Weekly Humanitarian News Digest – October 9

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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 2 – October 9, 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: 374,592 confirmed cases, 5,460 deaths.
Myanmar: 22,445 confirmed cases, 535 deaths.

The UN is calling on Bangladesh to do more to combat child marriage as part of its goal to eliminate the practice by 2041. The rate of child marriage has fallen from 90% in 1970 to 51%, but prolonged school closures and economic hardship from COVID-19 are increasing the risk of underage marriage. (Reuters)

Additional Readings 

Refugees International: Complex Road to Recovery: COVID-19, Cyclone Amphan, Monsoon Flooding Collide in Bangladesh and India
World Vision: Rohingya Refugee Response COVID-19 Report, September 2020


Colombia/ Venezuela 

Official COVID-19 Stats:
Colombia: 877,683 confirmed cases, 27,180 deaths.
Venezuela: 80,404 confirmed cases, 671 deaths.

Thousands of Venezuelans are leaving their country as the economics of other South American countries begin to recover from the economic shocks of COVID-19 and lockdowns. Over five million people have left Venezuela since 2015. According to migrants, the pandemic has made the journey tougher and more dangerous. The closing of land borders has caused many migrants to turn to illegal border crossings that are controlled by criminal groups. Shelters that previously housed migrants have also closed due to concerns of spreading the virus, forcing migrants to sleep on the streets. Colombian officials have said they expect 200,000 more Venezuelan migrants to enter the country before the end of the year. (BBC)


Ecuador

Official COVID-19 Stats: 145,045 confirmed cases, 12,141 deaths. 

The International Monetary Fund has approved a $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility agreement to help Ecuador manage and recover from COVID-19. The goal of the program is to stabilize the economy, expand social assistance programs, and improve transparency on revenue and spending. The new financing will provide funding for health and education services and support vulnerable Ecuadorians through the use of cash transfers. (International Monetary Fund)


Gaza/ Palestinian Territories

Official COVID-19 Stats: 54,355 confirmed cases, 422 deaths.

Suicides in the occupied Palestinian territories have increased since last year as the mental health crisis has worsened. According to a 2017 study, the main causes of mental health deterioration in Gaza are violence, poor living conditions, increasing poverty, and a sense of hopelessness. COVID-19 and the worsening economic situation have contributed to increases in gender-based violence and a spike in calls to mental health hotlines. The mental health system in Gaza is underdeveloped and lacks the resources and personnel to make mental health services accessible. (UN OCHA)


Greece

Official COVID-19 Stats: 20,947 confirmed cases, 424 deaths. 

Residents of Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos may be at risk of lead poisoning due to the area’s prior use as a military firing range. Asylum seekers in the camp have found shrapnel and used ammunition fragments strewn about the site. Toxicologists warn that invisible residue may be harming residents, especially children and pregnant women. There are currently 8,630 people living in Kara Tepe. (Aljazeera)

Despite promises by the European Commission for a fresh start on migration following the destruction of Moria camp, thousands of asylum seekers remain trapped in overcrowded camps in Greece. Kara Tepe camp, which has 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases, reportedly has no showers, is overcrowded, and many residents are forced to sleep on dirt and rocks. Vathy camp, located on the island of Samos, has 90 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,500 residents despite having the capacity for only 650. (Doctors Without Borders)

Additional Readings 

The New Humanitarian: Greece’s ‘New Tactic’ of Migrant Expulsion From Deep Inside its Land Borders
Human Rights Watch: Greece: Investigate Pushbacks, Violence at Borders


Lebanon  

Official COVID-19 Stats: 49,744 confirmed cases, 439 deaths.

Hospitals in Lebanon are struggling to manage the COVID-19 crisis as new cases surge. Several hospitals were severely damaged by the Beirut port explosion in August and the financial crisis has left many medical facilities unable to pay bills and purchase supplies. Intensive care units are at 82% capacity and some hospitals have begun doubling prices and furloughing staff in order to remain open. New cases of COVID-19 are also rising as restaurants, shops, and bars remain open and partial lockdowns are loosely followed. (Reuters)


Pakistan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 317,595 confirmed cases, 6,552 deaths.

According to the Government of Pakistan, 39 million children were vaccinated against polio during a nationwide campaign from September 21 to 25. Immunization efforts were previously interrupted in February by the outbreak of COVID-19. More immunization campaigns will be conducted during the last week of October in select districts. (ReliefWeb)


Sudan

Official COVID-19 Stats: 13,670 confirmed cases, 836 deaths. 

West Darfur has declared a State of Health Emergency following 41 confirmed cases of chikungunya fever. The number of Malaria cases in the state is also increasing following an unusually heavy rainy season. The governor of West Darfur, Mohamed El Doma, is calling on UN agencies and other organizations for assistance as many health facilities in the state are overcrowded and lack adequate medical supplies, staff, and capacity to respond to the health crisis. (Radio Dabanga)

Sudan’s Ministry of Health, with the support of the WHO and UNICEF, will begin a national polio vaccination campaign this month. The goal of the campaign is to immunize 8.6 million children under the age of five. Thousands of children missed vaccinations this year due to COVID-19 and cases of polio emerged in Sudan in August. (Radio Dabanga)


Syria

Official COVID-19 Stats: 4,566 confirmed cases, 215 deaths. 

At least 148 Syrian medical workers have died from COVID-19 according to unofficial reporting by the Syrian Medical Association. The head of the Syrian Lawyers Union has also reported that a large number of lawyers have died and suggested that COVID-19 may be spreading through the state courts. The cemetery designated for COVID-19 victims in Damascus is averaging 40 burials per day and is currently in the process of digging a mass grave capable of holding thousands of bodies. The official number of COVID-19 deaths from the Syrian government is 209. (Reuters)

Three humanitarian workers were injured by a car bomb in Al-Bab city in Northwest Syria. Syria Relief & Development, a humanitarian organization, reported that the injured were part of a COVID-19 referral system working to contain the spread of the virus. Northwest Syria is recording 100 new cases of COVID-19 daily as health facilities suffer from shortages of staff and equipment. (The New Arab)   

The World Health Organization estimates that 50% of Syria’s 550 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed due to conflict. According to the UN, up to 70% of healthcare workers have fled the country, leaving only 1 doctor per 10,000 people. In Northwest Syria, where COVID-19 cases increased 1000% in September, health workers make up 35% of all confirmed cases. (Newsweek)

Additional Readings

Aljazeera: In COVID-Hit Syria, People ‘Prefer to Die Than Come to Hospital’


Yemen

Official COVID-19 Stats: 2,054 confirmed cases, 594 deaths.

Funding shortages have caused over one-third of the UN’s humanitarian programs in Yemen to reduce operations or shut down entirely. This includes reductions in food distributions across the country and cuts to services at 300 health facilities. So far this year, donors have given $1.6 billion to humanitarian efforts, only 40% of what the UN requires to supply water, food, shelter, and medicine to the 24.3 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian aid. (ReliefWeb)

The humanitarian situation in Yemen is deteriorating as several different crises worsen simultaneously and funding is cut. The true number of COVID-19 cases and deaths is likely significantly higher than official figures and humanitarian groups are concerned that a second wave will hit. Cholera remains a serious threat, infecting an estimated 180,000 people in 2020 and killing at least 48 as of August. Tens of thousands of Yemenis were also affected by widespread flooding that forced many to flee their homes. At the same time, funding for humanitarian response efforts is running out as donor countries deal with retracting economies at home and cite concerns about aid obstruction and diversion in Yemen. (The New Humanitarian)

Two-thirds of Yemenis are food insecure and millions are on the verge of starvation. Nearly six years of conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and crippled the economy. Action by all actors involved in the conflict have directly exacerbated the humanitarian crisis by cutting off humanitarian access and destroying infrastructure. (The Economist

Additional Readings 

Action on Armed Violence: The Impact of Explosive Violence on Children in Yemen
Reuters: Yemen’s War Shifts Focus to Marib, Thousands of Displaced at Risk

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