Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 30

Each week, we highlight the latest news related to the humanitarian and health crises in our countries of operation: Bangladesh/ Myanmar, Colombia/ Venezuela, Ecuador, Gaza/ Palestinan Territories, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. We 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 October 23 – October 30, 2020

* COVID-19 statistics, unless otherwise indicated, are from the World Health Organization and current as of October 30.

Bangladesh/ Myanmar 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Bangladesh: 404,760 confirmed cases, 5,886 deaths.
Myanmar: 50,403 confirmed cases, 1,199 deaths.

A recent study found that women living in poor areas of Dhaka are unwilling to give birth at medical facilities. The reluctance is rooted in fears of hidden costs, lack of support from family, norms of honor and shame, and poor communication on female health issues. While 61% of wealthy women choose to have a caesarean delivery, the same is true for only 13% of poorer women. (EurekAlert)

Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia:  1,041,935 confirmed cases, 30,753 deaths.
Venezuela: 90,876 confirmed cases, 784 deaths.

Colombia is preparing to distribute the eventual COVID-19 vaccine as the number of COVID-19 cases in Colombia passes 1 million. Colombia’s free vaccination program provides 21 different vaccinations to 50 million Colombians and also covers the 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants in the country. The government plans on spending $78 million on transportation, information campaigns, warehouse expansions, and personnel to deliver the vaccine to the first 10 million people. Health workers, people with pre-existing conditions, and people over 60 will be vaccinated first. (Reuters)


Official COVID-19 Stats: 166,302 confirmed cases, 12,622 deaths.

An oil spill in the Amazon river is affecting the lives of 27,000 indigenous people as they continue to struggle with COVID-19. Indigenous communities have been hard-hit by COVID-19 due to high levels of poverty, insufficient infrastructure for health and transportation, and a lack of support from the government. In addition to losing access to clean water, the contaminated river is the source of 70% of the communities’ food. (Americas Quarterly)

Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 64,237 confirmed cases, 545 deaths.

Unemployment in Gaza has reached 70% as three-quarters of all factories remain closed due to COVID-19. 250,000 people are currently unemployed, including 140,000 who lost their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19, and Gaza’s economy has lost $40 million. Sami Al-Ammasi, the head of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, is calling for the creation of an emergency fund to assist those affected and their families. (Middle East Monitor)


Official COVID-19 Stats: 34,299 confirmed cases, 603 deaths.

Frontex, the EU border agency, has been accused of illegally pushing back asylum seekers in the Aegean sea following a joint investigation by several news outlets. There are six documented instances where the agency was directly involved in, or in close proximity to, pushbacks. There are also accusations that the Greek coast guard has been directly involved in pushbacks of asylum seekers. (The Guardian)

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is urging the Greek government to scale up and improve the COVID-19 response in Vathy camp. The camp has had more than 100 cases of COVID-19 among a population of 4,300. Some people have been forced to quarantine in dirty containers without access to running water, bedding, or toilets. MSF staff in the camp report that many residents are afraid to seek medical attention out of fear of being quarantined. (Médecins Sans Frontières)


Official COVID-19 Stats: 77,778 confirmed cases, 610 deaths.

A recent report by five humanitarian organizations found that women are facing increased risks and are unable to access assistance following the Beirut blast. The destruction of homes and shelters have increased the risk of gender-based violence and fear of abuse, harassment, and discrimination deter women from seeking humanitarian assistance. The report calls for a more tailored approach to address the specific needs of marginalized groups, including female-headed households that represent 51% of the affected population. (CARE International)


Official COVID-19 Stats: 331,108 confirmed cases,  6,775 deaths.

Pakistan’s health and surveillance systems designed to eradicate polio are simultaneously supporting the COVID-19 response. Existing surveillance networks, medical teams, data management systems, and call centers are being used to track COVID-19 cases and correct misinformation while continuing to fight the spread of polio. (World Health Organization)


Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,772 confirmed cases, 837 deaths.

The World Bank has created a $22 million emergency fund for COVID-19 relief in Sudan. Multiple crises, including historic flooding, have engendered widespread hunger and more than 4.5 million people are currently at risk of vector-borne. Sudan’s Central Pharmacists’ Committee has warned of dire shortages of essential drugs for chronic and life-threatening diseases. (Radio Dabanga)


Official COVID-19 Stats: 5,633 confirmed cases, 281 deaths.

One-third of children under five in Syria are suffering from chronic malnutrition. COVID-19, a weak economy, and inflation have caused many Syrians to fall below the poverty line as food prices rise. According to Save the Children, one in eight children in Syria have had their growth stunted due to malnutrition. The number increases to one in six children in the Northwest where 1.5 million IDPs live in camps. (The New Humanitarian)

COVID-19 is spreading uncontrolled within overcrowded refugee camps in Idlib. Daily testing remains low and only symptomatic people who come forward are tested, leading to positive test rates of up to 40%. The stigma around the disease deters many from seeking testing or medical aid when symptoms develop. There are only 600 doctors in Northwest Syria serving a population of four million. The humanitarian situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming winter due to shortages of medical supplies, food, and fuel. (BBC)


Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,066 confirmed cases, 600 deaths.

Nearly 100,000 children under the age of five are at risk of dying from malnutrition as Yemen faces famine. COVID-19, an economic crisis, and the ongoing conflict have all contributed to food insecurity in Yemen as funding from donors has dropped significantly. In August, the UN shut down over one-third of its humanitarian aid programs due to funding gaps. Serious malnutrition in southern Yemen has risen 10% in 2020, but has risen 15% among children under five. At least 250,000 breast feeding women need treatment for malnutrition. (The Guardian)

A study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine estimates that 2,100 Yemenis may have died due to COVID-19. Researchers analysed satellite images of known cemeteries and calculated the number of excess deaths between April and September. The estimate is a reflection of people who may have died as a direct result of contracting COVID-19 or indirectly due to COVID-19 related disruptions in healthcare and other services. (Reuters)