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: UNOCHA/Giles Clarke.
Latest News for March 12 – March 19, 2021
A delegation of experts from UN agencies are visiting Bhasan Char for three days to evaluate living conditions on the flood prone island. Bangladesh has already relocated 13,000 Rohingya refugees to the island and plans to increase the number to 100,000. The UN has previously been unable to access the island and some Rohingya have claimed that they were coerced into moving there. (Reuters)
Colombia has reported its first death caused by the Brazilian variant of COVID-19. The variant was first detected in Colombia in January, which led to lockdowns and the suspension of flights to and from Brazil. Colombia has reported nearly 2.3 million cases of COVID-19 and 61,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. By March 20, a month after its vaccination campaign began, Colombia plans to have administered one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. (Reuters)
Gaza/ Palestinian Territories
The West Bank has received 60,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX program. One-third of the vaccines will be sent to Gaza. In 2021, the COVAX program plans to provide enough doses to vaccinate 20% of the population, approximately one million Palestinians. The West Bank imposed a five-day lockdown on Monday after a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. (Al-Monitor)
Turkey has accused the Greek Coast Guard of illegally pushing back refugees after rescuing four people from the Aegean Sea. The Turkish Coast Guard also recovered two bodies and are continuing to search for a missing person. One of the four people rescued later died in hospital. According to a statement made by Turkish officials, the survivors claim that Greek authorities seized their belongings and tied their hands before throwing them into the water. (Middle East Monitor)
Lebanon’s energy minister has warned that the country will be unable to produce electricity by the end of the month unless emergency loans are approved. Lebanon’s currency has dropped a third in value over the last two weeks, making it worth one-tenth of its 2019 value. There are also concerns that government subsidies on basic goods, including wheat, fuel, and medicine may end due to the worsening financial crisis. (Reuters)
Pakistan is imposing new COVID-19 restrictions following a third wave of COVID-19 infections. The number of new cases across the country has risen 68% according to official reports. The government is sealing off three neighborhoods in the capital, has banned all indoor gatherings, and is restricting outdoor gatherings. Last week, Pakistan began its campaign to vaccinate everyone over the age of 60, but less than 10% of those who are eligible have registered. (Aljazeera)
Since November, more than 75,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan after fleeing violence. The flow of refugees has slowed, but hundreds of refugees continue to enter the country despite the closure of official crossing points. Sudanize authorities are working with national and international organizations to provide refugees with shelter, food, and medical care in refugee camps. (Middle East Monitor)
According to the UN, 80% of Syrians are living in poverty, the highest percentage since the conflict began in 2011. The Syrian pound has collapsed in value under pressures from the ongoing conflict, COVID-19, international sanctions, and the economic crisis in Lebanon. An estimated 60% of Syrians are at risk of hunger as food prices have risen 230% over the past year alone. (Associated Press)
UNICEF reports that 90% of children in Syria are in need of some form of aid. During the past decade of conflict, 12,000 children have been killed in Syria and at least 5,700 have been recruited by armed groups. More than half a million children under five have suffered stunting due to chronic malnutrition. As families try to cope with multiple crises, rates of child marriage and child labor have risen and an estimated 3.5 million children are out of school. (UN News)
The UN’s special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has warned that the conflict in Yemen is escalating rapidly. Clashes between Ansar Allah and the coalition supporting Yemen’s government have intensified across the country. In Marib governorate, more than one million displaced persons are at risk of harm and repeat displacement. As fighting continues, the likelihood of famine being declared in Yemen increases. (UN News)