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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)