries around the world experience massive spikes in COVID-19 cases, poor and marginalized groups suffer disproportionately. Among them, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and internally displaced persons are especially vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. These groups are regularly excluded from national and local safety nets and health services and have become frequent targets of blame and abuse, including by the governments they rely on. It is crucial, now more than ever, to protect and care for the nearly 80 million forcibly displaced people in the world. Otherwise, in addition to avoidable deaths and a prolonged pandemic, xenophobia and discrimination towards them may become further entrenched.

Throughout history, refugees and migrants have been repeatedly scapegoated for disease, sometimes to distract from the failure of those in power to respond to crises, or simply to demonize them and justify their mistreatment. Agencies like the WHO explicitly discourage using the names of geographic locations or groups of people when referring to diseases. However, this has not stopped the proliferation of controversial nicknames for COVID-19. Indeed, the negative consequences and stigmatization of groups, which the WHO warns against, can be intentionally fostered to serve political purposes. The novelty of COVID-19 intensifies the effects of malicious branding by providing the unique opportunity to define the disease to an audience with few preconceived notions of it. 

Some governments have used efforts to contain COVID-19 as justification for the implementation of harmful policies that target vulnerable groups. Tellingly, policies of evicting people from their homes and selectively locking down overcrowded camps are in direct opposition to health guidelines. Unfortunately, if not intentionally, the denunciation of refugees and migrants as carriers of disease can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when they are forced into overcrowded camps with inadequate access to food, water, sanitation, and health care. These circumstances create the ideal conditions for the rapid spread of COVID-19, which could go unnoticed due to limited testing. The eventual emergence of large clusters of cases in camps may be used to further incite fear or even violence against displaced persons. 

Understanding how even responsible COVID-19 policies can negatively impact displaced populations is also critical for preventing unintended harm. One action many countries have taken in response to the pandemic is to close national borders and restrict movement internally. While this is often necessary to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, it can also have the effect of trapping people in dangerous situations. Violence, poverty, and hunger, all of which can force people to flee their homes, are not subsiding during the pandemic, but are being exacerbated by it. This year alone, an additional 71 million people are projected to fall into extreme poverty and 83 to 132 million more people are at risk of undernourishment. Understanding these pressures and surging responses to alleviate the burden on local communities is essential to avoid forced migration. In cases where illegal migration does occur, it is important to find alternatives to mass detention centers to avoid creating COVID-19 clusters, which would defeat the purpose of the restrictions in the first place. 

Failing to care for the needs of vulnerable populations is not only a humanitarian issue, but also goes against the interests of host countries. Addressing stigmas around disease and barriers to accessing basic necessities is vital in avoiding a worsening health crisis. Including displaced peoples in response plans has never been more urgent. Burden sharing is also critical as 84% of all displaced people are hosted in developing countries with limited basic health services. However, as need is mounting, funding for humanitarian aid programs is dropping as donors respond to contracting economies. Reversing this trend now is crucial to prevent crises from intensifying and inevitably costing more in lives and resources to address in the future. Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and made universally acceptable, the humanitarian disasters created and exacerbated by failing to act quickly and comprehensively could last multiple lifetimes.