August 13, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers the developing situation in Afghanistan, Nicaraguan oppression of the media, protests in Thailand, and COVID-19 developments.
Amid urgent international calls for de-escalation, the Ethiopian government is calling upon Ethiopians to take up arms against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Conflict has expanded from the Tigray region to Afar and Amhara, six weeks after the government declared a unilateral ceasefire. Tigrayan forces, dismissing the ceasefire, say the government should accept the conditions for a truce. Months of fighting have left an estimated 1,300,000 people displaced, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Over 400,000 people are facing famine-like conditions. Amnesty International reported on Tuesday that Ethiopian government-aligned forces have subjected hundreds of Tigrayan women and girls to sexual violence as a weapon of war; the organization claims the scale of the violence is “particularly shocking” and amounts to war crimes. Three major Afghan cities fell to the Taliban this week, as the insurgent group continues its push to take over the country. The Taliban has control over 18 of 34 provincial capitals (about 65% of the country’s territory), and the rapid rate of its advancement has deepened the sense of panic across Afghanistan. Government forces are collapsing, and some American officials believe the government will not last through the month. Since May, at least 244,000 people have been internally displaced and 1,000 killed as clashes between Afghan and Taliban forces have left cities in ruins. The UNHCR warned that the heaviest toll has been on women and children, who make up about 80% of displaced persons. Fearing the fall of Kabul, the nation’s capital, the U.S., Denmark, and Norway are evacuating most members of their respective embassies.
Discussion over vaccine access inequity is becoming more present as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes a third vaccine dose for immunocompromised people. This comes after the World Health Organization called on Global North countries, such as the United States, to halt booster shots until at least 10% of every country worldwide was vaccinated. The balance between welcoming tourists and imposing lockdowns has also been growing worldwide. With rising Covid-19 cases, Phuket, Thailand has been caught in the middle of making decisions. In the first month of reopening alone, Phuket welcomed over 14,000 tourists, generating an estimated 829 million baht (24.8 million USD). While charter flights are still approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, the city has closed the Phuket Town Fresh Market for a week and converted unused prisons into field hospitals. Meanwhile, New Zealand is planning to reopen its borders to international travels early next year. Borders will not reopen until after New Zealand’s vaccine rollout is completed. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the government planned to follow the advice of experts, maintain the elimination strategy and proceed with caution. Only fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries would not be required to quarantine, however, everyone else will be expected to quarantine for some duration of time. In other news, Iran is facing a rising wave of Covid-19 cases, according to interviews with physicians and health workers, social media postings, and even some state media. The official recorded death toll is around 500-600 people a day, but frontline doctors in Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz and Mashhad told the New York Times that the real death toll was closer to 1,000 a day. With insufficient testing, lack of access to care, and less than 3% of Iran’s population fully vaccinated, the government is facing growing criticisms of incompetence.
A junta-appointed local administrator said that Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim population is not on the list of priority groups for vaccine rollout, despite living in densely packed camps primed for spreading Covid-19. The Rohingya located in Sittwe live in crowded camps separated from the Buddhist majority population by barbed wire. Since Myanmar’s covid-response plan collapsed with the Feb 1st coup, densely populated areas like Rohingya camps have been hardest hit. Many Rohingya express fear regarding how they will be treated if they seek Covid-19 care at local hospitals. The administrator refused to comment on whether the lack of a plan to vaccinate the Rohingya is based in discrimination, stating the vaccine adminsters “are only following orders.” Myanmar officials estimate that 300 people die from Covid-19 a day in Myanmar, but the number is suspected to be much higher. To battle the virus, the U.S. announced this week that it is donating $50 million in humanitarian aid to Myanmar. In other news, 88 year-old Than Shwe, Myanmar’s former dictator, was admitted to a military hospital this week after contracting covid -19. Than Shwe ruled Myanmar’s previous junta for two decades before ushering in a civilian government in 2011. He is receiving treatment in the capital Naypyitaw and is said to be in stable condition.