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Andorra

General
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This small country is situated between France and Spain. Because of its elevation and proximity to the Pyrenees the climate is generally pleasant throughout the year.
Climate
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During the summer months the temperatures can rise to 30c but there is usually a cooling breeze. Lightening storms can occur during the summer months associated with torrential rain.
Sun Exposure and Dehydration
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Those from Northern Europe can develop significant sun exposure and so remember to use a wide brimmed hat when necessary. The altitude can also lead to significant tiredness and dehydration so take sufficient initial rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Safety & Security
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The level of crime throughout the country directed at tourists is very low. Nevertheless take care of your personal belongings at all times and use hotel safety boxes where possible.
Local Customs
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There are strict laws regarding the use of illegal drugs. Make sure you have sufficient supplies of any medication you required for your trip and that it is clearly marked. The European E111 form is not accepted in Andorra and so it is essential that you have sufficient travel insurance for your trip.
Winter Sports
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Andorra is one of the regions where many travel to partake of their winter sport facilities. Generally this is well controlled and one of the safer regions. Nevertheless, make certain your travel insurance is adequate for the activities you are planning to undertake.
Vaccination
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The only standard vaccine to consider for Andorra would be tetanus in line with many other developed countries of the world.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2018 15:24:06 +0200

Andorra la Vella, Andorra, July 12, 2018 (AFP) - The tax haven of Andorra has long been a favourite destination for smokers looking to stock up on cheap cigarettes, but the enclave said Thursday that it would soon stop advertising the fact.   The government said it had signed up to the World Health Organization's (WHO) anti-tobacco convention, which aims to encourage people to quit smoking and combat contraband sales.   "The goal is to contribute to public health and pursue the fight against trafficking," government spokesman Jordi Cinca said at a press conference.

The tiny principality of Andorra, perched in the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain, attracts millions of shoppers each year to duty-free stores, where prices of alcohol, cigarettes, electronics and clothes can be up to 20 percent cheaper than elsewhere in the EU.   High taxes on tobacco imposed by many countries to help people kick smoking make Andorra's cigarettes a particularly good deal.   The average pack costs just three euros ($3.50) compared with eight euros in France, which has said it will gradually raise the price to 10 euros a pack by November 2020.

Tobacco sales bring in some 110 million euros a year for Andorra, whose economy is otherwise based almost entirely on tourism.   It is also an enticing destination for smugglers, with French and Spanish border agents regularly seizing cartons from people trying to sneak them out, either by car or by hiking down the mountain trails which criss-cross the Pyrenees.   No date has been set for the advertising ban, which will come into effect three months after the ratification of the WHO accord is voted by parliament.
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2018 02:41:51 +0100

Andorra la Vella, Andorra, March 16, 2018 (AFP) - The tiny principality of Andorra is witnessing a once in a generation phenomenon -- a widespread strike.   Around a third of civil servants across the mountainous micro-state have walked out to protest proposed reforms to their sector in what has been described as Andorra's first large-scale strike since 1933.

With no negotiation breakthrough in sight, picket lines are expected to be manned again on Friday with customs officers, police, teachers and prison staff among those taking part.   The first major strike in 85 years was sparked by plans from the government of Antoni Marti to reform civil servant contracts.   He has assured officials "will not do an hour more" work under the reforms and that 49 million euros would be allocated for the next 25 years to supplement civil servant salaries.   But government workers are unconvinced with unions warning the reforms could risk their 35 hour working week and pay.

Customs officers involved in the strike interrupted traffic on the Andorran-Spanish border this week, according to unions, while some 80 percent of teachers have walked out of classes.   Strikers have occupied the government's main administrative building and held noisy protests outside parliament calling for Marti's resignation.    "We have started collecting signatures to demand the resignation of the head of government and now nobody will stop us," Gabriel Ubach, spokesman for the public service union, told reporters.
Date: Mon 27 Sep 2017
Source: Contagion Live [edited]

A recent Dispatch article published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, offers insight into a large norovirus outbreak that sprung up in Spain in 2016 that had been linked with bottled spring water. The Public Health Agency of Catalonia (ASPCAT) reported a staggering 4136 cases of gastroenteritis from 11-25 Apr 2016. Of the 4136 cases, 6 individuals required hospitalization. The CDC defines a "case-patient" as an "exposed person who had vomiting or diarrhoea (3 or more loose stools within 24 hours)," as well as 2 or more of the following symptoms: nausea, stomach pain, or fever.

ASPCAT investigators traced back the outbreak to contaminated bottled spring water in office water coolers. The water came from a source in Andorra, a small independent principality located between Spain and France. Norovirus is a "very contagious virus," according to the CDC, and it is common for individuals to become infected by eating contaminated food. Although it is possible to be infected by consuming contaminated drinking water, this mode of transmission is "rare in developed countries," according to the article.

The investigators collected water samples from a total of 4 19-L water coolers in 2 different offices located in Barcelona, "from which affected persons had drunk; samples 1 and 2 came from 2 water coolers in one office, while samples 3 and 4 came from 2 water coolers in another office. Using "positively charged glass wool and polyethylene glycol precipitation for virus concentration," the investigators tested the samples.

"We detected high RNA levels for norovirus genotype I and II, around 103 and 104 genome copies/L, in 2 of the 4 water cooler samples concentrated by glass wool filtration and polyethylene glycol precipitation," according to the article. The investigators noted that a drawback of using molecular methods is that they are not able to differentiate between particles that are infectious and those that are not. Therefore, they "predicted the infectivity of norovirus in the concentrated samples by treating the samples with the nucleic acid intercalating dye PMA propidium monoazide and Triton X surfactant before RT-qPCR," which allowed them to "distinguish between virions with intact and altered capsids."

In those 2 water samples, they found high genome copy values -- 49 and 327 genome copies/L for norovirus genotype I and 33 and 660 genomes copies/L for norovirus genotype II. This was not an unexpected finding, due to the large number of infected individuals associated with the outbreak. Through "PMA/Triton treatment before RT-qPCR assays," the investigators found that the proportion of infected virions accounted for 0.3% to 5.6% of the total number of physical particles in the water samples, "which was enough to cause gastrointestinal illness."

The investigators also analyzed faecal samples collected from infected individuals who worked at the office in which the 1st 2 water samples were collected. They detected the following genotypes in those faecal samples: GI.2 and GII.17. In the faecal samples collected from the other office, they isolated the following genotypes: GII.4/Sydney/2012, GI.2, GII.17, and GII.2.

"We hypothesize that the spring water was contaminated by all 4 strains (GI.2, GII.2, GII.4, and GII.17) but levels of viral contamination for each genotype were not homogeneous in all bottled coolers," the investigators wrote. "We may have detected only the GII.4 genotype in water samples 1 and 2 because of a higher concentration of this specific genotype or because of bias caused by the sampling, concentration, and molecular detection procedures."

The investigators admit one limitation to their study: the small number of water samples collected and analyzed. They attribute this to the fact that on 15 Apr 2016, 4 days after the onset of the outbreak, the company that produced the drinking water recalled over 6150 containers of water "of suspected quality" as a precautionary measure. The recall prevented the investigators from collecting more samples to assess, according to the article.

Although the exact cause of the contamination has not yet been identified, the investigators posit that "the high number of affected persons from 381 offices that received water coolers, and the many different genotypes found in some patients' faecal specimens" suggest that the spring aquifer had been contaminated by "sewage pollution," and the Andorra Ministry of Health and Welfare banned further use of the spring.

The investigators suggest that assessing commercially-produced mineral waters for different harmful pathogens, such as norovirus would be beneficial. They note, however, that creating, enhancing, and managing such "virus surveillance systems" would be costly. Thus, the investigators suggest taking a "balanced approach to keep both the cost and the time required for the analyses within feasibility limits."  [Byline: Kristi Rosa]
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[The interesting article published in the September 2017 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases is:
Blanco A, Guix S, Fuster N, et al: Norovirus in bottled water associated with gastroenteritis outbreak, Spain, 2016. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017; 23(9): 1531-34; https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/23/9/16-1489_article. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[Catalonia and Andorra can be located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail map at http://healthmap.org/promed/p/1341. - ProMED Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ]
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2013 22:25:05 +0100 (MET)

ANDORRA LA VELLA, Andorra, Dec 26, 2013 (AFP) - A Spanish skier and a French snowboarder have died in avalanches in different mountain ranges in Europe, officials said Thursday.

The 27-year-old skier, a woman from Barcelona, died Wednesday while going off-piste alone in the Soldeu resort in Andorra, in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, a resort manager told AFP.   Although she was rescued within 10 minutes, after her glove was spotted on the surface, she was unable to be revived despite a helicopter dash to hospital.

In the Italian Alps, close to the border with France, a 24-year-old Frenchman who was snowboarding with three friends on a closed run died Thursday when an avalanche swept over him in the resort town of Les Arnauds.   Local officials said he succumbed to multiple injuries, asphyxia and hypothermia.

Avalanches are common in Europe's ski resorts at this time of year, when early snows are heavy with moisture, and several deaths occur each winter.   Last Sunday, a 35-year-old Frenchman died in an avalanche in the Alps near the Italian border while on a three-day trek with a friend.
Date: Fri 7 Feb 2003 From: Jaime R. Torres Source: EFE Salud, Thu 6 Feb 2003 (translated by Maria Jacobs) [edited] -------------------------------------------------- Close to 300 students in one school and 173 tourists staying in 7 hotels in the Principality of Andorra have been affected by outbreaks of gastroenteritis that, according to local authorities, are not related to each other. Monica Codina, Minister of Health, stated that the outbreak that has affected almost 300 children and 8 adults in the San Ermengol school was detected last Monday [3 Feb 2003] but that it may have started Wednesday or Thursday of the previous week. The epidemiological surveys of a group of pre-school and grammar school students that may also be affected have not been performed yet. Also pending are the results of the microbiological tests of the food and water served in the school dining room, but the minister has indicated that the probable cause of the outbreak is the fact that water pitchers were filled with hoses directly from the faucet. The Minister stated that this outbreak of gastroenteritis is not related to the one that affected 173 tourists, most of them young people on holiday, who where staying in 7 hotels of the Principality. The government is also investigating the cause of this outbreak and has indicated that an anomaly in the system that supplies water to the hotels was detected, requiring a process of chlorination, which has not been carried out due to the heavy snowfall of the past few days. * * * * * * * * * * [The suspicion that defective water supplies may be responsible for all of these independent outbreaks suggests that the etiologic agent may be an enterovirus, hepatitis A virus, or non-viral, rather than one of the noroviruses associated with sudden-onset viral gastroenteritis. Information on the outcome of diagnostic tests in progress would be welcomed. - ProMed Mod.CP]
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Puerto Rico

No Profile is available at present

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 2020 02:45:27 +0100 (MET)
By Ivelisse RIVERA, con Leila MACOR en Miami

Yauco, Puerto Rico, Jan 16, 2020 (AFP) - Living out in the open, their nerves on edge after a series of earthquakes that have shaken Puerto Rico, some 5,000 people are hoping that their president, Donald Trump, will heed the island's plea to be designated a disaster zone and free up much-needed aid.   Since December 28, more than 1,000 tremors have rattled the US island territory in the Caribbean, which just two years ago was devastated by two powerful hurricanes in quick succession.

In Yauco, one of the areas worst hit by the earthquakes, dozens of people were sitting on cot beds Wednesday in the parking lot of a municipal stadium, sheltered from the sun by white tents and blue tarps handed out by the federal disaster management agency, known as FEMA.  "The most difficult thing is the psychological aspect," said Wilfredo Rodriguez, 31. His house had been fractured by the seismic movement and he has spent a week living with his kids, aged six and 10, under an awning.    "We are living in constant fear of another powerful tremor," he said.

He only returns to his house to wash, then hurries back to the shelter. "We worry that there'll be a more powerful tremor while we are inside the house," he said.   Throughout the day, volunteers arrive to hand out food and toys for the children who fill the shelters: schools have been suspended because the buildings are not sturdy enough to withstand another quake.    The island's earthquake detection system has registered 1,104 tremors in the past two weeks alone, of which 186 could be felt by the population. By comparison, during the whole of 2019 there were 6,442 tremors, of which just 62 could be felt by people on the island.

Further south, in Guanico, Juan Santiago decided to move into a shelter on Saturday after a tremor of 5.9 on the Richter scale hit the island. "The mountain shook and rocks and earth started to come down," said the 30-year-old.  "My house has a crack in it and is about to fall down," he added. His home had weathered the Category Five winds of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and of Hurricane Irma which followed it just two weeks later.   "It's different to a hurricane. What is happening now is much nastier," he said.

As he was talking the earth shook again, a tremor of 5.2 magnitude. Vehicles rocked like hammocks in the wind, but the quake-hardened victims barely reacted.   The houses in this part of the island are mostly rudimentary constructions built by the people who live in them with scant resources available in the mountains, where no regulations stipulate that buildings should be earthquake resistant.    The government of Puerto Rico said that as of Monday, there were 4,924 people living in 28 shelters in 14 municipalities. There were no figures on how many buildings had been damaged or destroyed.

- Seeking disaster designation -
Puerto Rico's governor Wanda Vazquez Garced called on Trump to declare the earthquake a disaster and clear the way for desperately needed aid. Trump had declared an emergency days before, but the governor wanted more.   The declaration of an emergency frees up to $5 million dollars in aid for the island, although Congress can bump that figure up. But if the situation is designated a disaster, there is no ceiling on funding, a FEMA spokesman said.   On Wednesday, the government said it would release $8.2 billion in delayed hurricane relief that had been stalled after the president threatened to divert Puerto Rico's emergency funds to help pay for his wall on the US-Mexico border.

In the past few days there have been growing calls among Democratic lawmakers for Trump to declare the situation in Puerto Rico a disaster.   It is a delicate subject, as Trump has accused the government of Puerto Rico of incompetence and of siphoning off hurricane relief money, triggering a public spat between the president and the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as well as the former governor Ricardo Rossello, who was forced to step down last summer amid massive protests.   The Puerto Rican leaders accused Trump of treating the population of the island like second class citizens.
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2020 15:43:12 +0100 (MET)

Washington, Jan 11, 2020 (AFP) - A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Puerto Rico Saturday, the latest in a series of powerful tremors that have shaken the US territory in recent days, the US Geological Survey reported.

The latest quake occurred at 8:54 am local time (1254 GMT) around 13 kilometres (eight miles) southeast of Guanica, a town on the island's southern Caribbean coastline that was hard hit by earlier quakes.   The USGS revised its initial report of a 6.0 magnitude quake to 5.9.   It follows a 6.4 magnitude quake Tuesday that killed one person, knocked
out electric power and caused widespread damage.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez declared a state of emergency after Tuesday's quake, which forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid.    Puerto Rico's electric power authority reported outages in the towns of Ponce, Lares, Adjuntas and San German after the latest quake.   The Pacific Tsunami Information Center in Hawaii issued a statement saying there was "no significant tsunami threat" but a small possibility of tsunami waves along coasts nearest the epicentre.

The island is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which came ashore more than two years ago as a devastating Category 4 storm.   Starting December 28, a wave of tremors have swept the island, putting residents on edge.   The 6.4 quake on January 7 came a day after a 5.8 magnitude quake; it was followed by major aftershocks.   Saturday's quakes were also preceded by a string of smaller tremors.
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 23:44:45 +0100 (MET)
By Ricardo Arduengo

Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Tuesday after a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake killed at least one person in the south of the island and caused widespread damage.   Governor Wanda Vazquez said the declaration would allow for the activation of National Guard troops in the US territory still recovering from a devastating 2017 hurricane.   The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 4:24 am (0824 GMT) with the epicenter off the coast of the southern city of Ponce, and was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks.

Tuesday's quake was the most powerful in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28.   Scientists initially sent out an alert about a potential tsunami but it was later canceled.   The island's electricity authority said the quake had forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid, already severely damaged by Hurricane Maria more than two years ago.   The worst damage appeared to be in towns on the southwest coast, including Ponce, Guayanilla and Guanica.   El Nuevo Dia newspaper said a 73-year-old man died after a wall fell in his home in Ponce. Eight others there were reported injured.

Two power plants in Guayanilla sustained major damage, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said. The city could be without power for two weeks, its mayor Nelson Torres Yordan said.   Celebrity chef Jose Andres announced that a charity he runs, World Central Kitchen, had started serving meals and distributing solar-powered lamps in quake-hit areas.   Vazquez announced that $130 million in emergency aid funding will be disbursed.   On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake.   One woman on Twitter said she had been "wrenched from sleep."   "Everybody is awake & scared all over," she posted.   In Guayanilla, the Inmaculada Concepcion church, built in 1841, was heavily damaged.   Volunteers salvaged statues and other valuable items from the ruins as a priest consoled distraught parishioners.

- 'Be safe' -
A 5.8 magnitude quake on Monday toppled some structures, caused power outages and small landslides, but did not result in any casualties.   It also destroyed a popular tourist landmark, Punta Ventana, a natural stone arch that crumbled on the island's southern coast.   Vazquez, the governor, said government employees were being given the day off on Tuesday to take care of their families.   "We want everyone to be safe," she said.   She said ports were undamaged and there are several weeks' supply of gasoline, diesel and natural gas stored so people need not worry about shortages.

The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and Pete Gaynor, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), had been in touch with the governor.   Trump's administration came under severe criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria.   The Category 4 storm destroyed the island's already shaky power grid, overwhelmed public services, left many residents homeless and claimed several thousand lives, according to government estimates.
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 12:52:34 +0100 (MET)

Washington, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - A strong earthquake struck south of Puerto Rico early Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, the latest in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28.   The shallow 6.5 magnitude quake struck 13.6 kilometres (8.5 miles) south of the city of Ponce, the USGS said, revising down its initial reading of 6.6.   The quake struck just off the US territory's southern Caribbean coastline at 4:24 am local time (0824 GMT).   "The whole island is without power," the director of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Jose Ortiz, told local media.

Puerto Rico's governor Wanda Vazquez Garced posted on Twitter that the government's security protocols had been activated.   She said government employees were not expected at work, adding: "We want everyone to be safe."   On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake.   One woman on Twitter said she had been "wrenched from sleep", adding "Everybody is awake & scared all over."

Dramatic images also shared on social media appeared to show widespread damage in the town of Guayanilla, home to around 20,000 people, as well as nearby Guanica.   The mayor of Guayanilla told local news channel NotiUno that the town's church had collapsed in the incident.

An alert issued by the Tsunami Warning Center immediately following the earthquake was later cancelled.   Tuesday's quake was the strongest of a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28, topping Monday's 5.8 quake.   That earthquake toppled houses and caused power outages, but there were no reports of casualties.
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2020 18:04:21 +0100 (MET)

Miami, Jan 6, 2020 (AFP) - A 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook Puerto Rico Monday, toppling houses and causing power outages and small landslides but there were no reports of casualties, the US Geological Survey said.   The quake, just off the US territory's southern Caribbean coastline, was felt throughout much of the island, including the capital San Juan.

Some 250,000 customers were hit by electric power outages after the quake, which struck at 6:32 am local time (1032GMT).   Images posted on social media showed houses tumbled from their supporting pillars, cracks in walls, cars crushed under collapsed houses and small scale landslides.   The quake was the strongest of a series that have rippled through the island since December 28, and it was followed by at least eight aftershocks, officials said.   No tsunami alerts were issued.
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Benin

Benin - US Consular Information Sheet
April 28, 2008

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Benin is a developing country in West Africa. Its political capital is Porto Novo. However, its administrative capital, Cotonou, is Benin's largest city and the
site of most government, commercial, and tourist activity. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Benin for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas are not routinely available at the airport. Visitors to Benin should also carry the WHO Yellow Card (“Carte Jaune”) indicating that they have been vaccinated for yellow fever. Contact the Embassy of Benin for the most current visa information. The Embassy is located at: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: 202-232-6656.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
U.S. citizens should not walk on the beach alone at any time of day. It is also highly recommended not to carry a passport or valuables when walking in any part of the city. Travelers should carry a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport (see Crime section). They should not walk around the city after dark, and should take particular care to avoid the beach and isolated areas near the beach after dark.
The ocean currents along the coast are extremely strong and treacherous with rough surf and a strong undertow, and several people drown each year.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Street robbery is a significant problem in Cotonou. Robbery and mugging occur along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novotel Hotels) and on the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors. Most of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Travelers should avoid isolated and poorly lit areas and should not walk around the city or the beaches between dusk and dawn. Even in daylight hours, foreigners on the beach near Cotonou are frequent victims of robberies. When visiting the beach, travelers should not bring valuables and should carry only a photocopy of their passport. If you are a victim of crime, you should contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. There has been a continued increase in the number of robberies and carjacking incidents after dark, both within metropolitan Cotonou and on highways and rural roads outside of major metropolitan areas. Motorists are urged to be wary of the risk of carjacking. Keep the windows of your vehicle rolled up and the doors locked. Stay alert for signs of suspicious behavior by other motorists or pedestrians that may lead to carjacking, such as attempts to stop a moving vehicle for no obvious reason. Travelers should avoid driving outside the city of Cotonou after dark and should exercise extreme caution when driving in Cotonou after dark (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Overland travel to Nigeria is dangerous near the Benin/Nigeria border due to unofficial checkpoints and highway banditry.
Travelers should avoid the use of credit cards and automated teller machines (ATMs) in Benin due to a high rate of fraud. Perpetrators of business and other kinds of fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Benin, and are more frequently perpetrated by Beninese criminals. Business scams are not always easy to recognize, and any unsolicited business proposal should be carefully scrutinized. There are, nevertheless, some indicators that are warnings of a probable scam. Look out for:

Any offer of a substantial percentage of a very large sum of money to be transferred into your account, in return for your "discretion" or "confidentiality";

Any deal that seems too good to be true;
Requests for signed and stamped, blank letterhead or invoices, or for bank account or credit card information;
Requests for urgent air shipment, accompanied by an instrument of payment whose genuineness cannot immediately be established;
Solicitations claiming the soliciting party has personal ties to high government officials;
Requests for payment, in advance, of transfer taxes or incorporation fees;
Statements that your name was provided to the soliciting party either by someone you do not know or by "a reliable contact";
Promises of advance payment for services to the Beninese government; and
Any offer of a charitable donation.
These scams, which may appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts, pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently more American citizens have been targeted. The perpetrators of such scams sometimes pose as attorneys. One common ploy is to request fees for “registration” with fictitious government offices or regulatory authorities. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Travelers should carefully check out any unsolicited business proposal originating in Benin before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, International Financial Scams.

Scams may also involve persons posing as singles on Internet dating sites or as online acquaintances who then get into trouble and require money to be "rescued." If you are asked to send money by someone you meet online please contact the U.S. Embassy before doing so.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Benin are limited and not all medicines are available. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Not all medicines and prescription drugs available in Benin are USFDA-approved. Malaria is a serious risk to travelers to Benin. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Benin is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

With the exception of the road linking Cotonou in the south to Malanville on the border with Niger in the north, and from Parakou in central Benin to Natitingou in the northwestern part of the country, roads in Benin are generally in poor condition and are often impassable during the rainy season. Benin's unpaved roads vary widely in quality; deep sand and potholes are common. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, dirt roads often become impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with full spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.
Most of the main streets in Cotonou are paved, but side streets are often dirt with deep potholes. Traffic moves on the right, as in the United States. Cotonou has no public transportation system; many Beninese people rely on bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, and zemidjans (moped taxis). All official Americans are required to wear safety helmets when on a motorcycle and are strongly discouraged from using zemidjans. Travelers using zemidjans, particularly at night, are much more vulnerable to being mugged, assaulted or robbed. Buses and bush taxis offer service in the interior.
Gasoline smuggled from Nigeria is widely available in glass bottles and jugs at informal roadside stands throughout Cotonou and much of the country. This gasoline is of unreliable quality, often containing water or other contaminants that can damage or disable your vehicle. Drivers should purchase fuel only from official service stations. There are periodic gas shortages, which can be particularly acute in the north of the country where there are few service stations.
U.S. citizens traveling by road should exercise extreme caution. Poorly maintained and overloaded transport and cargo vehicles frequently break down and cause accidents. Drivers often place branches or leaves in the road to indicate a broken down vehicle is in the roadway. Undisciplined drivers move unpredictably through traffic. Construction work is often poorly indicated. Speed bumps, commonly used on paved roads in and near villages, are seldom indicated. Drivers must be on guard against people and livestock wandering into or across the roads. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous as vehicles frequently lack headlights and/or taillights, and brake lights are often burned out.
With few exceptions, Cotonou and other cities lack any street lighting, and lighting on roads between population centers is non-existent. The U.S. Embassy in Cotonou prohibits non-essential travel outside of metropolitan areas after dusk by official Americans and strongly urges all U.S. citizens to avoid night driving as well. There have been numerous carjackings and robberies on roads in Benin after dark, several of which resulted in murder when the driver refused to comply with the assailants' demands. The National Police periodically conduct vehicle checks at provisional roadblocks in an effort to improve road safety and reduce the increasing number of carjackings. When stopped at such a roadblock, you must have all of the vehicle's documentation available to present to the authorities.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at http://www.benintourisme.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Benin, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Benin’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
U.S. citizens are advised to keep a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport with them at all times when traveling in Benin.
The Embassy has had a few reports of officials requesting a "gift" to facilitate official administrative matters (e.g., customs entry). Such requests should be politely but firmly declined.
It is prohibited to photograph government buildings and other official sites, such as military installations, without the formal consent of the Government of Benin. In general, it is always best to be courteous and ask permission before taking pictures of people. Beninese citizens may react angrily if photographed without their prior approval.
Obtaining customs clearance at the port of Cotonou for donated items shipped to Benin from the United States may be a lengthy process. In addition, to obtain a waiver of customs duties on donated items, the donating organization must secure prior written approval from the Government of Benin. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou for more detailed information.Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Benin laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Benin are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Benin are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Benin. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard in Cotonou. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 2012, Cotonou, Benin. The 24-hour telephone numbers are (229) 21-30-06-50, 21-30-05-13, and 21-30-17-92. The Embassy’s general fax number is (229) 21-30-06-70; the Consular Section’s fax number is (229) 21-30-66-82; http://cotonou.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Benin dated August 17th, 2007 to update sections on Safety and Security and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 10 May 2019 19:38:30 +0200
By Hazel WARD and Daphne BENOIT

Paris, May 10, 2019 (AFP) - French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight raid in which two soldiers died, authorities announced Friday.   The operation was launched to free two French tourists who had disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in neighbouring Benin on May 1.

But during the raid, the French troops were surprised to discover two women also in captivity, with top officials saying they had been held for 28 days.    The French tourists were identified as Patrick Picque, 51, and Laurent Lassimouillas, 46, but the women's identities were not immediately clear.     "No one was aware of (the women's) presence," French Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters, while French armed forces chief Francois Lecointre said.   "We know little about these other two hostages," Parly told reporters, saying that even Seoul and Washington did not appear to be aware the pair were in increasingly unstable Burkina Faso.    The raid was approved by French President Emmanuel Macron in what was seen as the last opportunity to stop the hostages being transferred to lawless territory in Mali to the north.

Parly said it was "too early to say" who had snatched the two French nationals from Benin, which has long been an island of stability in a region where Islamist militants are increasingly active.   "The message to terrorists and criminal gangs is clear: those who attack France and its nationals know that we will not spare any effort to track them down, find them and neutralise them," she said.   Four of the six kidnappers were killed in the raid.    French forces, helped by intelligence provided by the United States, had been tracking the kidnappers for several days as they travelled across the semi-desert terrain of eastern Burkina Faso from Benin to Mali.   They seized the opportunity to prevent "the transfer of the hostages to another terrorist organisation in Mali," Lecointre said, referring to the Macina Liberation Front (FLM).   The FLM is a jihadist group formed in 2015 and headed by a radical Malian preacher, Amadou Koufa. It is aligned with Al-Qaeda in the region.

- US intelligence support -
In a statement, Macron congratulated the special forces on the operation, in which he also expressed sorrow over the death of the two soldiers "who gave their lives to save those of our citizens".   And Parly thanked authorities in Benin and Burkina Faso for their help with the "complex operation", as well as the United States which provided intelligence and support.

The operation was also made possible by the presence of France's Operation Barkhane, which counts some 4,500 troops deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces battle jihadist groups.   American special forces and drones are also known to operate in the violence-wracked Sahel region, which France fears could become further destabilised as jihadist groups are pushed out of north Africa, Iraq and Syria.   Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

- Relief and sadness -
The French tourists -- Patrick Picque who works in a Paris jewellery shop, and Laurent Lassimouillas a piano teacher, -- went missing with their guide on the last leg of their holiday in usually peaceful Benin.   The Pendjari wildlife reserve, which is famed for its elephants and lions, lies close to the porous border with Burkina Faso.   The badly disfigured body of their guide was found shortly after they disappeared, as well as their abandoned four-wheel Toyota truck.   The two freed men will be flown back to France on Saturday, alongside the South Korean woman, where they will be met on arrival by Macron and other top French officials.   Washington thanked the French forces for freeing the American hostage, with France saying she would likely be "repatriated independently" from the other three. 

The two dead French soldiers were named as Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, decorated naval special forces members born in 1986 and 1991 respectively.   They were part of the prestigious Hubert commando unit of the French naval special forces which was deployed to the Sahel at the end of March.   A total of 24 French soldiers have died in the region since 2013 when France intervened to drive back jihadist groups who had taken control of northern Mali. The last death was on April 2.
Date: Tue 15 Jan 2019
Source: Punch [edited]

The Kwara state government has confirmed 2 cases of Lassa fever infecting a husband and wife in the state.

Speaking with newsmen on Tuesday [15 Jan 2019] at a news briefing, the Kwara commissioner for health, Alhaji Usman Rifun-Kolo, said the outbreak of Lassa fever was identified in a farm settlement in Taberu, Baruten local government area.

He explained that the 2 cases of the disease affected a husband and wife, natives of Benin republic, which shares a border with the state. He added that the husband and wife are farming in Baruten. "These cases of Lassa fever originated from Benin republic, whose citizen have interrelations with people in the Baruten area," he said.

According to him, the husband and wife were diagnosed in a health facility, and the state government had already deployed a disease-surveillance team to identify those who have been in contact with the patients.

Rifun-Kolo further explained that the surveillance team identified 4 people with a history of fever in the area. He said that the 4 cases raised suspicion of Lassa fever, which prompted them to take samples from the individuals for further investigation. He noted that the 4 individuals have commenced treatment in Taberu, Baruten LGA.
=====================
[The above report states that the couple was infected in Benin, although the timeline when that may have occurred is not given. The report also mentions 4 individuals in the Kwara state who had a history of Lassa fever, implying that the virus is present in that state in Nigeria as well. In December [2018], there were Lassa fever cases in Benin that were imported from Nigeria as well as infections that were locally acquired in Benin, so the Lassa fever cases cross the border in both directions. The source of the infecting virus for any of these cases is not mentioned. - ProMED Mod.TY

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Kwara state, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/19690>]
Date: Wed 26 Dec 2018
Source: Quotidein Le Matinal [in French, trans. ProMED Corr.SB, edited]

Minister of health Benjamin Hounkpatin confirmed on Wednesday [26 Dec 2018] 4 new cases of Lassa haemorrhagic fever in Benin, including one in Cotonou. This occurred in the period from 15-26 Dec 2018.

In the case of Cotonou, a 28-year-old (has been infected). His case was detected on 24 Dec [2018], but his illness commenced the previous week. He had a fever, a cough, a cold, and fatigue. Due to the persistence of the cough and cold, and with the appearance of traces of blood in nasal discharge on 24 Dec 2018, the alert was given.

The patient was placed in isolation on [Tue 25 Dec 2018], and on the morning of Wed 26 Dec 2018, his result from the laboratory came back positive [for Lassa fever]. Subsequently, the patient was isolated and put on treatment.

According to the details provided by Hounkpatin, there is no indication of travel [by the patient] to an epidemic locality of Lassa fever. According to the patient's statements, there is no known contact with rodents.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, the minister reassured the public that public health measures are underway. He also reminded people of the behaviours that will help avoid becoming infected. This involves washing hands regularly with soap and water; avoiding contact with stool, sperm, urine, saliva, vomit, and contaminated objects from a person suspected to be ill or dead from Lassa; and protecting food and keeping it in a safe place, out of reach of rodents.

It should be recalled that 7 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the epidemic to date, including 5 positive cases.
=======================
[One case is located in Cotonou on the Benin coast and apparently was locally acquired, perhaps from contact with the rodent host or its excrement. The location of the other 3 cases is not mentioned, but a 13 Dec 2018 report indicated that there were 3 cases in the municipality of Parakou in Borgou Department, in the northern part of Benin. Perhaps these 3 cases, which came from the village Taberou (in Nigeria), located 5 km [3.1 mi] from Tandou in the commune of Tchaourou, are the ones mentioned in this report.

The previous Lassa fever cases in Benin this year [2018] occurred in January and also involved case importation from Nigeria. A previous WHO report stated that Lassa fever is endemic in bordering Nigeria, and, given the frequent population movements between Nigeria and Benin, the occurrence of additional cases is not unexpected. Strengthening of cross-border collaboration and information exchange between the 2 countries is, therefore, needed. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Images of the rodent reservoirs of Lassa fever virus can be seen as follows:
For _Mastomys natalensis_, see
For _M. erythroleucus_ and _Hylomycus pamfi_, see

HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2018 13:37:32 +0200

Cotonou, June 29, 2018 (AFP) - Benin's Constitutional Court has banned the right to strike by workers in the country's defence, security, justice and health sectors, sparking concern among union officials and legal observers.   The ruling, issued late on Thursday, came after months of wrangling between the government and the court, which had previously said the measure was unconstitutional.

"Civil servants, public security forces and equivalents should fulfil their duties in all circumstances and not exercise their right to strike," the court said in its new ruling.   "There should be no disruption to the duties of public sector defence, security, justice and health workers."   The decision was taken "in the public interest" and for "the protection of citizens", it said.

Speaking on Friday, one senior union leader, who asked to remain anonymous, described the ruling as shocking and a "hammer blow".   And Benin legal affairs expert Albert Medagbe told AFP the decision was a "worrying sudden legal U-turn".   Earlier this month, a close ally of President Patrice Talon, Joseph Djogbenou, was elected to lead the Constitutional Court during a vote held behind closed doors.   Djogbenou is Talon's former personal lawyer and was previously  Benin's attorney general.

Until his arrival, the court had strained relations with Talon, and had criticised the government for misunderstanding and failing to respect the constitution.   The small West African nation was last year hit by a wave of public sector strikes, which brought the education, health and justice system to a near halt.   The industrial action was sparked by Talon's attempts to introduce free-market reforms.
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:31:52 +0100

Cotonou, Feb 21, 2018 (AFP) - Nine people appeared in a Benin court Wednesday on charges of selling fake drugs at the start of a landmark trial in a regional campaign against illicit medicines.   The suspects, who include executives from major pharmaceutical companies operating in the West African nation, were remanded in custody until March 6 on technical grounds.   They are accused of "the sale of falsified medicines, (and) display, possession with a view to selling, commercialisation or sale of falsified medical substances."   A tenth defendant, the head of the Directorate for Pharmacies, Medications and Diagnostic Evaluation (DPMED) under the control of the ministry of health, was not in court on the trial's opening day.   He is accused of failing to prevent the offences.

Benin launched the crackdown last year after mounting alarm about the scale of the trafficking of expired and counterfeit drugs in West Africa.   Fake medicines are drugs that are bogus or below regulatory standards but often are outwardly indistinguishable from the genuine product.   Taking them may do nothing to tackle an illness or -- in the case of antibiotics -- worsen the problem of microbial resistance.   According to an investigation by the Paris-based International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM), West African markets are awash with fake drugs made in China and India.

In 2015, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor-quality antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa.   A 15-nation regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), last April announced an investigation into the fake drugs business.   A lawyer for the civilian plaintiffs told AFP that the trial in Benin was adjourned until March 6 at their request "in order to incorporate another case, of illegal pharmaceutical practice".
More ...

Northern Mariana Islands

General:
**********************************
Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
the northern parts of the country. Temperatures of between 20C to 35C are fairly standard throughout the year. Generally the winter effects of the American continent only last for short periods.
Safety & Security:
**********************************
The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Road Safety:
**********************************
Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
**********************************
When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.

Currency:
**********************************
Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Health Facilities:
**********************************
Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
**********************************
The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
***********************************************
Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
************************************
The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
**********************************
This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
**********************************
There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
**********************************
Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

More ...

Congo, Democratic Republic

Democratic Republic of the Congo US Consular Information Sheet
23rd September 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) located in central Africa, is the third largest country on the continent. The capital
s Kinshasa. French is the official language. Years of civil war and corruption have badly damaged the country's infrastructure. Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Some travelers arriving in the DRC without proper proof of yellow fever vaccination have been temporarily detained, had their passports confiscated, or been required to pay a fine. Information about yellow fever vaccination clinics in the U.S. may be found at http://www2.ncid.cdc.gov/travel/yellowfever/.
Visas must be obtained from an embassy of the DRC prior to arrival.
Travelers to the DRC frequently experience difficulties at the airport and other ports of entry, such as temporary detention, passport confiscation and demands by immigration and security personnel for unofficial “special fees.”
All resident foreigners, including Americans, are required to register at the office of the Direction General de Migration (DGM) in the commune of their place of residence.
Visitors who wish to travel in any mining areas must first obtain government approval from various government agencies or ministries, an often cumbersome and time consuming process.
Dual nationals arriving in the DRC should carefully consider which passport they use to enter the DRC. For departure from the DRC, airlines will require a valid visa for all destination countries before they will issue a ticket or allow a passenger to board. Airlines also require that the passenger have the correct entry stamp in the passport they wish to use to exit the country. Passengers who are unable to leave the country on the passport they used to enter the DRC may not be able to continue on their travel itinerary.
Additional information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1726 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, tel. (202) 234-7690, or the DRC's Permanent Mission to the UN, 866 United Nations Plaza, Room 511, New York, NY 10017, tel. 212-319-8061, fax: 212-319-8232, web site http://www.un.int/drcongo. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate. Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Though the DRC is now significantly more stable than it has been over the past decade, security remains problematic. The first democratic elections in more than forty years were held in 2006, and a new government is now in place. Post-election disturbances occurred as recently as March 2007 in Kinshasa, resulting in deaths of civilians and military personnel. During civil disturbances in 2007 there were incidents of hostility towards U.S. citizens and other expatriates.

Both inside and outside Kinshasa, there can be roadblocks, especially after dark. Vehicles are often searched for weapons and valuables, and travelers are checked for identity papers. Security forces regularly seek bribes. If confronted with such a situation, it is suggested that U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm. If detained, report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa as soon as possible.

The United Nations has its largest peacekeeping operation in the world in the DRC. Known by its French acronym of MONUC, it has close to 17,000 peacekeepers deployed in the country – primarily in the east. Violence nevertheless persists in the eastern DRC due to the presence of several militias and foreign armed groups, with sporadic outbreaks occurring in North Kivu, South Kivu, and northern Katanga provinces, as well as in the Ituri District of Orientale province. Members of the Lord’s Resistance Army entered into northeastern DRC from Sudan in 2005, and have camps in an isolated region of the DRC, Garamba National Park, where they killed eight MONUC peacekeepers in January 2006.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for overseas callers, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
In the DRC, poor economic conditions continue to foster crime, especially in urban areas. Travel in many sections of Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi and most other major cities, is generally safe during daylight hours, but travelers are urged to be vigilant against criminal activity which targets non-Congolese, particularly in highly congested traffic and areas surrounding hotels and stores. Outlying, remote areas are less secure due to high levels of criminal activity and the lack of adequate training, supervision, and salary payments to the security forces present.

Vehicle thefts, burglaries, and armed robbery occur throughout the country; there have been recent reports of after-dark carjackings, resulting in deaths in the North Kivu area. It is recommended to drive with doors locked and windows closed at all times. If confronted by members of the military or security forces, visitors should not permit soldiers or police officers to enter their vehicles nor get into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official. It is recommended that in such instances U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm and, if threatened, not resist. All incidents should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.

Consistency in administering laws and regulations is notably absent. Travelers should note that in cases of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited. Therefore, valuable items may be safer if kept at home or another secure location.

Security officials and/or individuals purporting to be security officials have detained and later robbed American citizens and other foreigners in the city of Kinshasa. This type of crime has increased in recent months, but generally occurs more frequently during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Travelers using public transportation or visiting high pedestrian traffic areas of any type are advised to be vigilant against robbery and pick-pocketing which is a persistent problem in all major cities in the DRC. The presence of “street children”, who can be persistent and sometimes aggressive, remains a problem particularly in Kinshasa.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
In the DRC, medical facilities are severely limited, and medical materials are in short supply. Travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them and should not expect to find an adequate supply of prescription or over-the-counter drugs in local stores or pharmacies. Payment for any medical services required is expected in cash, in advance of treatment.

Malaria is common throughout the DRC and outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, the Ebola virus, and hemorrhagic fever occur.
Travelers should take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in the DRC.
For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the DRC.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
For planning purposes, the minimum estimated cost of medical air evacuation to the nearest suitable health care facility (in South Africa) is $35,000.

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the DRC is provided for general reference only, and may vary according to location or circumstance.

Inter-city roads are scarce, and throughout the DRC roads are generally in poor condition, and often impassable in the rainy season. When driving in cities, keep windows up and doors locked. At roadblocks or checkpoints, documents should be shown through closed windows. In the event of a traffic incident involving bodily injury to a third party or pedestrian, do not stop to offer assistance under any circumstances. Proceed directly to the nearest police station or gendarmerie to report the incident and request official government intervention. Attempting to provide assistance may further aggravate the incident, resulting in a hostile mob reaction such as stoning or beating.

Presidential and other official motorcades pose serious risks to drivers and pedestrians in Kinshasa. When hearing sirens or seeing security forces announcing the motorcade's approach, drivers should pull off the road as far as possible, stop their vehicles, and extinguish headlights. Vehicles should not attempt to move until the entire motorcade has passed by; the security forces will physically indicate when this has occurred. Failure to comply may result in arrest, and/or vehicle damage with possible personal injury.

Public transportation of all forms is unregulated and is generally unsafe and unreliable. Taxis, mini-buses, and trains are in poor mechanical condition and are invariably filled beyond capacity.

Visitors who wish to travel in any mining areas must first obtain government approval from various government agencies or ministries, an often cumbersome and time consuming process.

Drivers should stop their cars and pedestrians should stand still when passing a government installation during the raising and lowering of the Congolese flag. This ceremony occurs at roughly 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the DRC’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of the DRC’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Civil aviation in the DRC continues to experience air incidents and accidents; more than a dozen crashes and in-flight accidents resulted in more than 300 fatalities between 2000 and August 2008. Incidents included hard landings, engine failures, collapsed landing gear, and planes veering off the runway.
In-country air travel schedules are unreliable and planes are frequently overloaded with passengers and/or cargo.
The U.S. Embassy in the DRC has prohibited official travel by U.S. government employees and contractors on all DRC-owned and -operated commercial air transportation services due to concerns regarding safety and maintenance.
International flights on foreign-owned and -operated carriers are not affected by this notice.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Photography: Travelers should note that photography in public places in Kinshasa and around any public or government building or monument in the DRC is strictly forbidden. Persons caught photographing such sites will likely have their photographic equipment confiscated and risk detention and possible arrest.

Travel to and from Congo-Brazzaville (Republic of Congo): Ferry service to and from Kinshasa and Brazzaville stops running in the late afternoon, does not operate on Sundays, and may close completely with minimal notice. If ferry service is functioning, a special exit permit from the DRC's Immigration Service and a visa from the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) are required for U.S. citizens to cross the Congo River from Kinshasa to Brazzaville.

Ferry and riverboat service to the Central African Republic is suspended due to rebel control of the Ubangui River.
Phone Service: In the DRC, cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is unreliable. Depending on the type of phone, it may be possible to locally purchase a SIM card to use an American-compatible cell phone in the DRC.

Currency: U.S. currency is widely accepted in the urban areas, but most vendors and banking institutions will accept only Series 1996 bills or newer, with the large, off-center portraits, that provide stronger protection against counterfeiting. In addition, bills must be in near perfect condition; even those with minor stains or small tears will be rejected. One dollar bills are rarely accepted, even if in mint condition. U.S. bills should be examined before they are accepted to ensure that they are legitimate, as counterfeit currency is widely circulated. It is recommended that currency exchange be conducted at reputable banks and not on the street where several schemes exist to either short-change the unwitting customer or to pass counterfeit bills.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in any foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe in the DRC than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Congolese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the DRC are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Accusations of engaging in crimes against the security of the State, which are loosely defined, often result in detention for prolonged periods without being formally arrested. The DRC’s justice system remains plagued by corruption and uneven application of the law. Attorney fees can be expensive and are expected to be paid in advance of services rendered.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in the DRC are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the Congo. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs; tel. 243-081-225-5872 (do not dial the zero when calling from abroad). Entrance to the Consular Section of the Embassy is on Avenue Dumi, opposite the Ste. Anne residence. The Consular Section of the Embassy may be reached at tel. 243-081-884-6859 or 243-081-884-4609; fax 243-081-301-0560 (do not dial the first zero when calling from abroad).
*

*

*
This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dated April 29, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sun 16 Feb 2020, 5:00 PM
Source: WHO, Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and Other Emergencies, page 9 [abridged, edited]

During week 4 [week ending 26 Jan 2020], a total of 73 suspected cases including one death were reported across the country, compared to 46 suspected cases and no deaths in the previous week. The majority of cases in week 4 were reported from Sankuru province (78%).

In the past 4 weeks (weeks 1 to 4 of 2020) a total of 222 suspected cases with 4 deaths (CFR: 1.8%) were notified in the country, with the majority of cases being reported from the provinces of Sankuru (31%), Bas-Uele (18%), Equateur (15%) and Mai-Ndombe (9%). There has been an increase in the weekly case incidence since week 2 of 2020.

Between weeks 1 and 52 of 2019 a cumulative total of 5288 monkeypox cases, including 107 deaths (CFR 2%) were reported from 133 health zones in 19 provinces.
======================
[Monkeypox (MPX) virus is endemic and widespread geographically in the DR Congo, with cases occurring sporadically in several provinces. January 2020 is off to a similar start with 222 suspected cases and 4 deaths reported in 4 provinces. The 2% CFR is relatively low for the clade of MPX that occurs in the DRC, which can reach 10% or more. The 222 cases are suspected, and there is the possibility that without laboratory confirmation some of them may be varicella cases misdiagnosed as MPX. There is no additional information about the circumstances under which these cases acquired their infection. Monkeys are not the reservoirs of the virus, despite the name that the virus has received. Studies of prevalence of MPX virus in populations of rodent hosts are not mentioned in this or previous reports. The main reservoirs of MPX virus are suspected to be rodents, including rope squirrels (_Funisciurus_ spp., an arboreal rodent) and terrestrial rodents in the genera _Cricetomys_ and _Graphiurus_. Halting the bushmeat trade and consumption of wild animals to halt MPX virus exposure will be culturally and economically difficult, so continued occurrence of cases can be expected. MPX virus can be transmitted between people but not readily. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2020 21:09:17 +0100 (MET)

Geneva, Feb 12, 2020 (AFP) - The UN health agency on Wednesday said it was extending its global emergency designation for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo but said the sharp decline in cases was "extremely positive".   The recent outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and has since killed more than 2,300 people in eastern DR Congo -- an area where several militia groups are operating.   "As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO, however, said it was downgrading the national and regional risk of the disease from very high to high, while it kept the global risk at low.    Tedros also voiced hope that the emergency could be lifted within the next three months on the advice of the WHO's Emergency Committee of international experts.   The World Health Organization last July declared it a "public health emergency of international concern" -- a designation that gives the WHO greater powers to restrict travel and boost funding.   Tedros, who will be travelling to DRC on Thursday to meet President Felix Tshisekedi, on Tuesday said only three cases had been reported in the past week.

But for the epidemic to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days -- double the incubation period.   The health emergency designation last year came a few days after a patient was diagnosed with the virus in the provincial capital Goma -- the first case in a major urban hub.   More than a month before that, the WHO reported that the virus had spread to Uganda for the first time.   The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.   The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

This is the second worst outbreak of the disease since 2014 when it killed about 11,000 people -- mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.   Efforts to contain the current outbreak have been hindered by attacks on health workers and conflicts in the east.   The WHO said in November it had moved 49 staff out of the Beni region in eastern DRC because of the insecurity.   The Beni region, straddling the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, has been repeatedly attacked by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which activists say has massacred more than 300 people since October.
Date: Fri 31 Jan 2020
Source: MSF (Medecins Sans Frontiers) [abridged, edited]

Since mid-2018, a massive measles outbreak has been ravaging through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The outbreak has turned into the biggest measles outbreak of the past 10 years in DRC and the biggest currently active worldwide.

Over 310,000 people have been infected and more than 6000 have died over the past year alone; 3/4 of those who have died are children. All 26 provinces of the country have been affected by the outbreak.

MSF teams are working in various areas of DRC to participate to the response; at different times over the past 2 years, they have been active in patient care, vaccination campaigns to prevent the spread of the disease, and surveillance activities to identify new areas of the epidemic and start the intervention as early as possible.

Our teams have set up dedicated facilities such as the laboratory opened at the end of 2019 in Lumbubashi, southeastern DRC, in order to ensure a faster, more effective turnaround of lab analyses.

During the last year in the current measles outbreak in DRC:

- 310 000 people have been infected with measles
- 6000 people have died
- 75% of those who have died are children

[See video at URL: Tackling the world's biggest measles outbreak: MSF responds in Kongo Central; byline: Solen Mourlon/MSF]

An MSF team is currently working in the province of Kongo Central, one of the main hotspots of the epidemic today. Our response in this area began in December 2019 and has been targeting the health zones where the highest numbers of cases of measles have been reported.

The team is providing care for complicated cases in dedicated treatment centres, supporting local health centres to deal with non-complicated cases, contributing to surveillance, and facilitating transfers of patients to healthcare facilities.

Some of the main challenges we face are the complications linked with associated diseases (such as malaria or malnutrition), which increase the risk of mortality, and gaining access to remote, hard-to-reach areas.
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2020 17:43:54 +0100 (MET)
By Albert Kambale with Samir Tounsi in Kinshasa

Masisi, DR Congo, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - In eastern DR Congo, thousands have fled violence to camps in the remote mountain forests where they battle cholera, hunger and misery in a forgotten humanitarian disaster.   Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has long struggled with violence from several militia groups, a legacy of the 1990s Congo wars that dragged in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda.   The region is now also the epicentre of the latest Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 2,200 people since August 2018.

Away from the Ebola headlines, tens of thousands of people are scattered in squalid camps across the mountains around Masisi, where they have fled, traumatised by violence, starving and with no chance to return home.   "I fled my village after clashes broke out," said Gentille, a 26-year-old Hutu Congolese. "We could no longer go to the fields. Many people died because clashes broke out in the middle of the village, very early one morning."

That fighting broke out in November and December involving one of the so-called Mai-Mai militia, the Nduma Defense of the Congo-Renove (NDC-R) and a coalition of other armed rivals, according to UN experts.   Now Gentille, a mother of five lives in a camp of 8,000 displaced people.  Along with the unsanitary conditions, a lack of clean water and food, since late last year, a cholera and measles outbreak has worsened life in the camps.    Several anti-cholera treatment units have been opened by Doctors without Borders (MSF), which reports 520 cases and two deaths.    "Three of my children got cholera. One died," says Gentille. "Here in the camp, we do not have enough toilets. More than 180 people use the same toilet. Since it is always busy, the children defecate outside and all around."

Around 685,000 displaced people survive in the mountainous areas, estimates MSF, a figure the aid group hopes will draw attention of the donors.   A year after coming to power, President Felix Tshisekedi has promised far-reaching reforms and a crackdown on corruption. But militia violence and ethnic clashes still undermine security of populations in the east.
Date: Sat 18 Jan 2020 03:15 WAT
Source: Actualita [in French, machine trans., edited]
<https://actualite.cd/2020/01/18/rdc-une-maladie-inconnue-fauche-des-vies-kiri-5-morts>

An unknown disease has already killed 5 people at Kiri General Hospital, in the province of Mai-Ndombe, in the west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the authorities. The provincial minister of public health has said that all measures are underway to detect [diagnose?] the mysterious disease. "Admittedly, this was an abnormal situation; however, the situation is manageable because we have just gone into this health facility and we have tried to carry out investigations. My collaborators and I took some samples which have quickly been sent to the National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB) in Kinshasa for the appropriate medical tests which can give us accurate [diagnosis] on this abnormal situation," declared the minister Jean Claude Bola. First, added the same official, "it is not an Ebola epidemic, contrary to the rumour circulating in the Kiri territory and in the social networks."

In an exclusive interview with actualita.cd, the provincial authority also confirmed the deaths. "However, I warn all those who broadcast through the various media and social networks that there is Ebola in Mai-Ndombe that they have neither qualification nor competence to do so, because the only authority having jurisdiction in the provinces to declare an epidemic is the provincial governor," declared Paul Mputu Boleilanga. "Severe and disciplinary sanctions will be reserved against usurpers of power," he threatened. According to provincial authorities, a team from the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB), a team is expected in the Kiri territory for "rapid" management of all patients and to determine the disease underlying deaths in this region.
=============================
[Other than the number of deaths and the geographical location of the cases there is no additional information to permit reasonable speculation as to the aetiology or dates of illnesses. ProMED Mod.MPP noted that Ebola denial leads one to suspect this is a viral haemorrhagic fever.

Laboratory tests should confirm or rule out diseases such as yellow fever or Lassa fever. However, there is no indication that these cases are due to a virus or other infectious agent. Toxicants should also be ruled out. Additional information about these or new cases would be appreciated. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of DR Congo: <http://goo.gl/DM2AT8> and
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/194> and
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/65284>]
More ...

Western Sahara

General:
**********************************
Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
the northern parts of the country. Temperatures of between 20C to 35C are fairly standard throughout the year. Generally the winter effects of the American continent only last for short periods.
Safety & Security:
**********************************
The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Road Safety:
**********************************
Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
**********************************
When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.

Currency:
**********************************
Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Health Facilities:
**********************************
Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
**********************************
The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
***********************************************
Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
************************************
The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
**********************************
This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
**********************************
There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
**********************************
Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

More ...

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan - US Consular Information Sheet
May 07, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
While the country has undergone significant change since then, its progress towards democratic
nd economic reform has been halting and uneven.
Corruption is endemic at all levels of society.
Much of the country, particularly areas outside of Tashkent and the major tourist destinations of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, are remote and difficult to access.
Tourist facilities, when they exist at all, are typically below Western standards, and many goods and services remain difficult to find on a regular basis.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Uzbekistan for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and visa are required.
Although official invitation letters are not required for American citizens applying for tourist visas, they are required for those planning to visit an individual who resides in Uzbekistan.
Tourist visas cannot be extended in Uzbekistan.
Visas are issued by Uzbek embassies and consulates abroad.
Visitors coming from countries where Uzbekistan does not have diplomatic or consular representation should obtain visas in a third country.
Visas are not available upon arrival at Uzbek airports.
The Embassy has received a number of reports from American citizens who have had problems obtaining Uzbek visas or who received Uzbek visas valid for a very limited period, usually for fewer than three months.
Americans seeking visas are encouraged to apply for their visas well in advance of their travel.

It is important to note that Uzbek visas indicate not only the validity of the visa, but also the period of time a person is allowed to stay in Uzbekistan on a given trip.
A visitor will have to leave the country after the number of days indicated as the duration of stay on the visa.
Therefore, it is important to indicate your intended period of stay when applying for your Uzbek visa.
American citizens who are affiliated with a non-governmental organization (NGO), which has been closed in Uzbekistan, may be prevented from entering the country, even with a valid visa.
All travelers, even those simply transiting Uzbekistan for fewer than 72 hours, must obtain an Uzbek visa before traveling to Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek Government maintains travel restrictions on large parts of the Surkhandarya province bordering Afghanistan, including the border city of Termez. The border crossing point at Hayraton between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, while open, is tightly controlled.
Foreign citizens intending to travel to this region must obtain a special permission card from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs or Uzbek embassies and consulates abroad.
Even with such permission, however, some American citizens transiting to Afghanistan via Termez have been briefly detained and/or fined for not registering in Uzbekistan.

Travel within Uzbekistan by rail or land sometimes requires brief exit into neighboring countries.
Travelers should have multiple-entry Uzbek visas and a proper visa for the neighboring country in order to avoid delays in travel.

Registration after entry:
All travelers present in Uzbekistan for more than three business days must register with the Office of Entry, Exit, and Citizenship, commonly known as “OVIR.”
Hotel guests are registered automatically, but all other travelers are responsible for registering themselves.
Registration fees vary depending on length of stay.
See http://uzbekistan.usembassy.gov/consular for more information.
Visitors without proper registration are subject to fines, imprisonment, and deportation.
The fines range from $500 to $4,000.
Uzbek law mandates that visitors carry a medical certificate attesting that they are not infected with HIV, but this requirement is sporadically enforced.
For more information, see the Department of State's Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Testing Requirements for Entry into Foreign Countries brochure.

Further visa information is available from the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 1746 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036; telephone: (202) 530-7291; fax: (202) 293-9633; website: http://www.uzbekistan.org ; or from the Consulate General of Uzbekistan in New York City, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 327A, New York, NY 10017; telephone:
(212) 754-7403; fax: (212) 838-9812; website: http://www.uzbekconsulny.org .

See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Uzbekistan and other countries.
Visit the Embassy of Uzbekistan web site at http://www.uzbekistan.org for the most current visa information.

See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction .
Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
A Travel Warning remains in effect for Uzbekistan.
The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens of the potential for terrorist attacks or civil disturbance in Uzbekistan, although there have been no violent incidents there since May 2005, and continues to urge Americans in Uzbekistan to exercise caution.
The U.S. Government continues to receive information that indicates terrorist groups may be planning attacks, possibly against U.S. interests, in Uzbekistan.
Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Al-Qaida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are active in the region.
Members of these groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and have attacked U.S. Government interests in the past, including the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private American interests in Uzbekistan.
In the past, these groups have conducted kidnappings, assassinations, and suicide bombings.

Increased security at official U.S. facilities over the past year may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets.
These may include facilities where Americans and other foreigners congregate or visit, such as residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events, and resorts.
The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent continues to employ heightened security precautions.
U.S. citizens should report any unusual activity to local authorities and then inform the Embassy.

Uzbekistan experienced a wave of terrorist violence in 2004.
In July 2004 there were three suicide bombings in Tashkent, including one outside the U.S. Embassy.
The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The IJU also used suicide bombers in multiple attacks focused on police and Uzbek private and commercial facilities in Tashkent and Bukhara in late March and early April 2004.
In May 2005, armed militants stormed a prison in Andijon, released its prisoners, and then took control of the regional administration and other government buildings in Andijon Province.
Fighting broke out between government forces and the militants, and reports indicated that several hundred civilians died in the ensuing violence.
While there were no reports of U.S. citizens affected by these events, U.S. citizens and other foreigners in Uzbekistan frequently have experienced harassment from authorities and local residents since the 2005 violence.

Depending upon security conditions, travelers can expect restricted personal movement, including the closing of roads to traffic, and frequent document, vehicle, and personal identification checks should be anticipated.
The Uzbek Government has intermittently restricted travel to certain parts of the country in response to security concerns.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements , including the Travel Warning for Uzbekistan , Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , and the Public Announcement for Central Asia, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad .

CRIME:
Uzbekistan’s rate of violent crime, including against foreigners, has increased in recent years.
In urban areas, travelers are urged to take the same precautions against crime that they would take in a large American city.
If you are traveling at night, please travel in groups, maintain a low profile, and do not display large amounts of cash.

Although using private cars as taxicabs is a common practice in Uzbekistan, Americans, especially women, should not consider this a safe practice.
Americans are encouraged to use clearly marked taxicabs, such as those at hotels.
Also, Americans should avoid riding in taxis alone.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm .

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting the crime to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care in Uzbekistan is below Western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics.
Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at particular risk due to inadequate medical facilities.
Most resident Americans travel to North America or Western Europe for their medical needs.

Travelers are advised to drink only boiled water, peel all fruits and vegetables, and avoid undercooked meat.
Due to inadequate sanitation conditions, travelers should avoid eating unpasteurized dairy products and most food sold in the streets.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel .
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en .
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith .

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Uzbekistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Uzbekistan has a developed but deteriorating traffic infrastructure.
Although main roads in central Tashkent are relatively well maintained, many secondary roads inside and outside Tashkent, and particularly those in the Tien Shan and Fan Mountains, are in poor condition and may be passable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Driving at night can be quite dangerous because only the main roads in Tashkent and a few other major cities have streetlights; rural roads and highways generally are not lit.
Visitors are strongly urged to avoid driving at night outside Tashkent.
The gasoline supply can be sporadic; therefore, travelers should expect occasional difficulty finding gasoline, particularly outside of Tashkent.

Livestock, as well as farm equipment and carts drawn by animals that lack lights or reflectors, are found on both urban and rural roads at any hour.
Local drivers are not familiar with safe driving techniques.
Pedestrians in cities and rural areas cross streets unexpectedly and often without looking for oncoming traffic.
Uzbekistan has a large road police force, which frequently stops drivers for minor infractions or simple document checks.
There have been reports of harassment of foreign drivers by the road police, with reported minor police corruption in the form of solicitation of bribes.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Uzbekistan’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Uzbekistan’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa .

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Travelers to Uzbekistan are subject to frequent document inspections.
Therefore, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to carry a certified copy of their U.S. passport and their Uzbek visa with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.
In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and certain bilateral agreements, local authorities must grant a United States Consular Officer access to any U.S. citizen who is arrested.
U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask to contact the U.S. Embassy immediately.

Uzbek customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import to or export from Uzbekistan of items such as armaments and ammunition, space technology, encryption devices, X-ray and isotope equipment, nuclear materials, poisons, drugs, precious and semi-precious metals, nullified securities, pieces of art, and antiques of historical value.
Contact the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate of Uzbekistan in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Most transactions are conducted on a cash-only, local currency (soum) basis.
Credit cards are accepted only at the main hotels and a few shops and restaurants; travelers’ checks can be cashed into dollars at the National Bank of Uzbekistan.
The commission fee is two percent.
Importation of currency exceeding $10,000 (US) is subject to a one- percent duty.
Foreigners must complete a customs declaration upon entering Uzbekistan and may face fines upon departure if unable to produce certificates verifying legal conversion of foreign currency.
Old U.S. dollar bills (prior to 1990) and/or those in poor condition (with tears, writing or stamps) are not acceptable forms of currency in Uzbekistan.
Although payment in U.S. dollars is required for certain hotel charges, airline tickets, and visa fees, other dollar transactions, as well as black market currency exchanges, are prohibited.
Please see our Customs Information.

Uzbekistan is an earthquake-prone country.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/ .

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Uzbek laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Uzbekistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Uzbekistan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Uzbekistan.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at # 3, Moyqorghon Street, 5th Block, Yunusobod District, Tashkent -700093, Uzbekistan.
The main Embassy telephone number, which can also be reached after hours, is (998 71) 120-5450, fax:
(998 71) 120-6335; Consular fax: (998 71) 120-54-48; e-mail address: ConsularTashkent@state.gov; web site: http://uzbekistan.usembassy.gov.
*

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 13, 2006, to update the sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2019 09:29:10 +0100

Tashkent, Feb 1, 2019 (AFP) - Uzbekistan on Friday granted visa-free entry to citizens of 45 countries to boost tourism, which the government views as vital for economic growth.  The countries benefiting from a 30-day visa waiver that went into force on Friday include the majority of European countries including Britain as well as Australia, Canada, Argentina and Chile. The United States is a notable exception.

The impoverished ex-Soviet country has made tourism a priority to reduce its dependence on commodity exports.   The government is keen to show off the lavish Silk Road heritage of ancient cities such as Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand.    Earlier this year, Uzbekistan granted a 30-day visa waiver to Germany while France became the first European Union country to benefit from the measure last year.

Uzbekistan's tourism committee said last month that annual visitor numbers for 2018 were 5.3 million, double the figure for 2017.   President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has reversed a number of policies that hampered tourism under his late predecessor Islam Karimov.    Among the restrictions he scrapped was a ban on photography in the capital Tashkent's ornate metro that had led to police detentions of unsuspecting tourists.    Mirziyoyev's bid to boost tourism in the immediate aftermath of Karimov's death in 2016 suffered a false start.

In December that year, he issued an order easing or cancelling visa requirements for visitors from 27 developed countries but this was swiftly reversed before coming into force.   Observers attributed the reversal to resistance within the powerful security apparatus.      Uzbekistan already offers visa-free entry to visitors from Turkey, Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, in addition to long-standing reciprocal visa-free entry for citizens of most former Soviet countries.
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2019 13:59:14 +0100

Tashkent, Jan 4, 2019 (AFP) - Uzbekistan said Friday it will allow German citizens to visit for up to 30 days visa-free to boost tourism as the ex-Soviet country emerges from long-term isolation.   Germany will be the second European Union country after France to gain visa-free travel to Uzbekistan, which has opened up somewhat since the death of its long-reigning hardline leader Islam Karimov in 2016.    Germans will be able to enter the central Asian nation visa-free from January 15, the Uzbek tourism committee said Friday, three months after authorities granted French citizens the same 30-day visa waiver.

The impoverished country is highly dependent on commodity exports and has made developing tourism a priority.   In particular the government is keen to show off the lavish Silk Road heritage of cities such as Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand.    According to the Uzbek tourism committee, 18,094 Germans visited Uzbekistan in 2018, almost five times as many as in 2016.   Reform-touting Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev is set to visit Germany this month after meeting US President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron last year.    These high-profile visits are seen as rewards for his steps towards greater openness following the death of  Karimov, under whom Mirziyoyev served as prime minister for 13 years.   The current president has reversed a number of policies that hampered the tourism sector in recent years.

Among the restrictions he scrapped was a ban on photography in the capital Tashkent's ornate metro that had led to police detentions of unsuspecting tourists.    Mirziyoyev's bid to boost tourism in the immediate aftermath of Karimov's death suffered a false start, however.    In December 2016, he issued an order easing or cancelling visa requirements for visitors from 27 developed countries but this was reversed a month later before actually coming into force.   The reversal was attributed to resistance within the powerful security apparatus.      Uzbekistan offers visa-free entry to citizens of Turkey, Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan, in addition to long-standing reciprocal visa-free entry for citizens of most former Soviet countries.
Date: Thu 27 Dec 2018
Source: Vanguard NGR News [edited]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified Uzbekistan as malaria-free, confirming the end of the country's half-century-long battle for malaria elimination within its borders. Uzbekistan has become the 2nd country in 2018 to be certified malaria-free -- Paraguay was certified in June -- marking another milestone on the road to ending the disease for good.

"Malaria No More commends the government of Uzbekistan for its resilience and determination to eliminate malaria once and for all. Uzbekistan's decade-long commitment demonstrates the government's recognition that malaria stood in the way of development, and that ridding the country of the disease was critical to improving [the country's] economic outlook and protecting the health of its people," said Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More.

Uzbekistan 1st eliminated malaria in 1961 but struggled to maintain elimination as malaria cases continued to flow in from neighbouring countries. In 2000, recognising the barriers that having malaria within its borders had on the country's economy and overall health of its citizens, the government of Uzbekistan stepped up its investment and implemented a holistic multisectoral approach that went beyond health, with support from other ministries -- agriculture, education and transportation.

Highlighting the critical factors needed to get the job done, the WHO certification committee cited Uzbekistan's decision to maintain its support of the nation's primary health care system -- the backbone of the malaria response -- even during the economic crisis that gripped the country during the 1990s; its use of data to better target malaria interventions where they're need most; and its approach toward early detection, diagnosis and efficacious treatment of malaria patients -- free of charge and irrespective of nationality.

Another critical factor was support from non-governmental organizations and partners, particularly the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which played a vital role in Uzbekistan's achievement by providing financial support to ensure the national malaria program had the full amount of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying equipment, medicines and other tools needed to protect its citizens from malaria.  [Byline: Sola Ogundipe]
========================
[ProMED congratulates Uzbekistan with this important achievement. It is important to note that the achievement included mobilization beyond the health sector alone, applying a "holistic multisectoral approach that went beyond health," and the importance of the "primary health care system -- the backbone of the malaria response."

It is also noted that the malaria-free status would probably not have been achieved without the support of "non-governmental organizations and partners, particularly the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria." - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2018 12:05:35 +0200
By Christopher RICKLETON

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, April 29, 2018 (AFP) - Coiffed, cheerful and multilingual, identical twins Fatima and Zukhra Rakhmatova do not immediately resemble agents of ex-Soviet Uzbekistan's long-feared security apparatus.   But the photogenic 30-year-old pair are frontline members of a newly formed, user-friendly Tourist Police deployed in the famed Silk Road city of Samarkand and other hotspots as a visitor boom sweeps the Central Asian country.

The force, established in January, is viewed as part of a broader opening initiated by Uzbekistan's authoritarian government following a long period of self-enforced isolation.    More than 2.5 million tourists visited Uzbekistan last year, a 24 percent increase on the previous year, according to the UzDaily news site.   "In the past I worked as a teacher and then as a wedding stylist. I even won a national prize as a stylist," recalls Zukhra Rakhmatova, one half of a sister act proficient in English, Russian, Farsi, Turkish and Japanese.   "But our grandfather served in the force and our uncle too," Rakhmatova told AFP. "It was always our dream to serve."

- Change and continuity -
Samarkand -- a former power centre positioned at the epicentre of millennia-old trade routes linking China and Europe -- hosts symbols of authoritarian continuity as well as tentative reform.    A short walk from the ceramic and marble dazzle of the three madrasahs towering over the city's old square is the statue of Islam Karimov, who ruled the country from before independence in 1991 until his death in 2016.    Laid to rest in a grand mausoleum in Samarkand's historic centre, Karimov is criticised by rights groups as the architect of one of the world's most repressive and closed-off police states.

Far from being disavowed, his monument is now yet another photo opportunity for visitors and wedding parties in the city, where he was born in 1938 and remains widely revered.    "Everyone makes mistakes but Islam Karimov is a hero. He worked day and night to protect the Uzbek people," said a 22-year-old bridesmaid posing for pictures by the monument.    The young woman, who did not give her name but said she had travelled to Samarkand from the capital Tashkent, refused to say what "mistakes" she thought Karimov had made.

- Power struggle -
Whether out of political pragmatism or genuine deference to a man he served for 13 years as prime minister, Karimov's successor, 60-year-old Shavkat Mirziyoyev has also continued to honour his mentor in public.   In the aftermath of the former leader's death, new strongman Mirziyoyev likened him to a "father", even as he toned down some of the totalitarian excesses that defined Karimov's 27-year rule. 

Foreign tourism, which grew by around a quarter during Mirziyoyev's first year in office emerged as a key battleground in a power struggle that pitted the new reform-touting president against regime hardliners.   In February for instance, Mirziyoyev ordered the introduction of a 30-day visa-free regime for citizens of seven countries -- Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan -- and relaxation of registration rules for citizens of 39 others.

In cities like Samarkand, the changes were cheered by a population that endured long stretches of economic stagnation under Karimov.   "(We need to) open up of course!" said Malika Shakhimardonova, a chef at a mutton-grilling teahouse in the shadows of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, completed on the orders of medieval conqueror Tamerlane in the 15th century.   "Let the tourists arrive to us like brothers and sisters!" said Shakhimardonova, whose kitchen is expanding.

- 'Take photos and share them!' -
Many saw significance in the fact that Mirziyoyev's relaxation of visa restrictions came days after Rustam Inoyatov, 73, who led the notorious national security service for over two decades, was dismissed.   Inoyatov was widely reported to have blocked a previous effort by Mirziyoyev to revamp tourism and to have insisted on retaining long-standing security measures, including a blanket ban on photography in the capital's metro.    Such bans, which occasionally saw visitors detained by police, were "rudiments of the Soviet Union" now consigned to the past, said the country's new 44-year-old tourism chief Aziz Abdukhakimov.

"We want tourists to take as many photos as possible. Put them on Instagram! It is the best advert for the country," he told AFP.     The Rakhmatova sisters, who scoot around Samarkand on two-wheeled, motorised "Segways" and are trained to administer first aid, certainly seem far removed from the grimmer elements of a former communist police state.   But Fatima jokes their dual presence on the tourism beat might sometimes give visitors a different impression.    "Some tourists will see one of us close to one attraction then move on to another and find the other sister standing there," she explained.    "They smile but sometimes give us a strange look. Probably because we are identical they think the police are following them around," she laughed.
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2018 13:23:32 +0100

Tashkent, Feb 7, 2018 (AFP) - Uzbek authorities are to ease strict rules that bar visitors from taking photos or videos in parts of the country's picturesque capital, in a new bid to encourage tourism.   Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has made boosting the tourism sector a priority as his country seeks to emerge from a long period of economic stagnation under late ruler Islam Karimov, who died of a reported stroke in 2016.

But tourists have long been forbidden from capturing on camera the Uzbek capital Tashkent's elaborate metro stations and some government buildings.    Late on Tuesday state media published a presidential decree saying tourists would now be able to take photos of and film public places "without any sort of restrictions" as long as there is no specific legal act to prevent them from doing so.

It was not stated in the February 3 decree whether or not tourists would now be able to take photos of the metro stations.    Two travel agencies told AFP they had not yet received a list of spots that could not be photographed.   The decree also said tourists would be permitted to use drones to take photos and video, which was previously not allowed in the capital Tashkent.     Mirziyoyev, who served as prime minister for 13 years before taking over, has made moves to distance himself from Karimov's authoritarian excesses while also honouring his memory.

The new decree also allows for some foreign nationals to obtain a 72-hour transit visa on arrival in Tashkent airport, providing they can show proof of onward travel.    It was not immediately clear which passport holders this rule would apply to.     Uzbekistan is expected to grant citizens of Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan visa-free entry into the country starting from Saturday.

In December 2016, the government moved to lift visa restrictions for a longer list of countries but the order was unexpectedly deferred until 2021 weeks later.    Analysts attributed the nixing of the law to the intervention of the country's powerful national security chief, Rustam Inoyatov, whose dismissal after 23 years in power last month was widely seen as paving the way for further reforms.
More ...

Sudan

Sudan US Consular Information Sheet
August 29, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Sudan is a diverse, developing country in northeastern Africa. The capital city is Khartoum. The civil war between the northern and southern regions, which began in 1
83, ended in 2005. A multi-party conflict continues in the west in Darfur, and the armed Ugandan group known as The Lord’s Resistance Army is present in the south. Security conditions are adverse in these and some other regions. Transportation networks and other forms of infrastructure are poor and do not meet western standards. Even where available, water and electric services suffer frequent outages. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Sudan for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The Government of Sudan requires all travelers to present a passport and an entry visa. Most travelers must obtain the entry visa before arrival; only American citizens who also possess a Sudanese national identification document (such as a Sudanese passport or national identification card) may apply for an entry visa at Khartoum International Airport. The Government of Sudan routinely denies visas to travelers whose passports contain visas issued by the Government of Israel or other evidence of travel to Israel such as exit or entry stamps.

Travelers must obtain an exit visa before departure from Sudan as well as pay any airport departure tax not included in the traveler’s airline ticket. Visitors may obtain the latest information and further details from the Embassy of Sudan, 2210 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: 202-338-8565.

Travel permits issued by the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) or by the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) are not adequate for entry to the country, although travelers may find these documents useful to present to local authorities when in the south. Personal baggage, including computers, is routinely searched upon arrival to and departure from Sudan. The authorities will seize material deemed objectionable, such as alcohol or pornography, and may detain or arrest the traveler. Travelers intending to bring electronic items should inquire about entry requirements when they apply for a visa; restrictions apply to many devices, including video cameras, satellite phones, facsimile machines, televisions, and telephones. Travelers are not allowed to depart Sudan with ivory, some other animal products, or large quantities of gold.

All visitors must register with the authorities within three days of arrival. Travelers must register within 72 hours of arrival in Sudan at the Ministry of Interior. All foreigners traveling more than 25 kilometers outside of Khartoum must obtain a travel permit from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum. This applies to all travel, including private, commercial, and humanitarian activities. Americans risk detention by Sudanese authorities when traveling more than 25 kilometers outside of Khartoum without a travel permit issued by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Travelers must register again with the police within 24 hours of arrival. The government requires a separate travel permit for travel to Darfur. These regulations are strictly enforced and even travelers with proper documentation may expect delay or temporary detention from the security forces, especially outside the capital. Authorities expect travelers to strictly respect roadblocks and other checkpoints.

Travelers who wish to take any photographs must obtain a photography permit from the Government of Sudan, Ministry of Interior, Department of Aliens.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
On January 1, 2008, unknown assailants shot and killed two U.S. Embassy employees - an American USAID officer and a Sudanese national driver. Terrorists are known to operate in Sudan and continue to seek opportunities to carry out attacks against U.S. interests. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, or kidnappings. U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, which include tourist sites and locations where westerners are known to congregate, and commercial operations associated with U.S. or Western interests. Terrorists are known to have targeted both official facilities and residential compounds. Anti-American sentiment is prevalent and Americans should exercise utmost caution at all times.

The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services in Sudan, including emergency assistance, is severely limited. Many areas outside the capital of Khartoum are extremely difficult to access.

Travel in many parts of Sudan is hazardous. Outside the major cities infrastructure is extremely poor, medical care is limited, and very few facilities for tourists exist.

Conflict among various armed groups and government forces continues in western Sudan, in the states of North Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur. Banditry and lawlessness are also common in the west. Many local residents are in camps for internally-displaced persons, and receive humanitarian assistance for basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. Expatriate humanitarian workers have been the targets of carjackings and burglaries.

Land mines remain a major hazard in southern Sudan, especially south of the city of Juba. Visitors should travel only on main roads unless a competent de-mining authority such as the UN has marked an area as clear of mines. The armed Ugandan group known as The Lord’s Resistance Army is present along the southern border and reportedly has announced it will target Americans.
Occasional clashes between armed groups representing communal interests continue to occur in the centrally-located states of Upper Nile, Blue Nile, and Bahr al Ghazal. Banditry also occurs.
Sudan shares porous land borders with nine other countries, including Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Conflict in these countries occasionally spills over into Sudan.

Americans considering sea travel in Sudan's coastal waters should exercise caution as there have been incidents of armed attacks and robberies by unknown groups in recent years, including one involving two American vessels. Exercise extreme caution, as these groups are considered armed and dangerous. When transiting in and around the Horn of Africa and/or in the Red Sea near Yemen, it is strongly recommended that vessels convoy in groups and maintain good communications contact at all times. Marine channels 13 and 16 VHF-FM are international call-up and emergency channels, and are commonly monitored by ships at sea. 2182 Mhz is the HF international call-up and emergency channel. Wherever possible, travel in trafficked sea-lanes. Avoid loitering in or transiting isolated or remote areas. In case of emergency, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In the event of an attack, consider activating Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Crime is on the increase throughout Sudan. Additional security measures should be taken at places of residence to protect life and property. Anti-American sentiments can be found throughout the country. Americans should exercise caution by avoiding crowded public areas and public gatherings. Americans should avoid traveling alone. Report all instances of anti-American acts and crime targeting westerners to the American Embassy, and report incidents of crime to the Sudanese Police.

Americans should guard their backpacks or hand luggage. When traveling by air, travelers should maintain constant contact with their baggage and assure that they do not contain illicit items, such as alcohol or military ordinance. Americans have been removed from international airlines and detained when suspect items have been detected in checked baggage.

Carjacking and armed robbery continue to occur in western and southern Sudan. Sexual assault is more prevalent in the areas of armed conflict. Travelers who do not use the services of reputable travel firms or knowledgeable guides or drivers are especially at risk. Travel outside of Khartoum should be undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles so that there is a backup in case of mechanical failure or other emergency. Solo camping is always risky.

The Sudanese mail system can be unreliable. International couriers provide the safest means of shipping envelopes and packages, although anything of value should be insured.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Individuals with medical conditions which may require treatment are discouraged from traveling to Sudan. Medical facilities in Khartoum fall short of U.S. standards; outside the capital, very few facilities exist and hospitals and clinics are poorly equipped. Travelers must pay cash in advance for any medical treatment. Ambulance services are not available. Medicines are available only intermittently; travelers should bring sufficient supplies of needed medicines in clearly-marked containers.

Malaria is prevalent in all areas of Sudan. The strain is resistant to chloroquine and can be fatal. Consult a health practitioner before traveling, obtain suitable anti-malarial drugs, and use protective measures, such as insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito nets. Travelers who become ill with a fever or a flu-like illness while in Sudan, or within a year after departure, should promptly seek medical care and inform their physician of their travel history and the kind of anti-malarial drugs used. For additional information about malaria and anti-malarial drugs please see the Center for Disease Control travelers’ health web site, http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/index.htm.

Officially, people with HIV are not granted a visa and are not permitted to enter Sudan. A negative HIV test result must be presented at a Sudanese embassy or at Khartoum airport in order to obtain a visa. However, anecdotal reports indicate this requirement is not enforced in practice. Please confirm this requirement with the Embassy of Sudan at www.sudanembassy.org.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sudan is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions throughout Sudan are hazardous due to erratic driver behavior, pedestrians and animals in the roadways, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles. Only major highways and some streets in the cities are paved; many roads are narrow, rutted, and poorly maintained. Local drivers do not observe conventions for the right-of-way, stop in the road without warning, and frequently exceed safe speeds for road, traffic, and weather conditions. Driving at night is dangerous and should be avoided if possible; many vehicles operate without lights.

In the north and west, dust storms and sand storms, known locally as haboobs, greatly reduce visibility when they occur. Roads in these areas can be quickly covered with shifting sand at any season of the year. Roads in southern Sudan often are impassable during the rainy season, from March to October.
U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling, including traffic laws. In Sudan vehicles have the steering wheel on the left side and drivers use the right side of the road.

Traffic from side streets on the right has the right-of-way when entering a cross street, including fast-moving main streets. Traffic on the right has the right-of-way at stops. Right turns on a red light are prohibited. Speed limits are not posted, but the legal speed limit for passenger cars on inter-city highways is 120 kph (about 70 mph), while in most urban areas the limit is 60 kph (about 35 mph.) The speed limit in congested areas and school zones is 40 kph (about 25 mph).

Many local drivers carry no insurance despite the legal requirement that all motor vehicle operators purchase third-party liability insurance from the government. Persons involved in an accident resulting in death or injury must report the incident to the nearest police station or police officer as soon as possible. Persons found at fault can expect fines, revocation of driving privileges, and jail sentences, depending on the nature and extent of the accident. Persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol face fines, jail sentences, and corporal punishment.

Americans may use their U.S. driver's licenses for up to 90 days after arrival in Sudan, and then must carry either an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a Sudanese driver's license. There are no restrictions on vehicle types, including motorcycles and motorized tricycles.

Public transportation is limited to within and between major urban areas. Passenger facilities are basic and crowded, especially during rush hours and periods of seasonal travel. Schedules are unpublished and subject to change without notice. Vehicle maintenance does not meet U.S. standards. There is routine passenger train service on the route from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa (on the border with Egypt) and to Port Sudan (on the Red Sea.) Bus service between major cities is regular and inexpensive. Intra-city bus service in the major urban areas is regular, but most buses and bus stops are privately-operated and unmarked. Taxis are available in the major cities at hotels, tourist sites, and government offices. The motorized rickshaws in common use in Khartoum are unsafe. Travelers are encouraged to hire cars and drivers from reputable sources with qualified drivers and safe vehicles. Irregularly-scheduled mini-buses provide some public transit to rural communities; many areas lack any public transportation.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Sudan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Enforcement of aviation safety standards in Sudan is uneven; civil aviation in Sudan continues to experience air incidents and accidents, including 5 crashes with at least 64 fatalities between November 8, 2007, and June 30, 2008. Incidents included engine failures, collapsed landing gear, and planes veering off the runway. Whenever possible, Americans traveling to Sudan despite the ongoing travel warning are advised to travel directly to their destinations on international carriers from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program. Adverse seasonal weather conditions, such as dust or sand storms in the north between April and June and severe rain storms in the south between March and October, cause frequent flight cancellations.

Two hijackings originated in Sudan in 2007; no passengers were harmed.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In November 1997, the U.S. imposed comprehensive financial and commercial sanctions against Sudan, prohibiting U.S. transactions with Sudan. Travelers intending to visit Sudan despite the Travel Warning should contact the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Office of Compliance, telephone 1-800-540-6322 or 202-622-2490, regarding the effect of these sanctions.

Travelers must be prepared to pay cash for all purchases, including hotel bills, airfares purchased locally, and all other travel expenses. Major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, cannot be used in Sudan due to U.S. sanctions. Sudan has no international ATMs. Local ATMs draw on local banks only.

Travelers, including journalists, must obtain a photography permit before taking any photographs. Even with a photography permit, photographing military areas, bridges, drainage stations, broadcast stations, public utilities, slum areas, and beggars is prohibited.

Sudan is a conservative society, particularly in the capital and other areas where the Muslim population is the majority. Alcohol is prohibited by law and modest dress is expected. Loose, long-sleeved shirts and full-length skirts or slacks are recommended attire for women visitors. Women who are not Muslim are not expected or required to cover their heads. Men may wear short-sleeved shirts but short pants are not acceptable in public.

Please see our information on Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sudanese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in alcohol or illegal drugs in Sudan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States as well in Sudan.

Sudan’s Public Order Courts have continued to serve as the state mechanism for morality enforcement since the early 1980's. Today the court still issues punishments ranging from fines, to lashings, to lengthy prison sentences for offences such as drinking alcohol, wearing inappropriate clothing, or associating with unmarried women.

Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Sudan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Sudan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Sharia Ali Abdel Latif, Khartoum, Sudan; tel: 249 1 83 774-701, http://sudan.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated March 12, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Criminal Penalties.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 17:16:35 +0100 (MET)

Juba, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Swarms of locusts which are wreaking havoc across East Africa have now arrived in South Sudan, the government said Tuesday, threatening more misery in one of the world's most vulnerable nations.   Billions of desert locusts, some in swarms the size of Moscow, have already chomped their way through Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda.   Their breeding has been spurred by one of the wettest rainy seasons in the region in four decades.

Experts have warned the main March-to-May cropping season is at risk. Eggs laid along the locusts' path are due to hatch and create a second wave of the insects in key agricultural areas.    The arrival of the locusts could be catastrophic in South Sudan, where war  followed by drought and floods has already left six million people -- 60 percent of the population -- facing severe hunger.   Agriculture Minister Onyoti Adigo Nyikiwec said the locusts had crossed the eastern border with Uganda on Monday.   "The report came that these are matured. As you know locusts are like human beings, they send their reconnaissance ahead of time to make sure that whether there is food or not and if the area is good for breeding."

Meshack Malo, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in South Sudan, said about 2,000 locusts had been spotted so far, and if not controlled quickly, could have a devastating impact.   "These are deep yellow which means that they will be here mostly looking at areas in which they will lay eggs."    He said the FAO was training locals and acquiring sprayers and chemicals to try and combat the locusts. It is the first locust invasion in 70 years in the country.   Other countries have employed aircraft to spray the swarms, while desperate locals have employed tactics like banging pots and pans or shooting at them.    Nyikiwec said the government had prepared a contingency plan.   "We are training people who will be involved in spraying and also we need chemicals for spraying and also sprayers. You will also need cars to move while spraying and then later if it becomes worse, we will need aircraft."

Earlier this month Somalia declared a national emergency over the invasion.   The FAO says the current invasion is known as an "upsurge," the term for when an entire region is affected.   However, if the invasion cannot be rolled back and spreads, it becomes known as a "plague" of locusts.   There have been six major desert locust plagues in the 1900s, the last of which was in 1987-89. The last major upsurge was in 2003-05.
Date: Tue 4 Feb 2020
Source: UNICEF [abridged, edited]

With the aim of vaccinating 2.5 million children against measles, a [South Sudan] nationwide vaccination campaign kicked off today [Tue 4 Feb 2020]. The campaign is a cooperation between the Ministry of Health; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; WHO; UNICEF; and other partners. In addition to the vaccine, the children will also receive a vitamin A supplement and deworming tablets.

The campaign is essential for children's health in South Sudan, as the country is still battling an unprecedented measles outbreak with close to 4500 confirmed cases and 43 deaths. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect children against this very contagious disease. Vitamin A and deworming are crucial for children's immune systems and ability to fight diseases in addition to prevent blindness.

"We need to boost the vaccination coverage to protect children against measles outbreaks", said Dr Makur Matur Kariom, undersecretary, Ministry of Health. "Unfortunately, in South Sudan, routine vaccination coverage against measles remains low at only 59%. That means many children in our country are not protected against the disease. Hence, the importance of this vaccination campaign cannot be overemphasized".

The campaign will run in 2 phases. The 1st phase starts today [Tue 4 Feb 2020] and will cover almost 70% of the counties in the former Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Norther Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warrap, and Upper Nile [states], while the 2nd phase will cover the remaining counties in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile and end on 17 Mar 2020.

Unvaccinated children as well as children who have received only one dose are welcome. Large proportions of the targeted populations are in hard-to-reach areas. Yet the partners have planned for vaccination posts throughout the country, also in areas where access to health services is poorer.

"Every child has the same right to health, and no child is too far," said Dr Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the UNICEF representative in South Sudan. "We know how important herd immunity is to fight measles and protect the most vulnerable people; that makes it even more important to reach the last child with this campaign."

5th February 2020
https://www.afro.who.int/news/south-sudan-launches-nationwide-campaign-protect-25-million-children-against-measles 

Juba, 4 February 2020 – With the aim of vaccinating 2.5 million children against measles, a nationwide vaccination campaign is kicked off today. The campaign is a cooperation between the Ministry of Health, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other partners.  In addition to the vaccine, the children will also receive vitamin A supplement and deworming tablets.
 
The campaign is essential for children’s health in South Sudan, as the country is still battling an unprecedented measles outbreak with over 4 700 confirmed cases and 26 deaths since January 2019 to date. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect children against this very contagious disease. Vitamin A and deworming are crucial for children’s immune system and ability to fight diseases in addition to prevent blindness.
 
“We need to boost the vaccination coverage to protect children against measles outbreaks”, said Dr Makur Matur Kariom, Undersecretary, Ministry of Health. “Unfortunately, in South Sudan routine vaccination coverage against measles remains low at only 59 per cent. That means many children in our country are not protected against the disease. Hence the importance of this vaccination campaign cannot be over emphad”. 
 
The campaign will run in two phases. The first phase starts today and will cover almost 70 percent of the counties in the former Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Norther Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warrap and Upper Nile, while the second phase will cover the remaining counties in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity and upper Nile and end on 17 March 2020. 
Not only unvaccinated children can receive the vaccine, also children who only have received one dose are welcome. 
 
“The campaign will contribute to the reduction of illness and death due to measles. The measles virus is highly infectious. It can cause rashes, eye infection, respiratory infections, diarrhea and even death”, said Dr Olushayo Olu, WHO Representative in South Sudan. “We are committed to support the Ministry of Health to attain over 95 per cent coverage to be able interrupt the prevalence of this deadly disease virus in South Sudan”.  
Large proportions of the targeted populations are in hard to reach areas. Yet, the partners have planned for vaccination posts throughout the country, also in areas where access to health services is poorer. 
 
“Every child has the same right to health and no child is too far,” said Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan: “We know how important herd immunity is to fight measles and protect the most vulnerable people, that makes it even more important to reach the last child with this campaign. There is a lot of love in taking your children to the nearest vaccination post.”

Date: Sun 5 Jan 2020
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

In a follow-up on the diphtheria outbreak in Alsunta locality in South Darfur State, Sudan, the Ministry of Health in South Darfur State is now reporting 80 cases of confirmed diphtheria, including 10 deaths in Alsunta locality, according to [a] 3 Ayin report (computer translated).

Health authorities [attribute] this recent resurgence of diphtheria cases in this locality to the prolonged absence of primary healthcare services, which manifested in the closure of some health facilities and inadequate vaccination services provided to the local population [83% of the cases were not vaccinated against the disease  (<https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=https://fundacionio.com/tag/al-sunta/&prev=search>)].

The director general of the state's Ministry of Health, Dr. Muhammad Idris Abd al-Rahman, told local media, "Immediately after the appearance of the disease, the ministry spent several days and took samples and sent 6 of them to the reference laboratory that proved a positive condition."

He pointed to sending another more specialized delegation from the capital Khartoum and taking additional samples to ensure that it is clinically proven to be diphtheria cases that led the ministry to a health and treatment mission to the centre of the administrative unit as the largest affected area, indicating that work continues to contain the disease [so that] it does not spread to other [regions].  The best way to prevent diphtheria is to get vaccinated.
=======================
[South Darfur State (2006, estimated population of 2.89 million) is one of the 5 states that comprise the Darfur region in western Sudan; Nyala is the state capital
(<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Darfur>).

A map showing the location of South Darfur can be found at

Diphtheria is a vaccine-preventable disease. In 2013, WHO reported that more than 90% of Sudan's children were vaccinated against diseases that include diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and tuberculosis with the support of WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and other partners (<https://www.who.int/features/2013/sudan_immunization/en/>). However, this report noted that vaccination of children was especially difficult in the Darfur region because armed conflict in these areas made access difficult for vaccination teams. A study in the Nyala locality, South Darfur, published in 2014, that included urban, rural and internal displaced people in proportion to their representation in the population, confirmed that vaccine coverage was low -- only 63.4% of children were found to be fully vaccinated (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4340504/>). - ProMED

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:59:23 +0100 (MET)

Juba, Dec 12, 2019 (AFP) - Devastating flooding in South Sudan following a fierce drought could tip parts of the country into famine in the next few months, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday.   According to the UN refugee agency nearly one million people were affected by floodwaters that submerged entire towns, compounding an already dire humanitarian situation after six years of war.

The WFP said that 5.5 million people are expected to be going hungry in early 2020 -- the time at which the population is generally benefiting from their harvest in October and November of the previous year.   An earlier harvest failed due to drought. This time crops have been washed away.    "The number of people in need is likely to increase because of the catastrophic level of destruction caused by floods since October following a drought that hammered parts of the country earlier in the year," the agency said in a statement.

The floods wiped out 73,000 metric tons of potential harvests as well as tens of thousands of cattle and goats, said the WFP.   "We know the problems that we've been having in South Sudan, but the rains and the floods have led to a national disaster and are much worse than anyone could have anticipated," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.    "In fact, if we don't get funding in the next few weeks and months, we are literally talking about famine. We need support, we need help and we need it now."   The agency estimated its needs at $270 million (242 million euros) for the first half of 2020.   South Sudan declared a "man-made" famine affecting around 100,000 people in 2017. 

The term "famine" is used according to a scientific system agreed upon by global agencies, when at least 20 percent of the population in a specific area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 people per day for the entire population.   "Famine in South Sudan was defeated after four months in 2017 by a concerted large-scale humanitarian response," said the WFP.   "Experts now say the country's food security outlook has never been so dire."   Political instability is also high as President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar have again delayed their formation of a power-sharing government, this time by 100 days until February 2020.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2020 12:29:01 +0100 (MET)
By David Vujanovic

Tehran, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Iran's government vowed Monday to be transparent after being accused of covering up the deadliest coronavirus outbreak outside China, dismissing claims the toll could be as high as 50.

The authorities in the Islamic republic have come under mounting public pressure since it took days for them to admit to "accidentally" shooting down a Ukrainian airliner last month, killing 176 people.   The government said on Monday that Iran's coronavirus death toll had jumped by four to 12 -- by far the highest outside China -- as its neighbours closed their borders and imposed strict quarantine measures.

But Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a lawmaker from the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, alleged the government was "lying" about the full extent of the outbreak.   The ILNA news agency, which is close to reformists, said the lawmaker spoke of "50 deaths" in Qom alone.   "The rest of the media have not published this figure, but we prefer not to censor what concerns the coronavirus because people's lives are in danger," ILNA editor Fatemeh Mahdiani told AFP.

Farahani was wearing a face mask during the closed session of parliament but left after speaking, as he felt unwell, state news agency IRNA reported, adding sanitary workers then cleaned his seat.   Iran's government rejected his claim that the virus had killed 50 in Qom.   "I categorically deny this information," Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said in a news conference aired live on state television.   "This is not the time for political confrontations. The coronavirus is a national problem," he added.

- Transparency pledge -
The government pledged transparency over the outbreak.   "We will announce any figures (we have) on the number of deaths throughout the country. We pledge to be transparent about the reporting of figures," its spokesman Ali Rabiei said.   Iran has been scrambling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak since it announced the first two deaths in the holy city of Qom on Wednesday last week.   Authorities have since ordered the closure of schools, universities and other educational centres across the country as a "preventive measure".

A spokesman for Iran's parliament, Assadollah Abbassi, announced the latest four deaths among more than 60 infections after Monday's closed-door gathering of lawmakers.   Citing Health Minister Said Namaki, he said that "the cause of coronavirus infections in Iran are people who have entered the country illegally from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China".   Iran has yet to give a breakdown of where the other deaths occurred.   The worst-hit province for infections is Qom, with 34 cases, according to health ministry figures.

The others are in Tehran with 13 infections, Gilan with six, Markazi with four, Isfahan with two and one each for Hamedan and Mazandaran.   But the health minister said that one person who died of coronavirus in Qom, south of Tehran, was a businessman who had made several trips to China.   Namaki had unsuccessfully pleaded in January for Iran's government to order the suspension of all commercial flights between Iran and China.   In his remarks to state television on Sunday, the minister said direct flights between Iran and China were now suspended, but the Qom businessman had travelled there "on a connecting flight".

- Border closures -
Since it emerged in December, the new coronavirus has killed more than 2,500 people in China.   Iran now accounts for nearly half of the deaths elsewhere in the world, which currently stand at 30.   Many of Iran's neighbours have reported cases of coronavirus in people who had travelled to the Islamic republic.   Afghanistan on Monday reported its first case in a person who had travelled to Qom.   Baghdad also reported its first case on Monday -- an elderly Iranian citizen living in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf.

Iraq has shut its border with the Islamic republic and imposed a travel ban.   Similar preventive measures were imposed by Afghanistan, Armenia, Pakistan and Turkey.    Qom is a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims, attracting scholars from Iran and beyond.   Kuwait and Bahrain also confirmed their first novel coronavirus cases, all of whom had come from Iran.
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2020 12:00:17 +0100 (MET)

Quetta, Pakistan, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Pakistan began quarantining at least 200 people near the Iranian border, officials said Monday, as fears spiralled over the growing toll from the coronavirus in the region amid allegations of a coverup in Iran.

The quarantine announcement came hours after Pakistan sealed off its land border with Iran while neighbouring Afghanistan said it had detected its first infection.    It also came as Iranian authorities denied allegations of an official coverup following reports that dozens of deaths had gone unreported in the country.

In Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province authorities moved fast to quarantine at least 200 people after Shiite Muslim piligrims returning from Iran entered the country and briefly interacted with other residents.   "We have decided not to take a chance and keep all of them under observation for the next 15 days," Najeebullah Qambrani, assistant commissioner at the Taftan border crossing, told AFP, saying 250 people were being quarantined.

Balochistan's secretary of health Mudassir Malik confirmed the quarantine but estimated that between 200 and 250 were being held.   He added that around 7,000 pilgrims had returned to Pakistan from Iran this month alone.   Afghanistan and Pakistan share long, porous borders with Iran that are often used by smugglers and human traffickers, while millions of Afghan refugees currently live in the Islamic Republic -- raising fears that the virus could easily spread over the border.

Pakistan -- bordered by China to the north and Iran to the south -- also suffers the additional burden of having a lacklustre healthcare system following decades of under-investment by the state, leaving impoverished, rural communities especially vulnerable.

Balochistan in particular is woefully unprepared to handle a public health emergency after being beset for decades by a separatist insurgency, jihadist violence, and neglect from the central government.   The novel coronavirus has spread to more than 25 countries, with more than 2,500 dead in China, and is causing mounting alarm due to new pockets of outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2020 09:00:05 +0100 (MET)

Kabul, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Afghanistan has detected its first novel coronavirus case, the country's health minister said Monday, a day after Kabul announced it would suspend air and ground travel to Iran, where 12 people have died from the outbreak.   "I announce the first positive coronavirus (case) in Herat," health minister Firozuddin Feroz told a press conference, calling on citizens to avoid travel to the western province which borders Iran.
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2020 08:04:46 +0100 (MET)

Dubai, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Kuwait and Bahrain confirmed on Monday their first novel coronavirus cases, the countries' health ministries announced, adding all had come from Iran.  Kuwait reported three infections and Bahrain one in citizens who had returned home from the Islamic republic.
Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2020 19:13:29 +0100 (MET)

Rome, Feb 23, 2020 (AFP) - An elderly cancer patient became the third person known to be infected with the coronavirus to die in Italy, health officials said on Sunday, as the number of people contracting the virus continued to mount.    The death of the woman in a hospital in the small city of Crema in Lombardy, the centre of Italy's coronavirus scare, followed that of a 77-year-old woman on Saturday and a 78-year-old man on Friday, the first victim of coronavirus in Europe.

The head of Italy's civil protection department, Angelo Borrelli, said during a news conference that 152 people had now tested positive for the virus, including the three deceased.    The cancer patient had been hospitalised for a few days, said Lombardy's health chief, Giulio Gallera.    "She'd been tested and they already knew she had the coronavirus," Gallera said, adding that it was too early to know whether the virus was the actual
cause of death.

The deaths, and steadily rising cases of infected people, have prompted a series of security measures to try to check the spread of the contagion.    Eleven towns -- 10 in Lombardy and 1 in Veneto -- are under lockdown, with residents prohibited from leaving. Regional authorities have ordered gathering spots, such as bars, restaurants and discos to close.     Schools throughout the affected areas are to remain closed next week.    Most of the cases in Italy are in Lombardy, a prosperous region in the country's north, and can be traced back to a 38-year-old man whom authorities have called "patient one." 

The man, who is intensive care, dined last month with another man who had visited China in January. He exhibited flu-like symptoms at the time of the dinner, but has since tested negative for the virus, media reports said.    And health officials are still puzzled over certain cases with no obvious links with infected persons.    "The rapid increase in reported cases in Italy over the past two days is of concern," the World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said on Sunday.     "What is also worrying is that not all reported cases seem to have clear epidemiological links, such as travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case," he added.

Experts from WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control plan to arrive in Italy on Tuesday, he said.    Mounting worries over the spread of the virus have  disrupted fashion shows at Milan Fashion Week and cancelled operas at the famed La Scala.
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2020 14:55:57 +0100 (MET)

Beirut, Feb 21, 2020 (AFP) - The first case of the novel coronavirus in Lebanon was confirmed on Friday, the health minister said, adding that two other suspected cases were being investigated.   "We confirmed the first case today," Hassan Hamad said at a press conference in Beirut.

The COVID-19 virus was found in a 45-year-old Lebanese woman who had travelled from Qom in Iran, he said.   A medical source at the hospital where the woman is being treated told AFP that she returned from Iran with a high fever, but that her immunity was good and her condition stable.

Hamad said that all the people who were on the same flight from Iran had been contacted by the health authorities.   He said that anyone returning from Iran would be asked to observe a two-week home quarantine.   The COVID-19 outbreak first appeared in Iran on Wednesday.

Tehran has now confirmed a total of four deaths and 18 infections by the SARS-like virus, which first emerged in China in late December.   Thousands of Lebanese travel to Iran every year to visit Shiite holy sites in Qom and other cities.   China on Friday raised the death toll to 2,236 -- most of them in the province of Hubei, where the virus was first detected. More than 75,000 have now been infected in China and over 1,100 abroad.
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2020 10:38:16 +0100 (MET)

Seoul, Feb 21, 2020 (AFP) - North Korea has cancelled the Pyongyang Marathon -- its biggest tourist money-spinner of the year -- because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, tour companies said Friday.   Beijing-based Koryo Tours, the official partner of the marathon, said on its website it had "received official confirmation today that the Pyongyang Marathon 2020 is cancelled".   "This is due to the ongoing closure of the North Korean border and COVID-19 virus situation in China and the greater region," it added.   Young Pioneer Tours, which specialises in budget trips to the isolated country, issued a similar statement.

The annual marathon is held in April as part of the anniversary commemorations for founder Kim Il Sung's birth in 1912, and attracts curious foreigners eager to run through the streets of the tightly controlled city.   Almost 1,000 Westerners took part last year, according to organisers, paying entry fees of up to $150 to do so.

North Korea has put itself into self-imposed isolation to protect itself from the outbreak raging in neighbouring China, which has infected more than 75,000 people and killed over 2,200.   Pyongyang has suspended flights and train services, banned tourists, and imposed 30 days of quarantine on resident foreigners.   North Korea is subject to multiple international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and its medical infrastructure is weak, with chronic shortages of medicines and equipment.

As a result an outbreak would wreak havoc, analysts say.   It has taken similar measures before: it banned tourists for more than four months from October 2014 to keep out the Ebola virus, even though no cases had been reported in Asia.   North Korea clamped down for six months during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-03, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong.
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2020 05:56:39 +0100 (MET)

Jukkasjaervi, Sweden, Feb 21, 2020 (AFP) - High above the Arctic Circle and nestled in the snow-dusted forests of northern Sweden, gaggles of tourists gathered on a February morning for a glimpse of hallways, bedrooms and a wedding chapel sculpted from ice, part of the 30th incarnation of Sweden's ice hotel.   Stopping in blue-white hallways to take snaps of a chandelier and ornately decorated bedrooms entirely carved from ice, the tourists are among the 50,000 day visitors to the hotel every year, founded in 1989 by a hotelier looking to attract visitors to the remote town of Jukkasjarvi, 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.   Built every October from the frozen waters of the nearby river Torne, the winter hotel has 35 bedrooms.

Temperatures reach -5 degrees Celsius (23 Fahrenheit) in the rooms, which start at around three times the average price of a night in a three-star establishment in Stockholm.   Individual suites cost more, and feature sculptures and designs by artists from around the world.   One room inspired by the aurora borealis -- the northern lights that can be seen in the skies nearby -- features lighting that changes colour, as well as a giant snow sculpture of a reindeer's head, all set to a soundtrack of ambient music and, occasionally, reindeer grunts.   Around 20,000 guests spend a night in the hotel every year.   But 25-year-old guide Julia Hansers said guests usually react less to the cold than to the tranquillity.   "A lot of people coming here live in the city, and there you always have some sort of sounds and noise around you, and inside the ice hotel it's completely quiet," said Hansers, peering out from under a thick woolly hat.

Bo Bjerggaard, a gallerist from Copenhagen, spent a night wrapped in a sleeping bag and a reindeer-skin throw.   "During the night I had to get up and then it was of course cold," Bjerggaard said, standing outside in the hotel's dazzling white courtyard made from snow.   "Then (it's) great again when you come back into the sleeping bag -- you sleep so well because of the temperature," he said with a smile.   Guests can also enjoy a drink in the ice bar, where all beverages are served in glasses made from ice.   Since 2016 the hotel has also used solar panels to generate electricity to cool a nearby building to below zero to allow them to keep 20 rooms frozen all year round.   When spring arrives, the winter hotel's rooms are closed and it melts back into the river until October, when construction begins again.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 21:01:10 +0100 (MET)

Paris, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - The French government launched a campaign Thursday, complete with emergency number, to combat an influx of unwelcome visitors that have left Parisians in despair: bedbugs that have settled in homes and hotels to feed uninvited on human blood.

After disappearing from France in the 1950s, the infuriating insects have made a resurgence, according to the ministry of housing, which cited international travel and growing resistance to insecticide as the main causes.   "We can all be affected," the government warned on a webpage dedicated to the parasitic problem, complete with advice on how to prevent and treat an infestation, and a number to call for expert help.   The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is found in temperate climates in
the United States and parts of Europe.

The six-legged pest posed only a minor nuisance after World War II because of the widespread use of insecticides such as DDT. But the banning of such potent poisons, because they were too dangerous, hailed a bed bug revival.   By the late 1990s, the critters were thriving in New York and a 2010 outbreak saw them invade high-end apartment buildings, hotels, even clothing stores like lingerie outlet Victoria's Secret.   There has also been an explosion of bed bugs in Paris.   The tiny invaders cost billions of dollars annually in extermination by businesses and homeowners.

- 400,000 addresses -
In 2016, a study found that the reclusive, flightless creatures had become resistant to pesticides, further aiding their global conquest.   Another study the following year said the insects sought out human scents and snuggled up in worn clothes before tagging along home, explaining their meteoric spread around the world.   They hide in linen by day and come out at night to bite people, often while they are sleeping, leaving red, itchy welts. They do not transmit disease.   In Paris, extermination experts say 400,000 addresses including hotels, apartments and houses were treated in 2018, the latest year for which information is available.   This represented a third more than the previous year.

Illustrating how annoying the issue has become, bed bugs have even featured in the Paris 2020 electoral campaign, with mayoral hopeful Benjamin Griveaux promising to clean up the capital in 100 days.    The plan of the candidate, who has since bowed out over a sex-tape scandal, included specialised anti-pest "brigades" targeting bed bugs, rats and cockroaches, which would intervene free of charge for low-income households, and at the lowest market price for others.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 19:02:28 +0100 (MET)

Oslo, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - Two German tourists were killed Thursday in an avalanche while on a snowmobile tour in Norway, authorities said.    A helicopter carrying rescue personnel and a sniffer dog were dispatched to search for the missing pair, who were discovered dead in the Svalbard archipelago, about a thousand kilometres (miles) from the North Pole.    "Two German citizens are confirmed dead in an avalanche," the office of the Governor of Svalbard said in a statement.

They had been on a snowmobile tour run by a Russian tour operator, about 15 to 20 kilometres (about 9 to 12 miles) south of Barentsburg, the second largest settlement on Svalbard, according broadcaster NRK.    Authorities said they received reports that two people were missing shortly before 3:00 pm (1400 GMT), and a few hours later the pair were discovered.    The Svalbard archipelago covers an area twice the size of Belgium and is home to some 2,900 inhabitants who rely on tourism, scientific research and mining.