Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – January 8

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: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

Latest News for December 25, 2020 – January 8, 2021

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

The government of Bangladesh relocated an additional 1,800 Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char island amid allegations of coercion. The government has previously sent 1,600 refugees to the island as part of its plan to reduce congestion in Cox’s Bazar’s overcrowded camps. A total of 100,000 refugees will be moved to the island despite condemnations by the UN and human rights groups over safety concerns on the flood-prone island. (Al Jazeera)

Colombia/ Venezuela 

Colombia is reimposing selective lockdown measures following spikes in COVID-19 cases that are linked to holiday travel and gatherings. The country is now recording 11,000 new cases per day and some ICUs have reached 90% capacity. In the capital city of Bogota, 23 of the city’s 60 ICU wards are completely filled. (US News)

Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Amnesty International and other human rights and health organizations are calling on Israel to extend its COVID-19 vaccination campaign to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Israel currently has the highest vaccination rate in the world with over 10% of its population having received an initial vaccination. Israel’s vaccination campaign excludes the five million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. The administrations and health systems of the OPT are reliant on international aid and are unable to purchase and distribute vaccines in a timely manner. (Amnesty International)


The Turkish Coast Guard has rescued 79 migrants in the Aegean sea after alleged push backs by the Greek Coast Guard. The asylum seekers were attempting to reach Greece on crowded dinghies and lifeboats. Turkey and international organizations have repeatedly condemned the Greek government over allegations of illegally pushing back asylum seekers in violation of international law. (Middle East Monitor)


An estimated 375 Syrian refugees have been displaced after their camp burned down in northern Lebanon. Four people were hospitalized due to minor injuries. The Lebanese military is investigating the cause of fire which is believed to have been intentional. Lebanon hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, a third of whom are not registered with the UN. (Deutsche Welle)


Pakistan plans to purchase 1.2 million doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. The minister for science and technology has further encouraged the private sector to import any other internationally-approved vaccines. The first round of vaccinations will target frontline workers and 5% most vulnerable of Pakistan’s 220 million population. (Reuters)


The number of Ethiopian refugees in Sudan has passed 56,000 as 220,000 remain internally displaced in Ethiopia’s Tigray region due to violence. UNHCR is calling for greater aid to improve water, sanitation, and COVID-19 prevention measures in Sudan’s newly built refugee camps. The regional response plan for the Tigray emergency is only 37% funded. (UN News)


Humanitarian disaster looms over camps in northwest Syria during winter. The lives of thousands of Syrian families in the Idlib camps worsen every year with freezing winter amid the lack of heating and rainwater drainage. This article includes local testimonies from IDPs suffering from terrible conditions. (Al-Monitor)

Clashes between Kurdish forces and Turkish backed forces in Northeast Syria displaced more than 9,500 Syrians in late December. The conflict around the city of Ain Issa has left at least 38 civilians wounded. Many of the displaced headed to Raqqa, the largest nearby city, as there are no displacement camps set up to accommodate them. (Al Jazeera)


On December 30, the plane carrying Yemen’s newly formed cabinet was attacked after it landed in Aden, the temporary capital of Yemen. At least 25 people were killed and 110 were injured by missiles that struck the airport. Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed blamed the attack on the armed group Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis. (Associated Press)

The UN has warned that hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen will die in the coming months due to a lack of humanitarian assistance. Over 24 million Yemenis (80% of the population) are reliant on humanitarian aid and 20 million lack sufficient access to food and water. UN organizations operating in Yemen are severely underfunded and several humanitarian programs have been rolled back. (Middle East Monitor)