Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – February 19

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

Cover Image: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters

Latest News for February 12 – February 19, 2021

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Bangladesh is moving an additional 3,000 to 4,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island from the Cox’s Bazar camps. The government has previously relocated 7,000 refugees to the flood-prone island as part of its plan to house 100,000 refugees there. The UN and other international organizations have been unable to evaluate conditions on the island and some Rohingya refugees have said they were coerced into moving. (Reuters)

Colombia/ Venezuela 

Colombia will begin COVID-19 vaccinations after receiving its first shipment of 50,000 Pfizer vaccines on Monday. The government plans on vaccinating 35 million people in 2021, including Venezuelan migrants and refugees. Frontline health workers and the elderly will be the first groups vaccinated. Colombia expects to receive an additional 1.6 million doses of vaccines soon and has a contract to purchase 10 million doses from Pfizer. The country has recorded nearly 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 57,000 deaths. (Voice of America)

Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Gaza received its first supply of 2,000 COVID-19 vaccines from the West Bank on Wednesday.The Gaza Ministry of Health announced that vaccinations will begin on Sunday for vulnerable patients. The enclave’s 12,000 health workers will be prioritized as additional vaccines become available. Israel, which maintains a blockade of Gaza, delayed the shipment of vaccines for two days before approving it. Gaza has reported 53,000 cases of COVID-19 and 538 deaths. (PBS)


Heavy snowfall and strong winds in Greece have exacerbated living conditions for migrants and asylum seekers in Greece’s camps. Camps have experienced flooding and many residents lack adequate shelter and clothing for the cold weather. The Greek government has also expressed concerns over the reliability of the electricity grid after deadly power outages occurred on Greece’s second largest island. (InfoMigrants)


Lebanon has started COVID-19 vaccinations after receiving $34 million from the World Bank for vaccination programs. The 1.5 million refugees and migrants in Lebanon, roughly a quarter of the population, are included in the vaccination plan, but face barriers to access. Registration for vaccines is extremely low among refugees, possibly due to lack of information and trust, and many migrant workers have been declared ineligible by the Ministry of Labor. (Al Jazeera)


Pakistan expects to receive 2.8 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on March 2 as part of its agreement with the COVAX program. The government previously acquired 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine which it used to begin vaccinating frontline health workers. The new supply of vaccines will be used to start a public vaccination campaign for people over the age of 60. The country has reported more than 550,000 cases of COVID-19 and 12,000 deaths. (Reuters)


The Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned that food insecurity in Sudan may reach crisis levels. Violent protests over food prices across Sudan have led to several regions declaring states of emergency. Millions of Sudanese are struggling to cope with rising living costs as Sudan grapples with economic challenges. (The Guardian)

Displaced persons living in shelters in West Darfur’s capital city, El Geneina, have raised concerns of an impending health crisis. People living in the shelters lack adequate access to toilets, medical care, and food and the Sudanese Professionals Association is warning of outbreaks of cholera and measles. The current displacement crisis is the result of a recent wave of communal violence in West Darfur that has killed at least 163 people. (Radio Dabanga)


As of February 16, there have been over 21,000 cases of COVID-19 and 407 deaths reported in northwest Syria. Health workers represent 8% of all cases, creating additional strain on the region’s weak health system. The Syrian Ministry of Health has reported nearly 15,000 cases of COVID-19 and 981 deaths in the areas it administers, including 459 cases and 22 deaths among health workers. Northeast Syria has reported 8,537 cases and 419 deaths. The actual number of cases in all regions is likely significantly higher than reported figures due to limited testing. (ReliefWeb)


The UN estimates that 2.3 million children under the age of five will suffer from acute malnutrition this year in Yemen, including 400,000 who may die without urgent treatment. An additional 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding women are also expected to become acutely malnourished. Yemen’s dire humanitarian crisis continues to worsen due to the country’s ongoing conflict, economic collapse, the COVID-19 pandemic, and cuts in international aid. In 2020, Yemen received only $1.9 billion of the $3.4 billion required for its humanitarian response. (UN News)