Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – January 15

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: Middle East Eye/AFP

Latest News for January 8 – January 15, 2021

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Bangladesh plans on purchasing 30 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to begin vaccinations in February. The GAVI vaccine alliance will also provide 68 million doses as part of its mission to increase immunization in poor countries. Health workers will be the first among the country’s 160 million residents to receive vaccinations. The country has reported 523,302 cases of COVID-19 and 7,803 deaths. (Reuters)

A large fire in Cox’s Bazar’s Nayapara camp destroyed 550 shelters, further displacing thousands of Rohingya refugees in the middle of winter. Bangladeshi officials are accessing the damage and are providing food and other supplies to the displaced as they begin to rebuild the shelters. (The New York Times)

Colombia/ Venezuela 

Due to limited access to vaccines, Colombia will not provide COVID-19 vaccinations to unregistered Venezuelan migrants. Of the 1.7 million Venezuelans currently living in Colombia, approximately 900,000 are unregistered. According to Colombia’s President Duque, the government is concerned that Venezuela’s crippled health system will cause thousands of Venezuelans to cross into Colombia if they believe they can receive vaccinations. President Duque has called on the international community to provide vaccines for unregistered migrants in order to help the country achieve herd immunity. (Reuters)

Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced that it expects to begin receiving 2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in March. The doses are enough to vaccinate one million out of the five million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. The PA also expects to receive vaccines from the World Health Organization’s COVAX program for low and middle income countries. (Al Jazeera)


The Greek government is seeking to return 1,450 migrants currently held in centers on Lesbos and other islands to Turkey. Greece has submitted its request to the European Commission for the immediate return of the migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected. Tens of thousands of asylum seekers remain in camps across Greece where living conditions are often dire. (Reuters)


According to Lebanon’s Ministry of Health, 525 of the country’s 550 ICU beds are filled as the number of new daily cases continues to grow. Emergency rooms have become overwhelmed and are unable to accept more patients. Some patients in critical condition are forced to remain in emergency departments as they wait for beds to open up. (Aljazeera)

Lebanon has tightened lockdown restrictions with an 11-day, 24-hour curfew in hope of reducing the strain on hospitals. The recent surge in cases is linked to the loosening of restrictions in late December, which included opening bars and nightclubs, as part of the government’s attempt to boost the economy. Hospitals have called on the government to make all 15,000 hospital beds in the country available for treating COVID-19 patients in order to deal with the surge of cases.(Associated Press)


On Monday, Pakistan began a 5-day polio vaccination campaign with the goal of reaching 40 million children. Health workers are frequently the target of violent attacks due to conspiracy theories surrounding vaccines and now face additional challenges due to the spread of COVID-19. (Associated Press)


Aid workers in Sudan have confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 in camps set up for Ethiopian refugees. Um Rakouba camp, which houses 25,000 people, has four reported cases. Camp residents live in crowded conditions with limited ability to social distance. Health workers in the camp have said they lack the necessary PPE, equipment, and other materials to manage the outbreak and treat patients. (Voice of America)


According to Save the Children, overcrowded camps and limited access to water has allowed COVID-19 to rapidly spread in Northwest Syria. At least four million people are displaced in the Northwest due to ten years of conflict that have devastated the region’s medical system. Many of the area’s health facilities have been damaged or destroyed and lack the capacity to handle the COVID-19 crisis. (Middle East Eye)


The UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, called on the U.S. to reverse its decision to designate Ansar Allah as a foreign terrorist organization due to humanitarian concerns. According to Lowcock, the designation will have the effect of cutting food imports and pushing the country into famine. An estimated 16 million people in Yemen will go hungry in 2021, including 50,000 people who are currently starving under famine-like conditions. The designation will go into effect on January 19th. (Reuters)