Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – May 21

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, India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cover Image: Hosam Salem for The New York Times

Latest News for May 17 – May 21, 2021

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

UNHCR has raised only 36% of requested funding to support Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Joint Response Program (JRP) for 2021 asks for $943 million to meet the needs of more than one million Rohingya living in camps in Bangladesh. This year, due to the effects of COVID-19, more than 40% of funding is focused on health and food security. The JRP for 2020 never exceeded 60% funding. (Radio Free Asia)

Colombia/ Venezuela 

Widespread anti-government protests have led to a surge in COVID-19 cases across Colombia. On Sunday, the Ministry of Health reported 530 deaths in a single day, the highest number since the pandemic began. Hospitals in Medellin and Cali, two of Colombia’s largest cities, have been overwhelmed by new cases and the health system in Bogota is under threat of collapsing. Colombia’s vaccination campaign has inoculated just 8% of its goal of 35 million people since February. (Colombia Reports)

Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Gaza has suspended administering COVID-19 tests after the only lab capable of processing test kits was damaged by an airstrike. Testing for HIV and other medical conditions has also paused. More than 200 people have been killed by airstrikes and many Palestinians are crowding into schools for safety. Only 1.9% of Gaza’s 2 million residents are fully vaccinated and a surge in COVID-19 cases is expected. (The New York Times)


On Wednesday, India reported 4,529 deaths from COVID-19, the highest number of deaths in a single day of any country since the pandemic began. The government has confirmed more than 280,000 deaths and 25 million cases, both of which are likely undercounts. Though the situation in India’s cities is starting to improve, the spread of the virus in rural areas with weak health systems and limited testing has become a focus of concern. India’s vaccination campaign has also slowed in recent weeks, falling from four million doses administered per day in April to only two million this week. (Associated Press)


Lebanon faces increased blackouts after Karpowership, a Turkish company providing a quarter of Lebanon’s electricity, ceased operations. Lebanon has been unable to make payments to the company since the beginning of its financial crisis 18 months ago and now owes more than $100 million. The decrease in supply will result in a total capacity that is less than one-third of Lebanon’s electrical demand. (Reuters)


Pakistan has modified one of its power plants to produce medical oxygen to meet the growing need for COVID-19 patients. The plant in Sindh province will produce 268,000 liters of oxygen for nearby public health facilities. There are at least two other power plants in Sindh that may also be modified to produce oxygen in the future. (Gulf News)


Sudan has imposed new COVID-19 restrictions over concerns of a surge in new cases. Schools and universities will close for one month, all large gatherings are banned, and masks are required in public areas. Sudan will also restrict travel from India to prevent the spread of the new B.1.617 variant. Health systems across the country are facing shortages of oxygen, medications, and hospital beds to treat COVID-19 patients. The government has reported nearly 35,000 cases and has warned that the number could increase to 100,000 by mid-June unless guidelines are followed. (Reuters)


On Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General released a report on children and armed conflict in Syria. The report, which covers the period from July 2018 to June 2020, found that there were more than 4,724 grave violations against children by 32 parties involved in the conflict. Airstrikes and indiscriminate shelling maimed or killed more than 2,700 children and at least 1,400 children were recruited by armed groups. There were also 236 verified attacks on classrooms and 135 on medical facilities. (UN News)


More than 2 million children have lost access to education as a consequence of Yemen’s ongoing conflict. In March alone, five attacks against schools left an additional 30,600 children without access to education. Escalating violence in Taiz governorate and other areas of Yemen during the first quarter of 2021 killed or injured 50 children. Over the past three years, one quarter of all casualties from the conflict were children. (Save the Children)