Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 2

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MedGlobal will be putting out a Weekly Humanitarian News Digest, with a compilation of key news stories related to our countries of operation. Each week, we will highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We will also highlight the latest official COVID-19 figures in each of these countries. For more frequent updates, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Latest News for September 25 – October 2, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of October 2.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 364,987 confirmed cases, 5,272 deaths.
Myanmar: 14,383 confirmed cases, 321 deaths.

Health officials in Bangladesh are concerned about a surge of COVID-19 cases in winter as many Bangladeshis return to life as normal. Some observers in Bangladesh believe that a lack of daily briefings by the government has led to a decrease in awareness and concern among the general public. Many poor Bangladeshis are also unable to follow safety guidelines that affect their ability to work. The chairperson of the national technical advisory committee on coronavirus, Mohammad Shahidullah, has warned that the lack of adherence to safety guidelines could make the spread of COVID-19 more dangerous. Deutsche Welle

Additional Readings 
Tackling fear, mistrust and COVID in Bangladesh camps


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia: 829,679 confirmed cases, 25,998 deaths.
Venezuela: 75,122 confirmed cases, 628 deaths.

The Colombian government is extending “selective quarantine” through the month of October. Selective quarantine, which allows air travel and restaurant dining, began at the start of September. People are still asked to avoid gathering in large groups in order to control the spread of COVID-19. Reuters

Border communities in Colombia are struggling to deal with both the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of tens of thousands of Venezuelan refugees. In the La Guajira region, where 92% of the population lives in poverty, there are 95,000 Venezuelan migrants in critical need of food and healthcare. Quarantine measures have exacerbated conditions by forcing people into overcrowded shelters with limited access to food, water, and electricity. The New Humanitarian


Ecuador

Official COVID-19 Stats: 138,584 confirmed cases, 11,433 deaths. 

Volcanic ash from a recent eruption has destroyed 11,198 hectares of crops, affecting over 24,500 farmers. Ecuador’s National Risk Management Service distributed 26,250 volcano kits to those affected and the Ecuadorian Red Cross has provided basic health items and livelihood kits to 1,000 families. ReliefWeb

The World Bank approved a $40 million loan to improve living conditions for Indigenous, Afro-Ecuadorian and Montubio peoples. The investment is intended to support one million people as they recover from the effects of COVID-19 and address barriers to education and employment that the groups face. World Bank


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 51,062 confirmed cases, 376 deaths.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health is reporting massive shortages of laboratory supplies that have reduced COVID-19 testing by half. As of October 1, the ministry has reported 3,075 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 22 deaths. According to the ministry’s spokesperson, Gaza is dealing with shortages of 47% of all medications, 33% of medical supplies, and 65% of laboratory and blood bank supplies. Middle East Eye

Additional Readings 
In crowded Gaza, public embraces mask-wearing to fight COVID-19


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 18,475 confirmed cases, 391 deaths. 

UNHCR is ramping up immediate support for asylum seekers affected by the Moria camp fire. The destruction of the camp left 12,000 people homeless and Greek authorities have so far moved 9,400 of them to the new camp at Kara Tepe. UNHCR is providing emergency shelter and core relief items. The agency has also called on the Greek government and the EU to improve conditions in the camp and ensure comprehensive and humane solutions for asylum seekers. ReliefWeb

This year, 1,066 asylum seekers have been relocated from Greece to other EU members. The relocation program involves collaboration between UN agencies, the Greek government, and EU member states with funding from the European Commission. The core focus of the program is relocating unaccompanied minors and other “vulnerable people” from greece. ReliefWeb

Greek officials have reported the first death from COVID-19 among refugees. On Sunday, a 61-year-old man from Afghanistan died in an Athens hospital where he had been receiving treatment for the virus. The man had been living in Malakasa camp, which has been under quarantine since its first COVID-19 case was detected on September 7. The camp hosts 3,000 people. Aljazeera


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 40,868 confirmed cases, 374 deaths.

1 in 4 children in Beirut are expected to have their education disrupted following the Beirut port explosion. The blast damaged 163 schools with a combined student population of 85,000 and repairs are expected to take up to a year to complete. The academic year begins in mid-October. IRC

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, 90% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have lost either a portion or all of their income. This has left many Syrians unable to pay rent. Between January and June, 4,613 Syrians were evicted from their homes and 27,410 Syrians were at risk of eviction. Because 88% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon lack legal residency, very few are willing to challenge forced evictions. Syria Direct


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 313,431 confirmed cases, 6,499 deaths.

Pakistan has begun running a Phase 3 clinical trial for Ad5-nCoV, a vaccine candidate for COVID-19, while dealing with long-standing fears within the country about vaccinations. Previous campaigns for well-established vaccines, such as for polio, were undermined by disinformation and attacks against health workers. Many Pakistanis are hesitant to receive vaccinations due to fears that the vaccine, or the person administering it, serves a nefarious purpose. Reuters


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,653 confirmed cases, 836 deaths. 

Nearly 830,000 people have been affected by unprecedented flooding across Sudan. As heavy rain and flooding continue to exacerbate the humanitarian situation, UN OCHA has warned that aid organizations are running out of funding. Sudan has received only 15% of the $110 million needed for healthcare and 22% of the $71.6 million needed for water and hygiene needs. Aljazeera
An unidentified disease has killed 10 people and left hundreds in critical condition in Sudan’s Northern State. Symptoms of the disease include fever, bleeding, and decreased levels of blood platelets. The Northern State Ministry of Health has declared a state of emergency in affected areas as hospitals are strained and near collapsing. Radio Dabanga


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 4,247 confirmed cases, 202 deaths. 

The health system in Northwest Syria is in danger of collapsing from an outbreak of COVID-19. There are only 600 doctors providing healthcare to 4 million people in Northwest Syria. As of September 24, there were 760 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 35% of which were among health workers. People in Aleppo are allegedly asked to provide their own medicine and are bribing hospital staff for beds. Middle East Monitor

Save the Children warns that 700,000 children in Syria are facing hunger. The total number of food-insecure children in the country has risen to 4.6 million and 1 in 8 are currently experiencing stunting or chronic malnutrition. AP News


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,043 confirmed cases, 588 deaths.

Yemen is facing famine as half of its children already suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, has said that the WFP needs $500 million in the next six months in order to provide food to Yemenis at just half the usual ration rate. Even if funding is provided, famine may still occur due to delays and barriers in delivering aid. The New York Times

Programs providing critical aid have been cut at 300 health centers across Yemen due to lack of funding. The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lisa Grande, said that only $1 billion had been received out of the $3.2 billion needed. Food distributions are also being reduced as Yemen faces famine. Aljazeera

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