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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Miami, Sept 24, 2019 (AFP) - A strong 6.0 magnitude struck off the northwest coast of Puerto Rico late Monday, the United States Geological Survey said, although no casualties or damage were reported. The quake struck 62km northwest of San Antonio at 11:23 pm local time (03:20 GMT) at a depth of 10km, the agency said. San Antonio is home to Rafael Hernandez Airport, a key air link to the mainland US. In 2010 nearby Haiti was struck by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation's infrastructure.
San Juan, Feb 12, 2018 (AFP) - Most of San Juan and a strip of northern Puerto Rico municipalities were plunged into darkness Sunday night after an explosion at a power station, five months after two hurricanes destroyed the island's electricity network.
The state electric power authority (AEE) said the blast was caused by a broken-down switch in Rio Piedras, resulting in a blackout in central San Juan and Palo Seco in the north. "We have personnel working to restore the system as soon as possible," the AEE said. San Juan's mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, said on Twitter that emergency services and local officials attended the scene in the neighbourhood of Monacillos, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican capital's airport said it was maintaining its schedule using emergency generators. The blackout comes as nearly 500,000 of AEE's 1.6 million customers remain without power since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the US territory in September 2017. AEE engineer Jorge Bracero warned on Twitter that the outage was "serious," and advised those affected that power would not be restored until Monday.
By Leila MACOR
Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Dec 13, 2017 (AFP) - Until Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Jose Figueroa did brisk business renting kayaks to tourists itching to see a lagoon that lights up by night thanks to millions of microorganisms. Today, things are so dire he's considering selling water to motorists stopped at red lights. "Now we are trying to survive," the 46-year-old tour guide said.
It used to be that visitors had to reserve a month in advance to get one of his kayaks and paddle around in the dark on the enchanting, bioluminescent body of water called Laguna Grande. But tourists are scarce these days as the Caribbean island tries to recover from the ravages of the storm back in September. "We do not know if we will have any work tonight," Figueroa said. "Last week, we worked only one day." He and another employee of a company called Glass Bottom PR are cleaning kayaks on the seaside promenade of Fajardo, a tourist town in eastern Puerto Rico whose main attraction is the so-called Bio Bay.
The year started off well for Puerto Rico, with the global success of the song "Despacito" by local musicians Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. The catchy tune helped promote the US commonwealth island of 3.4 million people, which is saddled with huge debts and declared bankruptcy in May. But the hurricane turned what should be an island bustling with tourists into one with deserted beaches, shuttered restaurants and hotels full of mainland US officials working on the rebuilding of the island. "What few tourists we have are the federal officials themselves," said Figueroa.
- Locals only -
The grim outlook spreads up and down the seaside promenade of Fajardo, where many restaurants are closed because there is no electricity. On this particular day around noon, the only restaurant open is one called Racar Seafood. It has its own emergency generator. "We get by on local tourists," said its 61-year-old owner, Justino Cruz. "Our clients are local -- those who have no electricity, no generator, cold food or no food."
Puerto Rico's once-devastated power grid is now back up to 70 percent capacity, but this is mainly concentrated in the capital San Juan. So while inland towns that depend on tourism are struggling mightily, things are getting better in San Juan as cruise ships are once again docking. On November 30, the first cruise ship since the storm arrived with thousands of vacationers on board. They were received with great fanfare -- quite literally, with trumpet blaring and cymbals crashing.
- Pitching in to help -
The World Travel & Tourism Council, based in London, says tourism accounted for about eight percent of Puerto Rico's GDP in 2016, or $8.1 billion. Hurricane Maria's damage has been uneven. Although some tour guides now have no work and many eateries are shut down, hotels that have their own generators are doing just fine. Thanks to the thousands of US government officials and reconstruction crew members that came in after the storm, the hotels that are open -- about 80 percent of the total -- are pretty much full.
These people are starting to leave the island this month but hotels may receive tourists around Christmas, at least in San Juan, where power has for the most part been restored. The hurricane "undoubtedly cost billions in lost revenue," said Jose Izquierdo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. But Izquierdo nevertheless says he is "optimistic" and suggests an alternative: put tourists to work as volunteers in the gargantuan reconstruction effort that the island needs. "We want to look for travellers who want to travel with a purpose, who might have the commitment to help rebuild," said Izquierdo.
The program, called "Meaningful Travel" and launched in mid-November, organizes trips on which residents, Puerto Ricans living abroad and tourists are invited to help the island get back on its feet. "The plan aims to create empathy with this tourist destination," said Izquierdo. "We want to be like New Orleans after Katrina, where 10 years after the hurricane, tourism is the driving force of its economy. We want to build that narrative of recovery," he added. "There are different ways in which the world wants to help Puerto Rico. The best way is to visit us."
By Marcos PÉREZ RAMÍREZ
San Juan, Nov 9, 2017 (AFP) - Andrea Olivero, 11, consults her classmate Ada about an exercise during their daily English class at San Juan's Sotero Figueroa Elementary School. The task: list the positive and negative aspects of Hurricane Maria's passing almost two months ago.
The girls only have to look around. There is no electricity and they "roast" in the heat, Andrea says. At the back of the room, computers and televisions collect dust. "We would like to move past the topic of the hurricane a bit. It is already getting repetitive," Andrea told AFP. She is one of more than 300,000 pupils in the public education system, although only half of schools are functioning. Barely 42 per cent of Puerto Ricans have electricity seven weeks after Maria struck, killing at least 51 in the American territory.
The lack of power has prompted disorienting timetable changes on the tropical island, to avoid both the hottest hours of the day and the use of dining facilities. "The children are very anxious. We manage to make progress in lessons and they change the hours again. Everything is messed up and we fall behind," English teacher Joan Rodriguez explained. "We can't use the computers to illustrate classes," she said. "They are reading the novel "Charlotte's Web," and we wanted to do exercises comparing it to the film version. But we cannot use the television.
- Suspicions -
From October 23, some directors reopened their schools in the western region of Mayaguez and San Juan. But last Thursday, the Department of Education ordered their closure, insisting they must be evaluated by engineering and architectural firms, then certified by the US Army Corps of Engineers. One of those schools was Vila Mayo, also in San Juan. The community presumed it would open, as it had been used as a shelter, its electrical infrastructure had been inspected and it had not suffered structural damage.
But Luis Orengo, the education department's director in San Juan, told protesters outside the school it was closed as inspectors' findings had not reached the central government. "This is unacceptable! The school is ready to give classes but they don't want to open it. Our children cannot lose a year," fumed Enid Guzman, who protested with her 11-year-old son, Reanny De la Cruz. There are suspicions the stalled reopening of schools is, in part, related to the prior closure of 240 schools over the past year during Puerto Rico's long-running financial crisis. The fiscal difficulties have seen the island's population drop over the past decade by 14 percent, leading in turn to a fall in school enrolment.
Before the storms, 300 schools were at risk of closure -- and for the president of Puerto Rico's federation of teachers, Mercedes Martinez, the government's aim is clear. "Secretary (Julia) Keleher seems to have an orchestrated plan to close schools," she said, referring to the education secretary. "Why do you have to wait 30 days to get a certification so a school can open?" Keleher has announced she expects most schools to be open by the middle of November.
May 19, 2008
Rwanda is a landlocked developing country in central Africa which has made considerable progress in rebuilding its infrastructure and establishing security since the 19
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and evidence of yellow fever immunization are required. Visas are not required for American citizens entering Rwanda for less than 90 days. U.S. citizens planning on working in Rwanda should apply for a work permit at the Directorate of Immigration as soon as possible after arrival in Rwanda. Detailed entry information may be obtained from Rwanda’s Directorate of Immigration at: http://www.migration.gov.rw/ or from the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, 1714 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544, web site http://www.rwandaembassy.org. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan 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:
There are currently no travel restrictions in place within Rwanda, but travelers should use caution when traveling near or crossing the border into Burundi, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Uganda.
In March 2005, the Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), comprising ex-Rwandese Armed Forces, Interahamwe, and other extremists, announced it would end its armed struggle against the Government of Rwanda, but thousands of combatants are estimated to remain in eastern Congo. The combatants currently are not well-organized or funded, nor do they pose a serious threat to Rwandan security. However, in early March 2007, in Gisenyi Province (near the Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda) they launched a mortar round and rocket into Rwandan territory. There were no casualties, and it appears to have been an isolated incident. While visitors may travel freely to Volcanoes National Park, they are not permitted to visit the park without permission from Rwanda's Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). ORTPN stipulates that the park can only be used for gorilla tours and nature walks. Since December 2006, all restrictions have been lifted in the Nyungwe Forest near the Burundian border in southwestern Rwanda. In the past, the FDLR infiltrated Rwanda from Burundi through the Nyungwe Forest, but the last reported incident in the park was in November 2003. However, FDLR rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern DRC, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda, including near the popular tourist area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. For information on travel to those and other countries, and for the latest security information, American citizens 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.
From time to time, travel by U.S. Embassy personnel may be restricted based on changing security conditions. Visitors are encouraged to contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office or Consular Section for the latest security information, including developments in eastern Congo, Uganda and Burundi. (See Registration/Embassy Location section below.)
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: Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars and hotel rooms. Although violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery, and home invasion occur in Kigali, they are rarely committed against foreigners. Americans are advised to remain alert, exercise caution, and follow appropriate personal security measures. Although many parts of Kigali are safe at night, walking alone after dark is not recommended since foreigners, including Americans, have occasionally been the targets of robbery.
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. The U.S. Embassy provides some information on its web site about criminal justice in Rwanda at http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/criminal_justice_in_rwanda.html.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical and dental facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. In Kigali, Americans may go to King Faisal Hospital, a private facility that offers limited services and dental facilities. There is also a missionary dental clinic and a few private dentists. American-operated charitable hospitals with some surgical facilities can be found in Kibagora, in southwestern Rwanda, in Ruhengeri, near the gorilla trekking area, and in Rwinkavu, near the entrance to Akagera National Park. The U.S. Embassy maintains on its website a current list of healthcare providers and facilities in Rwanda at http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/medical_information.html; this list is also included in the Consular Section’s welcome packets for American citizens. There are periodic outbreaks of meningitis in Rwanda. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease. Malaria is endemic to Rwanda. All visitors are strongly encouraged to take prophylactic medications to prevent malaria. These should be initiated prior to entry into the endemic area. Because of possible counterfeit of antimalarial medications, these should be obtained from a reliable pharmaceutical source. Multiple outbreaks of ebola have been reported in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in the past year, but none within Rwanda.
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 Rwanda is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Due to safety concerns, the use of motorbikes or van taxis for transportation is not recommended. Regulated orange-striped (along the base of the vehicle) sedan auto taxis are safer, but be sure to agree on a fare before beginning the trip. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers.
While the main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, during the rainy season many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and is discouraged. Often, roadways are not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders. Many sections have deteriorated surfaces. Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult. Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads.
In Rwanda, as in the U.S., traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road. Cars already in a traffic circle have the right of way. Until 2004, cars entering traffic circles had the right-of-way. Drivers should exercise caution at traffic circles, since some drivers might forget this change. Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards on Rwanda's roads. Many vehicles are not well maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used. Drivers also tend to speed and pass other cars with little discretion. Some streets in Kigali have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic; others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway. With the limited street lighting, drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians. Drivers frequently have unexpected encounters with cyclists, pedestrians and livestock.
Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages from involvement in an accident resulting in injuries, if one is found not to have been at fault. The driver’s license of individuals determined to have caused an accident may be confiscated for three months. Causing a fatal accident could result in three to six months' imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined Rwandan Francs 20,000 (approximately $35). In the city of Kigali, contact the following numbers for police assistance in the event of an accident: Kigali Center, 08311112; Nyamirambo, 08311113; Kacyiru, 08311114; Kicukiro, 08311115; Remera, 08311116. Ambulance assistance is very limited. Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times. In case of an emergency, American citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 0830-0345.
For specific information concerning Rwandan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks, B.P. 905, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone 250-76514, fax 250-76512.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.gov.rw/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Rwanda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Rwanda’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.
In recent months, Rwandair, which charters aircraft to fly its routes, has had difficulties maintaining its schedule, resulting in delayed and cancelled flights which have left passengers stranded for extended periods.
Telephone communication to and from Rwanda is generally reliable. Cellular telephones and Internet connections are available in Kigali and large towns.
Non-biodegradable plastic bags have been banned in Rwanda, and travelers carrying them upon arrival at the Kayibanda International airport may have them confiscated and have to pay approximately $4 for a reusable cloth replacement.
International ATMs are not available in Rwanda. The Rwandan franc is freely exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and the Bureaux de Change. Several Kigali banks can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks, including Western Union. Credit cards are accepted at only a few hotels in Kigali and only to settle hotel bills. Hotels currently accepting credit cards for payment include the Kigali Serena (formerly Intercontinental) Hotel, the Hotel des Mille Collines, the Novotel Umubano, Stipp Hotel and the Kivu Sun Hotel. Note that there may be an added fee for using a credit card. Travelers should expect to handle most expenses, including air tickets, in cash.
Traveler's checks can be cashed only at commercial banks. Because some travelers have had difficulty using U.S. currency printed before the year 2000, the Embassy recommends traveling with newer U.S. currency notes.
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 Rwandan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda 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.
The U.S. Embassy provides some information on its website about criminal justice in Rwanda.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. Both foreigners and Rwandans taking Rwandan children to live outside Rwanda, e.g., after adoption, must obtain an exit permission letter from the Ministry of Family and Gender located within the Primature complex at P.O. Box 969, Kigali, Rwanda; Tel: 011-250-587-128; Fax: 011-250-587-127.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Rwanda are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Rwanda. 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 2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie; the mailing address is B.P. 28, Kigali, Rwanda; tel. (250) 596-400,; fax: (250) 596-591. The Consular Section’s email address is email@example.com. The Embassy's web site is http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/. American Citizen Services hours are Tuesdays from 9:00 -17:00 and Fridays from 9:00 - 12:00 except on U.S. and Rwandan holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Rwanda dated October 4, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Criminal Penalties, Children’s Issues, and Registration/Embassy Location.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Source: New Times (Kigali, Rwanda) [summ., edited]
Livestock farmers have appealed to the government to ensure that cows get timely vaccination in order to effectively control deadly epidemics in cattle. The appeal comes after an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever [RVF] -- a deadly and infectious viral disease -- killed 154 cows countrywide since May , according to figures from Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB). Gahiga Gashumba, the chairman of Rwanda National Dairy Farmers' Federation, told The New Times that in their performance contracts, districts set themselves targets to inoculate cows, which leaves a gap in achieving effective vaccination.
Efforts to contain the recent outbreak of RVF included vaccinating 257 902 cows countrywide of which 119 520 were from Ngoma, Kirehe, and Kayonza -- the hardest hit by the disease. "All cows should be vaccinated at least in areas prone to given diseases," Gashumba said adding, "We need a clear vaccination calendar detailing the cows that should be immunised in a given period of time. When there are heavy rains, we should be prepared of [immunising cows against] East Coast fever."
Also known as theileriosis, East Coast fever is a deadly tickborne disease in cattle. Ngoma district vice mayor for Finance and Economic Development, Jean Marie Vianney Rwiririza, said that this year , they want many cows to get vaccines against different diseases, including RVF and foot and mouth disease [FMD]. "With using funds from the district's budget alone, we cannot manage to give vaccines to all cows.
We request farmers' cooperatives and the farmers themselves to partake in the activity so that all the cows can be inoculated," he told The New Times. In Kirehe district, there are over 52 000 cows and over 30 000 of them were vaccinated against different diseases, including Rift Valley fever in the 2017/2018 financial year, according to Jean Damascane Nsengiyumva, Kirehe district vice mayor for Finance and Economic Development. "We have increased funding for the vaccination activity so that we inject all cows which we should vaccinate because we do not want the recurrence of such a problem," he said referring to RVF.
Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) said that they do not vaccinate all the cows because it can be wastage of resources or poor management when vaccination is done in areas where a disease has not been reported while it can be contained by vaccinating livestock in the risk zone. Instead of spending money on vaccinating all cows, currently estimated at over a million countrywide, appropriate strategies are devised to control the spread of outbreaks, said RAB director general Dr Patrick Karangwa. "We give more attention to diseases that spread faster than others. We do impact assessment based on spread pattern of a disease.
If a disease can be transmitted through air, measures taken to prevent its spreading should be different from the disease that cows or people catch through contact," Karangwa said. He cited FMD which often affects cattle on areas bordering Tanzania, such as Gatsibo, Kayonza, and Nyagatare, observing that when the disease has been checked in those areas, it dose spread elsewhere, pointing out that if all cows in the country are vaccinated, all the funds used [for the development of the livestock] sector might be consumed by such a single activity. Some vaccines are given free of charge, while others have to be paid for by farmers with government subsidy. [byline: Emmanuel Ntirenganya]
[RVF has become, according to local media, active in Rwanda in April 2018, as reported from the districts of Ngoma, Kirehe, and Kayonza, in the south west of the Eastern province. It was expressed mainly by cattle death and abortions. Later, Kamonyi, a southern province was added. The Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources announced on [Mon 30 Jul 2018] the lifting of the ban imposed since mid-June  on the movement of cattle in several parts of Eastern province. According to the ministry, 99 of the 147 604 cows in the affected districts died, and 452 aborted. This differs from other statistics from various sources, including the 154 deaths in cattle, as mentioned in the above media report, quoting the Rwanda Agricultural Board.
Official statistics are expected to be included in Rwanda's RVF report to the OIE, which all member countries are obliged to submit. In the absence of data on the number of susceptible animals on the affected holdings, the mortality rate in cattle is not known. Based on accumulated field observations and experimental RVF infection trials, the mortality in adult cattle would, generally, not exceed 10 per cent. No human cases have been reported in Rwanda during the recent event. Vaccination of livestock against RVF can be applied either with a live attenuated (Smithburn) vaccine (relatively cheap, several years immunity rendered, but may cause foetal abnormalities or abortion in pregnant animals).
Alternatively, particularly in pregnant animals, an inactivated (formalin-killed) RVF vaccine can be selected (more costly, safer in all breeds/ages/reproductive stages of cattle, sheep, and goats, but requires a booster 3-6 months after the initial vaccination, then followed by yearly boosters). For the considerations related to vaccine policies, vaccines to be selected, and other tools for the prevention and control of RVF under various epidemiological situations, please refer to references 1-3.
1. Consultative Group for RVF Decision Support. Decision-support tool for prevention and control of Rift Valley fever epizootics in the Greater Horn of Africa. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2010. 83(2 Suppl): 75-85. DOI: 10.4269/ajtmh.2010.83s2a03; <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913494/>.
2. Anonymous. Risk-based decision-support framework for prevention and control of Rift Valley fever epidemics in eastern Africa. EU Collaborative Project, Seventh Framework Programme. 2015. (Grant Agreement no. 266327); <http://www.healthyfutures.eu/images/healthy/deliverables/d5.4%20risk-based%20decision-support%20framework.pdf>.
3. Mariner J. Rift Valley fever surveillance. FAO animal production and health manual no. 21. Rome: FAO. 80 pages; <http://www.fao.org/3/i8475en/I8475EN.pdf>. - ProMED Mod.AS]
[Maps of Rwanda: <http://www.geographicguide.com/pictures/map-rwanda.jpg>
Source: Journalducameroun.com, APA News report [summ., edited]
The Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, on [Mon 30 Jul 2018] announced it was lifting the quarantine on the movement of cattle that was imposed to control the deadly Rift Valley fever [RVF] in several parts of Eastern province. A quarantine on cattle in the country's 4 affected eastern districts has been imposed since mid-June  after about 100 heads of cattle were killed by the virus. In a notice issued [Mon 30 Jul 2018], the minister Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, GÃ©rardine Mukeshimana, said the quarantine is no longer serving the purpose of slowing the spread of the deadly Rift Valley fever.
Reports indicate that the outbreak was first detected on 18 May 2018 in 4 districts in Eastern Rwanda including Ngoma, Kirehe, Rwamagana, and Kayonza. Of the 147 604 cows in the affected districts, the ministry says 99 died while 452 aborted. The ministry says it has treated 1638 cows, with 36 930 sheep and 245 goats vaccinated against the disease. To combat further deaths among animals, the ministry says it has dispatched veterinary doctors across the affected districts. Official reports indicate that no human case has been reported so far in Rwanda, yet the number of affected livestock is thought to be much higher.
According to the Director General of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Dr Patrick Karangwa, the cause of the outbreak is unusually heavy rains, which have created ponds and lakes where mosquitoes can breed, in this region which is normally dry. "Most human infections result from contact with the blood or organs of infected animals", Dr Karangwa said.
[RVF, expressed mainly by cattle death and abortions, became active in Rwanda in April 2018, in the districts of Ngoma, Kirehe and Kayonza, in the southwest of the Eastern Province. Later, Kamonyi, a southern province was added.
An administrative map of Rwanda and detailed districts maps are available at
In the absence of data on the number of susceptible animals on the affected holdings, the mortality rate in cattle is not known. Based on accumulated field observations and experimental RVF infection trials, the mortality in adult cattle would, generally, not exceed 10 percent. No human cases have been reported in Rwanda during the recent event. The tests upon which RVF, an OIE-listed disease, has been confirmed and statistics pertaining to the number, locations, morbidity, and mortality rates in Rwanda's animal population, are expected to be included in an official report to the OIE, as anticipated from all OIE member countries. - ProMED Mod.AS]
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Eastern Province, Rwanda:
Kigali, March 11, 2018 (AFP) - At least 16 people were killed and dozens more injured after lightning struck a Seventh-Day Adventist church in Rwanda, a local official said Sunday. Fourteen victims were killed on the spot as lightning hit the church in the Nyaruguru district in the Southern Province on Saturday, local mayor Habitegeko Francois told AFP over the phone.
Two others died later from their injuries, he said. He added that 140 people involved in the incident had been rushed to hospital and district health centres, but that many had already been discharged. "Doctors say that only three of them are in critical condition but they are getting better," he said. According to the mayor, a similar accident took place on Friday when lightning struck a group of 18 students, killing one of them.
By Fran BLANDY
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, July 26, 2017 (AFP) - Nicaraguan singer Hernaldo Zuniga brought his entire family to trek through the lush forests and mist-shrouded volcanoes of northwestern Rwanda in search of mountain gorillas. He described their encounter with the critically endangered primates as "an almost spiritual" experience, and said it was the only reason they made Rwanda a stop on a trip taking in a safari in Kenya, and a tour of South Africa.
But Rwanda is no longer content with being a whirlwind stop on a tourist's itinerary, and is working hard to broaden its appeal beyond its world-famous mountain gorillas while narrowing its niche market to the wealthiest of visitors. Zuniga counts himself lucky that his family of five scored their permits to see the gorillas before Rwanda's eyebrow-raising move to double the cost to $1,500 (1,300 euros) per person in May. "I think that is going to be a drawback for many people. It is just going to be an elite group of people who can pay that," said Zuniga, a well-known star in Latin America.
For Rwanda however, the price hike is part of a careful strategy to boost conservation efforts while positioning itself as a luxury tourist destination. "The idea behind (the increase) is that it is an exclusive experience which also needs to be limited in numbers. Our tourism is very much based on natural resources and we are very serious about conservation," said Clare Akamanzi, the chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board. It is a high-value, low-impact strategy that has worked well for countries such as Botswana and Bhutan.
- Safe and clean -
The remote, mountainous border area straddling Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda is the only place in the world where one can see the gorillas, whose numbers have slowly increased to nearly 900 due to conservation efforts. Permits in the DRC ($400) and Uganda ($600) are far cheaper, but Rwandan officials are not concerned that they will lose tourists to their neighbours, arguing the country offers an experience that is rare in the region. Ever since the devastating 1994 genocide in which 800,000 mainly Tutsis were killed, the country has been praised for a swift economic turnaround. "When you come to Rwanda it is a clean, organised, safe country with zero tolerance for corruption. We have concentrated on creating a good experience," said Akamanzi, also highlighting a quick visa process.
The challenge is getting tourists to make Rwanda their main destination, and spend more than the usual four days it takes to visit the gorillas and maybe the genocide museum before heading elsewhere. "We want to keep it high-end as an anchor for tourism but provide other offerings," said Akamanzi. She said tourism is already the country's top foreign exchange earner, but believes they "have only scratched the surface". So the country, known as the Land of a Thousand Hills is looking into sports tourism such as cycling, cultural tourism and becoming a Big Five safari destination in its own right. In the past two years Rwanda has re-introduced both lions and rhino to its Akagera National Park -- which had gone extinct due to poor conservation -- and visitor numbers to the reserve have doubled, said Akamanzi.
- 'There will be an impact' -
However gorillas remain the main lure, and industry players are concerned about the impact the price increase could have on the whole tourism chain. "We risk losing substantial revenue for the industry and government as a whole. Currently a number of gorilla permits are already not sold in the low season," the Rwanda Tours and Travel Association (RTTA) said in a statement after the decision was announced. Mid-range hotels around the Volcanoes National Park say it is too soon to tell what the fallout will be, but several managers expressed concerns they would lose their main clientele. "Either way there will be an impact," said Fulgence Nkwenprana, who runs the La Palme hotel.
Aloys Kamanzi, a guide with Individual Tours, acknowledged there has been an initial slowdown in reservations, but is convinced people will keep coming, adding his clients are mostly "retired tourists who have saved their whole lives", some of whom come three or four times. The singer Zuniga said coming to Rwanda was a hard decision, as he had not heard much about what the country was like today from Mexico, where he lives with his family. "Rwanda has a lot of sensitive echoes in my generation, the genocide ... we had to cross over all these personal obstacles to make the decision to come here," he said. "They have to do better in promoting their tourism. Once you are here it is amazing, the people are unique, the country is beautiful. I would like to stay longer."
By Cyril BELAUD
Kigali, May 2, 2017 (AFP) - Around 20 of Africa's endangered Eastern black rhinos are returning in an "extraordinary homecoming" to Rwanda after the species disappeared there 10 years ago, the African Parks organisation said Tuesday. The rhinos are being moved from South Africa to the Akagera national park in eastern Rwanda, according to the non-profit group that manages protected areas for African governments. "This extraordinary homecoming will take place over the first two weeks of May," it said in a statement. The Eastern black rhino, one of the sub-species of the rhinoceros, is in critical danger of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Back in the 1970s, more than 50 black rhinos thrived in the savannah habitat of the Akagera park, but their numbers declined due to wide-scale poaching and the last confirmed sighting was in 2007.
- 'Great symbol of Africa' -
"Rhinos are one of the great symbols of Africa yet they are severely threatened and are on the decline in many places across the continent due to the extremely lucrative and illegal rhino horn trade," said African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead. According to the conservationists, there are fewer than 5,000 black rhino in the wild worldwide, with only about 1,000 of the Eastern sub-species.
Since 2010 African Parks has boosted security at Akagera and has prepared to accept the rhinos with financial help from the Howard Buffett Foundation, headed by the son of US billionaire Warren Buffett. The measures taken include deploying a helicopter for air surveillance and an expert rhino tracking and protection team as well as a canine anti-poaching unit. "We are fully prepared to welcome them (rhinos) and ensure their safety for the benefit of our tourism industry and the community at large," said Clare Akamanzi, chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board.
In July 2015, Rwanda had reintroduced lions in the Akagera park, 15 years after they had disappeared. The lions were decimated in the years after Rwanda's genocide in 1994 as Rwandans who had fled the slaughter returned and occupied the park killing the lions to protect their livestock. The park, which takes its name from the nearby Kagera river, is located near the border with Tanzania. With the reintroduction of the rhinos, Akagera, which welcomed more than 36,000 visitors last year, will now boast being home to Africa's "big five" -- rhino, lion, elephant, leopard and buffalo.
August 20, 2008
The Republic of Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. Political power is concentrated in the office of the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament, eac
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passports and visas are required.
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SAFETY AND SECURITY:
A Department of State Travel Warning advises U.S. citizens against travel to Lebanon.
Recent events underscore the need for caution and sound personal security precautions.
U.S. citizens who are in Lebanon despite this Travel Warning should exercise particular caution when traveling in parts of the southern suburbs of Beirut, portions of the Bekaa Valley and areas south of the Litani River in South Lebanon.
Hizballah maintains a strong presence in many of these areas, and there is the potential for action by other extremist groups.
The situation remains tense and a resumption of sporadic violence remains a possibility.
On May 7, 2008, Hizballah militants blocked the road to Rafiq Hariri International Airport.
The action rendered the airport inaccessible and travelers were unable to enter or leave the country via commercial air carriers.
Armed Hizballah and other opposition members proceeded to enter areas of Lebanon not traditionally under their control resulting in heavy fighting and a number of casualties.
While there is now full access to the airport, widespread hostilities have subsided, and the government of Lebanon has successfully elected a president and formed a cabinet, the United States remains concerned about Hizballah's willingness to use violence to achieve political ends with little or no warning.
Since the May hostilities there have been violent outbreaks in Tripoli that left over ten dead and dozens wounded.
Americans have been the targets of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past.
The perpetrators of many of these attacks are still present and retain the ability to act.
On January 15, 2008, a U.S. Embassy vehicle was involved in a bomb attack that killed three Lebanese bystanders.
American citizens should thus keep a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel.
Americans should also pay close attention to their personal security at locations where Westerners are generally known to congregate, and should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.
Unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State.
Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the U.S. operate largely autonomously inside refugee camps in different areas of the country.
Intra-communal violence within the camps has resulted in violent incidents such as shootings and explosions.
Travel by U.S. citizens to Palestinian camps should be avoided.
Asbat al-Ansar, a terrorist group with apparent links to Al-Qaida, has targeted Lebanese, U.S. and other foreign government interests.
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Americans traveling to Lebanon should also be aware that personnel from the U.S. Embassy are not able to travel in all areas of Lebanon.
In the case of an emergency involving a U.S. citizen in areas where it is unsafe for Embassy personnel to travel, the Embassy may not be able to render assistance.
In addition, dangers posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance throughout south Lebanon are significant and also exist in other areas where civil war fighting was intense.
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, including the Travel Warning for Lebanon, 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: The crime rate in Lebanon is moderate, but both car theft and home break-ins occur.
Violent crime and sexual assault are rare, although petty theft -- such as pick pocketing and purse snatching -- is common in crowded public areas.
Police are responsive but often unable to effect a positive outcome.
There are no special concerns with regard to targeted victimization of Americans or to scams or confidence schemes.
There have, however, been recent kidnappings of Lebanese-American women by their Lebanese relatives in an effort to force these women into marriage.
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 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, to 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.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Lebanon is 112.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
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Such facilities are not always available in outlying areas, although no location in the country is more than three hours from the capital.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services, and without such payment, may deny service even in emergency cases.
A list of doctors who speak English and a list of hospitals are available from the U.S. Embassy and at the Embassy's web site at http://lebanon.usembassy.gov/
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.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Lebanon.
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 Lebanon is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Drivers in Lebanon often maneuver aggressively and pay little regard to traffic lights and stops signs.
Lanes are generally unmarked and roads outside of the capital may be poorly lit.
Pedestrians, especially, should exercise great caution.
Inter-city directional signs are improving throughout the country, but side roads are often not signposted at all.
Public transportation is generally safe.
Emergency services in Lebanon are adequate.
In case of a road accident, emergency numbers are “140” for the Red Cross and “125” for the emergency civil police.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of Lebanon's national tourist office at http://www.destinationlebanon.gov.lb.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lebanon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lebanon’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: In addition to being subject to all Lebanese laws, U.S. citizens who also possess Lebanese nationality may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on them as Lebanese citizens.
Lebanese citizens who are discovered to have associated with or traveled through Israel, are subject to arrest and detention.
Mandatory military service in Lebanon was abolished on February 4, 2007.
However, travelers with questions about prior military service, desertion, or failure to register in the past should contact the Military Office of the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, or call (202) 265-2335 or fax (202) 667-0063 for details prior to traveling to Lebanon. Information about military service can also be found at the Lebanese government web site at http://www.lebarmy.gov.lb/English/FlagService.asp
Lebanese Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of such items as firearms or antiquities.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington, D.C., or one of Lebanon's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our information on customs regulations.
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 Lebanese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lebanon 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.
For more information please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
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 Lebanon 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 Lebanon.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located in Awkar, near Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon.
Public access hours for American citizens are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 am for regular consular services.
Consular Report of Births Abroad (birth certificates for newborns) are handled Wednesdays only from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
The telephone numbers are (961-4) 542-600, 543-600, and fax 544-209, and American citizens who require emergency services outside of these hours may contact the Embassy by telephone at any time.
American citizens registering at the embassy can receive updated information and warden messages via e-mail by subscribing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on consular services and registration can be found at http://lebanon.usembassy.gov or by phone at the above telephone numbers between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday local time.
* * * * * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated December 27, 2007 to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information and Aviation Oversight.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Beirut, Nov 9, 2019 (AFP) - Several petrol stations in protest-hit Lebanon stopped services Saturday, as reserves ran dry due to a shortage of US dollars to pay suppliers, a syndicate head said. The shuttering of petrol stations came as demonstrators again took to the street across the country, keeping up their three-week-long movement against a political class regarded as inefficient and corrupt. "The petrol stations that opened today are the ones that still have reserves. They will close down as soon as supply runs out," said Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicate of Gas Station Owners. He said if officials do not facilitate access to dollars by Tuesday, "we will be forced to stop imports and close down all petrol stations."
Petrol stations receive payment from customers in Lebanese pounds but have to pay importers and suppliers in dollars. For two decades, the Lebanese pound has been pegged to the US dollar, with both currencies used interchangeably in daily life. But banks have been reducing access to dollars since the end of the summer, following fears of a shortage in central bank dollar reserves. In recent days, banks halted all ATM withdrawals in dollars and severely restricted conversions from Lebanese pounds. Many Lebanese have had to instead buy dollars from money changers at a higher exchange rate, in what amounts to a de-facto devaluation of the local currency that has sparked price hikes.
The official exchange rate has remained fixed at 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, but the rate in the parallel market has surpassed 1,800. "The banks are under pressure from people, both inside Lebanon and abroad," said economist Naseeb Ghabreel, after many rushed to withdraw their dollar savings or convert Lebanese pound accounts. Since September, petrol station owners have accused banks of failing to provide them with the dollars they need and threatened strikes. In response, the central bank last month pledged to facilitate access to the greenback for importers of petroleum products, wheat and medicine. But the measure has not yet gone into effect.
Lebanon has since October 17 witnessed an unprecedented popular uprising against everything from power cuts and poor social security to alleged state corruption. The government yielded to popular pressure and stepped down last month, with the World Bank urging for the quick formation of a new cabinet to prevent the economy from further deteriorating.
Based on the available information, the risk at the national level is considered to be high for the following reasons: nationwide case distribution and low vaccination coverage at national level with immunity gaps; the country host around 1 million displaced Syrians with limited access to healthcare; limited funding for supplementary immunization activities to improve measles vaccination coverage and for the epidemiological surveillance unit to support surveillance activities and capacity building; and measles cases being reported throughout the country.
Beirut, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Lebanon has turned to its neighbours for help battling forest fires that have ravaged homes and killed a volunteer firefighter in the Mediterranean country, its premier said on Tuesday. Heavy rain fell on parts of the country including Beirut in the evening, after Cyprus dispatched help and as Greece and Jordan vowed to follow suit. "We have contacted the Europeans who will send means of help," Prime Minister Saad Hariri said earlier in comments carried by national news agency NNA.
Dozens of blazes have hit Lebanon in recent days, fire chief Raymond Khattar told NNA, amid unusually high temperatures and strong winds. Thick smoke had been seen drifting over the outskirts of Beirut, the mountainous Chouf region to its southeast, and the southern city of Saida. In the Chouf, an area famed for its forests, a volunteer firefighter lost his life trying to put out the flames, his family said. In an area south of Beirut, firefighters have for two days been unable to stop the blaze, which has burnt four homes to the ground and caused dozens to suffer breathing difficulties, NNA said.
Interior Minister Raya El-Hassan said nearby Cyprus and Greece had responded to Lebanon's call for help. "Two Cypriot planes have been working to put out the fires since yesterday," she said on Twitter. "Greece has responded to our request and will send two planes to help us," she added. Jordan's army said the king had ordered two firefighting planes to be dispatched. NNA said the army was working together with helicopters and the Cypriot planes to fight the blaze, with access sometimes impeded by thick smoke and high-voltage power lines. Personnel from UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, who usually patrol the country's southern border with Israel, have also joined in the efforts, the agency said. Lebanese on social media criticised the government's apparent inability to respond fast enough on its own.
In neighbouring war-torn Syria, fires also killed two people, Syrian state media said. Flames have ripped through parts of the coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus, as well as the central province of Homs but most have been brought under control, state news agency SANA said. Two members of the Latakia forestry department were killed while fighting the blaze, it added. In Tartus, the fires -- mostly stamped out -- coincided with the olive harvest, the governor told SANA. In Homs, trees were burnt and electricity networks disrupted in mountainous areas, the agency reported.
Beirut, Aug 26, 2019 (AFP) - Lebanese authorities on Monday detained the owner of a travel agency accused of having left thousands of travellers stranded with fake flight and hotel reservations. Fawaz Fawaz, the Lebanese owner of New Plaza Tours, was captured in Syria and transferred to Lebanon, the General Security agency said in a statement, without elaborating.
The security agency accused Fawaz of committing "fraud and embezzlement" through a travel agency, by selling fake flight tickets and hotel reservations. This left "thousands of Lebanese" stranded in Turkey, Georgia and other countries without accommodation or return flights, it said. Local media was rife with stories last week of Lebanese travellers forced to sleep on airport and hotel floors because of the scandal. New Plaza Tours is reportedly not licensed by the tourism ministry. On Friday, Lebanon's Middle East Airlines said it had filed a lawsuit against Fawaz in 2015 over outstanding debts owed by one of his several travel agencies.
Source: Epidemiology and Infection, 1st view, published online 15 Nov 2018 [edited]
Citation: Kassir MF, El Zarif T, Kassir G, Berry A, Musharrafieh U, Bizri AR (2018).
Human rabies control in Lebanon: a call for action.
Epidemiology and Infection 1-8.
Abstract: The status of rabies as a neglected disease has made its eradication rather challenging in different parts of the world despite the availability of a successful vaccine. Lebanon, in particular, is a country endemic to the disease with several cases of rabies deaths reported over the past 30 years. The risk of rabies, however, has taken a new turn over the past few years in Lebanon with 2 emerging situations that have made the control of the disease rather challenging: the neighbouring Syrian war and the local garbage crisis.
Both of these milestone events might have contributed to an increase in the number of disease vectors as well as individuals at risk, thus nourishing the cycle of disease transmission. In this observational study, the effects of these 2 events are investigated, with an update on the status of this preventable, yet often neglected, disease in the country. Both events were found to be concomitant with a notable increase in the number of dog bites and thus possible rabies exposure.
Current regulations are explored through interviews with veterinarians, and customs recommendations, ranging from policies to control of dog populations to awareness campaigns in high-risk individuals, are then proposed to help control the disease.
[According to information included in the paper, between 2005 and 2016, a total of 7369 animal bites were reported to the LMOPH (Lebanese Ministry of Public Health), with an annual average of 614 bites per year. About 91 percent of the bites were caused by dogs, of which 53 percent were by domestic dogs and 47 percent by stray dogs. The remaining 9 percent involved cats, bats and rodents. It may be assumed that some events involved farm animals as well, not mentioned in the paper.
In 2013, a steep increase in numbers was observed and was sustained up to 2016. The yearly average of animal bites post-2013 was, reportedly, 1004 Â± 272 bites per year, which is significantly higher than the average of 355 Â± 145 bites per year prior to 2013 (span from 1991 to 1996 and 2001 to 2013). The highest number of bites (per 100 000 individuals) was observed in the northern governorate and in the (southern) Nabatieh governorate (Lebanon's administrative map at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_and_towns_in_Lebanon>).
Counting bites does not necessarily reflect the incidence of rabies in animals; it may serve as suggestive of increased rabies incidence in the vector animals. Unfortunately, no information about clinically suspected and/or lab confirmed rabies in animals is included in the paper. Lebanon has reported a rabies case in a dog to the OIE in March 2018 (http://promedmail.org/post/20180314.5687339); this was the 1st reported animal rabies case from Lebanon since 1995(!).
As suggested by the authors, the Syrian war and the local garbage crisis are plausible explanations for increased rabies incidence in Lebanon. A wide circulation of the virus in Lebanon's canines/fauna, particularly in the Nabatieh governorate bordering northern Israel, was suggested in the past, most recently in http://promedmail.org/post/20180321.5701731 (item 4) and in ref 1.
It could also be deduced from the data presented in Israel's rabies map of 2015 at <http://www.moag.gov.il/vet/Yechidot/Machon/maabada_kalevet/airueim%20kalevet/kalevet_2015/PublishingImages/rabiesmap272016.jpg>.
D David, N Devers, BA Yakobson, I Davidson. Emergence of dog rabies in the Northern region of Israel. Epidemiol Infect 2009; 137(4): 544-8; DOI:10.1017/S0950268808001180. - ProMED Mod.AS]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Lebanon: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/85>]
February 23, 2009
Bhutan is a small, land-locked Himalayan country that completed its transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in June 2008.
The United States does not have full diplomatic relations with Bhutan and there is no U.S. diplomatic presence there.
Consular issues relating to Bhutan, including assistance to U.S. citizens, are handled by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Bhutan for additional information.
Independent travel is not permitted in Bhutan. Visitors are required to book travel through a registered tour operator in Bhutan. This may be done directly or through a travel agent abroad.
Further information, including a list of authorized tour operators in Bhutan, may be obtained from the Tourism Council of Bhutan, PO Box 126, Thimphu, Bhutan, telephone +975-2-323251, 2-323252, fax +975-2-323695.
Entry by air is available only via India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Thailand. The border with China is closed. The minimum daily tariff is set by the Bhutanese Department of Tourism and cannot be negotiated. The rate includes all accommodations, all meals, transportation, services of licensed guides and porters, and cultural programs where and when available. The rate is the same for both cultural tours and treks. Travelers should contact the Tourism Council for the latest daily tariff.
At this time, the only carrier servicing Bhutan is Drukair, the Bhutanese government airline. Drukair will board only travelers with visa clearance from the Tourism Authority of Bhutan.
A passport and visa are required for entry into and exit from Bhutan.
Visa applications are available from selected travel agencies.
Travel agencies will usually arrange for a traveler’s entry visa and clearance.
Visitors, including those on official U.S. government business, should obtain visas prior to entering the country.
For additional entry/exit information, please contact the Bhutan Mission to the United Nations (Consul General), 763 First Avenue, New York, NY
10017, telephone (212) 682-2268, fax (212) 661-0551.
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:
Recent efforts to resettle many of the approximately 100,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepali ethnic origin currently living in Nepalese refugee camps, coupled with the transition to democracy, have given rise to some civil unrest in usually peaceful Bhutan.
Bhutanese Maoists and Communist groups (including the Bhutan Communist Party and the Bhutan Tiger Force operating from the camps in Nepal), who denounce the monarchy and demand that the refugees be repatriated to Bhutan, have been linked to violence in the country.
A series of small bombs were set off between October 2006 and December 2008; most took place in small cities and towns on the southwestern border, near India, except for one in the capital, Thimphu.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.
There is relatively little crime in Bhutan. Petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and purse snatching, is occasionally reported.
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 U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
If you are the victim of a crime while in Bhutan, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi for assistance.
(See the contact information below.)
The Embassy’s consular 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 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.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line for Bhutan police in Bhutan is 113.
The emergency number for ambulance service is 112.
Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 Bhutanese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Bhutan recently implemented extremely strict restrictions on the sale or use of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
A traveler caught selling tobacco products could be charged with illegal smuggling and fined or imprisoned.
Smoking is prohibited in public places.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bhutan 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.
Visitors are advised to carry cash or travelers checks, since credit cards are not widely accepted in Bhutan.
When credit cards are accepted, usually during bank hours, an extra service fee, usually a percentage of the overall purchase, is often charged.
Druk Air, the only carrier servicing Bhutan, has rigid restrictions on the amount and size of luggage passengers may carry into the country. Passengers are advised to book bulky items ahead as unaccompanied baggage, since the aircraft servicing Bhutan have limited space available for large bags, and airline employees may not load large pieces of luggage. Flights into and out of Paro Airport are restricted to daylight hours and are dependent on suitable weather conditions. Flights are sometimes delayed or cancelled, particularly during the monsoon season between June and August. Passengers are advised to allow at least 24 hours' transit time for connecting flights from Paro Airport and to travel on non-restricted air tickets so that they can be rebooked on the first available air carrier if a connecting flight is missed.
Bhutanese customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Bhutan of items such as firearms, ammunition, explosives and military stores; narcotics and drugs (except medically prescribed drugs); tobacco products; wildlife products, especially those of endangered species; and antiques. It is advisable to contact the Bhutan Mission to the United Nations (Consulate General), 763 First Avenue, New York, NY
10017, telephone (212) 682-2268, fax (212) 661-0551, for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in the populated areas in Bhutan such as Thimphu and Paro are available but may be limited or unavailable in rural areas.
If Americans need urgent medical care, they should try to get to the General Hospital in the capital city, Thimphu.
Medical services may not meet Western standards, and some medicines are in short supply.
Certain emergency medical services are provided free of charge to all tourists.
Visitors planning to trek in Bhutan should pay special attention to the risk of altitude illness.
Treks in Bhutan can take visitors days or weeks away from the nearest medical facility.
Helicopter evacuation from remote areas is available in Bhutan through the registered tour operators, or by contacting the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Bhutan.
There are no disclosure regulations or restrictions for HIV/AIDS patients who enter Bhutan on a tourist visas for a maximum two week visit.
For longer stays applicants must present the results of an HIV/AIDS test completed within the six months prior to their visit.
The test can also be administered by Bhutanese officials upon arrival. Travelers should verify this information with the Bhutan Mission to the United Nations at (212) 682-2268.
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.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.
Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Bhutan is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
General road conditions outside of urban areas are poor, and emergency services generally are not available.
Because of the mountainous terrain, roads tend to have steep drop-offs and blind curves.
However, because tourists to Bhutan are required to arrange their trips through registered tour operators, tourists do not drive themselves, but travel in groups with experienced drivers.
Please refer to our Road Safety page and Bhutan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Bhutan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Bhutan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site.
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:
There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Bhutan. Although no formal diplomatic relations exist between the United States and Bhutan, informal contact is maintained through the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India. Updated information on travel and security in Bhutan may be obtained at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, at any other U.S. Consulate in India, or at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal, as well as at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.
Americans living or traveling in Bhutan are encouraged to register through the State Department’s travel registration web site or with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to obtain updated information on travel and security within Bhutan.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in person or via mail.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is located on Shanti Path, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi 110 021, India, telephone +91-11-2419-8000, fax +91-11-2419-8407.
The following U.S. missions are included as they are Drukair destinations:
The U.S. Consulate in Kolkata is located at 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Kolkata 700 071, India, telephone +91-33-3984-2400, fax +91-33-2282-2335.
The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu is located at Maharajgunj in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The Consular Section can be reached through the Embassy switchboard at (977) (1) 400-7200 or directly by fax at (977) (1) 400-7281 or contacted by email.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is located at 120/22 Wireless Road, Bangkok, Thailand, telephone +66-2-205-4000, fax +66-2-205-4103.
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated April 25, 2008, to update the sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Dengue fever cases in Phuentsholing are on the rise 2 months after the outbreak was 1st reported. Public awareness and campaigns have been of little help. Phuentsholing hospital saw a total of 2121 dengue-positive cases as of yesterday [6 Sep 2019], 313 more than the [1 Sep 2019] record. With 894 dengue-positive cases reported from private diagnostic centres in the town, Phuentsholing saw 3015 positive cases as of yesterday [6 Sep 2019].
Figures from the diagnostic centres, however, include both Bhutanese and people from across the border. The chief programme officer with Department of Public Health (DoPH), Ministry of Health, Rixin Jamtsho, said that 77% of the total cases in the country were reported from Phuentsholing hospital." The cases were reported from 19 dzongkhags [administrative district] till yesterday [6 Sep 2019]," Rixin Jamtsho said. "[The] majority of the cases reported from other districts had travelled to Phuentsholing prior to their illness."
1 Aug 2019. A total of 138 acute undifferentiated fever or dengue fever cases were reported in Doksum in Trashiyangtse as of yesterday [31 Jul 2019]. Health officials in Doksum tested 64 samples using dengue rapid test kit. Two tested positive for dengue NS1, 4 for dengue IgM, and 21 for 8 dengue IgG antibody.
THIMPHU, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Heavy rainfall in Bhutan has killed at least two people, triggered flash floods, landslides and road blocks, and damaged homes, streets and vehicles. The two were buried alive after the landslide washed away their home in southern district of Samtse on Tuesday due to massive landslide that was triggered by heavy rains. The continuous rainfall and flash floods have blocked more than four national highways, damaged bridges and affected many commuters and office goers.
According to the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology, the southern belt of Bhutan has recorded heavy rainfall on Tuesday. The downpour continued on Wednesday, further affecting the lives of people living in southern part of the country. People residing in Phuentsholing said that they had to evacuate at early as 3 a.m. due to swollen rivers. The engineering workshops were overflown and drains were invisible due to landslides and flash floods. Falling of boulders and landslides damaged many vehicles, with some being submerged in mud. The schools in Phuentsholing town had to postpone their exams due to the damages caused by the heavy rainfall.
In Gelephu district a highway bridge was damaged. National highways between four districts were blocked. Many public buses and commuters were cancelled due to swollen rivers. In 2017 a monsoon rainfall washed away an entire town in southern district of Sarpang.
World Travel News Headlines
Jakarta, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - An endangered Sumatran Tiger has mauled to death an Indonesian farmer and seriously injured a domestic tourist, a conservation official said Monday. The fatal attack happened Sunday at the farmer's coffee plantation on Sumatra island where the 57-year-old wrestled with the big cat before it killed him, according to Genman Hasibuan, head of the South Sumatra conservation agency. "The farmer was attacked while he was cutting a tree at his plantation," he told AFP on Monday. The mauling came a day after the same tiger attacked a group of Indonesian tourists who were camping at a local tea plantation in South Sumatra's Mount Dempo region.
One of the tourists was rushed to hospital for wounds to his back after the cat stormed into his tent, Hasibuan said. The animal, which remains loose in the protected-forest area, is believed to be one of just 15 critically endangered tigers in South Sumatra, which has seen five tiger attacks this year, including two fatal incidents, Hasibuan said.
Human-animal conflicts are common in the vast Southeast Asian archipelago, especially in areas where the clearing of rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations is destroying animals' habitats and bringing them into closer contact with people. In March last year, a man was killed by a tiger in Sumatra's Riau province while several months earlier a tiger also killed a plantation worker in the area. Sumatran tigers are considered critically endangered by protection group the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with 400 to 500 remaining in the wild.
Karachi, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - Pakistan has become the first country in the world to introduce a new typhoid vaccine, officials said Friday, as the country grapples with an ongoing outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of the potentially fatal disease. The vaccine, approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be used during a two-week immunisation campaign in southern Sindh province.
Sindh is where most of Pakistan's 10,000 cases of typhoid have been documented since 2017. "The two-week campaign beginning from today would target over 10 million children of nine months to 15 years of age," Azra Pechuho, the health minister in Sindh province, said in Karachi on Friday. The new vaccines have been provided by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to the Pakistani government free of cost.
After the two-week campaign, it will be introduced into routine immunisations in Sindh, and in other areas of Pakistan in the coming years. Pakistan spends a meagre amount of its national resources on public health and a majority of its population remains vulnerable to contagious diseases such as typhoid. In 2017, 63 percent of the typhoid cases documented and 70 percent of the fatalities were children, according to a joint press release from the Pakistani government, WHO and Gavi.
By Abhaya SRIVASTAVA
New Delhi, Nov 16, 2019 (AFP) - A thick grey smog choked New Delhi for the fifth day Saturday, adding to a mounting pollution health crisis, but retired naval commander Anil Charan is one of the vast majority of the city's 20 million inhabitants who do not wear a mask. Indian media is packed with warnings about the risk of premature death, lung cancer and particular danger to children from PM2.5 -- tiny particles that get into the bloodstream and vital organs -- carried in the smog. But the smartly-dressed Charan was among shoppers in Delhi's upmarket Khan Market district browsing the luxury clothes and jewellery stores without a mask, seemingly oblivious to the risk. Many are too poor to afford protection but others simply do not like the way a pollution mask looks.
Charan, wearing aviator sunglasses, said it did not fit his "rough and tough" image. "I have been brought up in this kind of atmosphere, the smog and all, so I am kind of used to it. And being a naval officer I think if I wear a mask I will think I am a sissy," he said. Doctors say face masks must be worn and air purifiers used at home and in offices. There are a variety of masks to choose from. A basic cloth version can cost as little as 50 rupees (70 US cents) but the protection they offer is debatable. More reputable types start from 2,500 rupees ($34) while some Khan Market stores charge more than 5,500 rupees ($75) for top of the range imported models.
- Bare-faced bravado -
The mask-look worried a lot of the Khan Market shoppers and diners however. Some said the danger had been overblown. "I know I am risking my health but I am not very comfortable wearing them (masks)," said Ritancia Cardoz, who works for a private company. "I don't find it appealing," she told AFP. Lopa Diwan, on a visit to the capital from the provinces, said the Delhi air was "not as bad as it is being made out to be." "So many people advised me not to go to Delhi because of the pollution but I don't think it's that bad. I don't see people dying," she said.
Pollution -- blamed on industrial and car emissions mixed with stubble fires on thousands of farms surrounding the city -- has been building up each winter for the past decade. The past five years have been particularly bad. The toxic air cuts short the lives of one million people in India every year, according to government research published earlier this year. Concentrations of the most harmful airborne pollutants in Delhi are regularly about 20 times the World Health Organisation safe limit. That rams home the city's reputation as the world's most polluted capital. Some foreign companies and embassies now do not let families move to Delhi, or at least give strong warnings about the pollution.
The Delhi government has given out hundreds of thousands of masks to children and closed schools for four of the past five days. Construction is banned and cars can only go on the roads on alternate days. But still only a tiny number of inhabitants follow medical advice when outside. Rickshaw drivers who earn about $7 a day on an average say they cannot afford masks. Chand Babu, a car park attendant at Khan Market, said he could buy one of the cheaper masks but it was too much of a hassle to wear. "I have to blow the whistle all the time so it's inconvenient." Babu does worry, however, about his three children who also do not have masks. "They go outside to play. The problem is real, but what do we do, tell me?"
By Filippo MONTEFORTE with Charles ONIANS in Rome
Venice, Nov 17, 2019 (AFP) - Venice's St Mark's Square was closed on Sunday as the historic city suffered its third major flooding in less than a week, while rain lashing the rest of Italy prompted warnings in Florence and Pisa. Venice's latest "acqua alta", or high water, hit 150 centimetres (just under five feet) on Sunday, lower than Tuesday's 187 centimetres -- the highest level in half a century -- but still dangerous. "The water has stopped rising," tweeted mayor Luigi Brugnaro, who has estimated damage so far from the invading salt water at over one billion euros (dollars). "High of 150 centimetres... Venice is working to restart," Brugnaro said after the sea water swamped the already devastated city where authorities have declared a state of emergency. To the south, Tuscany president Enrico Rossi tweeted a warning of a "flood wave" on the Arno and said boards were being installed on the swollen river's banks in Pisa "as a precautionary measure".
The Italian army tweeted photos of paratroopers helping to bolster river defences in Pisa, with authorities monitoring the same river in Florence after heavy rain made it rise dramatically overnight. Arno flooding devastated Renaissance jewel Florence in 1966, killing around 100 people and destroying thousands of priceless works of art. Civil protection units in Florence advised citizens "not to stand near the Arno's riverbanks". Firefighters tweeted footage of a hovercraft being deployed to rescue stranded citizens in southern Tuscany's Grossetano province.
- Brief respite -
The renewed threat from exceptionally high tides in Venice came after a brief respite on Saturday. Emergency workers removed temporary walkways from St Mark's Square as the water started to rise on Sunday, with only police and soldiers visible at around midday. The top tourist site had already been shut for several hours on Friday as strong storms and winds battered the region, leaving it submerged by sea surges.
Churches, shops and homes have also been inundated in the Renaissance city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. A massive infrastructure project called MOSE has been under way since 2003 to protect the city, but the multi-billion euro project has been plagued by cost overruns, corruption scandals and delays. "We weren't expecting the high waters to be so exceptionally high," said Guido Fulgenzi, who had planned to open his cafe on St Mark's square this week. "We're paying the price" for the MOSE project not being completed, he said, sloshing around in his flooded kitchen and pointing to Tuesday's high water mark on the wall. The crisis has prompted the government to release 20 million euros ($22 million) in funds to tackle the devastation. Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has warned that the task of repairing the city, where more than 50 churches have suffered damage, will be huge.
- Hotel reservations cancelled -
Residents whose houses have been hit are eligible for up to 5,000 euros in immediate government aid, while restaurant and shop owners can receive up to 20,000 euros and apply for more later. Most of the city's cash machines were no longer working, making life even more difficult for tourists and Venetians. "We didn't expect there to be so much water, now we're soaked," said French tourist Magali Mariolou, visiting Venice for her wedding anniversary. "We'll come back another year when it's a bit drier. The boots are heavy, they're full of water!"
Older residents who remember the infamous "acqua alta" of 1966, when the water rose to 1.94 metres, say they have not seen such frequent flooding before. Hotels reported cancelled reservations, some as far ahead as December, following the widespread diffusion of images of Venice underwater. Tuesday's high waters submerged around 80 percent of the city, officials said. Many, including Venice's mayor, have blamed the disaster on global warming and warned that the country prone to natural disasters must wake up to the risks posed by ever more volatile seasons. The Serenissima, as the floating city is called, is home to 50,000 residents but receives 36 million visitors each year.
Wellington, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - Samoa finalised plans for a compulsory measles vaccination programme Monday, after declaring a state of emergency as a deadly epidemic sweeps the Pacific nation. At least six fatalities, including five children, have been linked to the outbreak of the virus, which has also hit other island states such as Tonga and Fiji. Samoa is the worst affected with more than 700 cases reported from across all areas of the country, prompting the government on Friday to invoke emergency powers.
Declaring a state of emergency, the government said plans for compulsory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisations would be published on Monday. "MMR vaccinations for members of the public who have not yet received a vaccination injection is now a mandatory legal requirement for all of Samoa," it said. A national emergency operations centre to coordinate the measles response in the nation of 200,000 people was opened on Monday, with children aged six months to 19 years and non-pregnant females aged 20-35 given priority.
However, no information was immediately available on how the vaccinations would be administered or whether those who were not immunised would face sanctions. Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death. Samoa has closed all schools, kindergartens and the country's only university in a bid to halt the spread of the virus. New Zealand, which is experiencing its own measles outbreak in the Auckland region, will this week send 30 nurses, 10 doctors and 3,000 MMR doses to Samoa.
University of Auckland immunologist Helen Petousis-Harris said even though measles was already widespread, the mass rollout of vaccinations could help limit the number of cases and reduce the death count. She said it was also important to boost Samoa's low levels of immunisation and help prevent future outbreaks. "In Samoa, the proportion of people who are immune to measles is very, very low, one of the lowest in the world," she told AFP. "So if they aren't able to improve that, this is going to happen again." The country's vaccination programme was briefly suspended last year when two babies died shortly after being given the MMR vaccine. Subsequent investigations found the problem was not the widely used vaccine but the fact that nurses had prepared it incorrectly.
Neighbouring Tonga last week announced government primary schools and kindergartens would be closed until later this month as the number of measles cases in the kingdom approaches 200. Fiji has reported four cases but says they are contained to a township west of the capital Suva.
Johannesburg, Nov 17, 2019 (AFP) - South African unions on Sunday called on all aviation workers to join striking South African Airways (SAA) staff after the cash-strapped airline failed to meet their demands. The country's embattled flag carrier has been losing 52 million rand ($3.5 million) per day since more than 3,000 workers started an open-ended strike on Friday -- forcing the airline to cancel hundreds of flights. Talks with the two unions representing the striking workers ended without resolution on Saturday, prompting threats of further action. "In response to this deliberate provocation by the SAA board and its executive management, (the) NUMSA (metalworkers' union) is in the process of consulting workers for a secondary strike in aviation," NUMSA spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told reporters outside the SAA headquarters in Johannesburg.
NUMSA and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) first threatened to strike after SAA announced this week that almost 1,000 employees could lose their jobs as part of a restructuring process. Initial talks with management deadlocked after they failed to agree on wage hikes, prompting the unions to press on with their threats. SAA is offering a 5.9 percent pay rise, while unions are demanding an eight percent across-the-board hike and a three-year guaranteeof job security. They are also asking the airline to in-source more jobs. "We are fighting against retrenchment, corruption and privatisation," Hlubi-Majola told journalists. She said discussions with SAA subsidiaries, South Africa's airport management company and airline service providers were under way. Two transport unions have also been called on to join the action. "This secondary strike will have the impact of shutting down the entire aviation sector," NUMSA and SACCA said in a joint statement. SAA CEO Zuks Ramasia voiced "concern" about the unions' intentions and urged them to "reconsider". "The intent of a secondary strike is to cause disruption, bring all airport operations to a halt and create huge damage to the South African economy," Ramasia said in a statement on Sunday.
- Embattled airline -
The CEO added that SAA could not "afford to pay any salary increases" and reiterated the 5.9 percent rise offer. "The company has repeatedly communicated the precarious financial position of the company," Ramasia said. More than 300 SAA flights have been grounded as a result of the open-ended strike. International flights started slowly resuming on Sunday, while regional and domestic flights remain grounded. "We hope all our customers understand that the cancellations have been beyond our control," Ramasia said. South Africa is struggling to get its state-owned companies back on track after nine years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma. SAA -- one of Africa's biggest airlines -- is deep in debt and has not posted a profit since 2011, despite several government bailouts. Finance Minister Tito boweni announced in February that the government would reimburse the company's 9.2 billion rand ($620 million) debt over the next three years. Ramasia said discussions with unions would resume once the airline had considered "options on the way forward".
By Holly ROBERTSON, Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel De Cartert in Hillville
Sydney, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - Bushfires raging across eastern Australia singed Sydney's suburbs on Tuesday, with firefighters scrambling planes and helicopters to douse a built-up neighbourhood with water and red retardant. Experts have described the conditions as the worst on record, as spring temperatures climbed toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds topped 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour across a zone which has been plagued by persistent drought. Although the bushfire season is in its infancy, scientists predict it to be one of Australia's toughest ever, with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping created a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.
Twin blazes in the north shore suburb of Turramurra -- around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the centre of Australia's largest city -- tore through a eucalypt forest park and sparked spot fires in homes, before eventually being brought under control. As night fell, authorities said they were bringing another "clearly suspicious" blaze in a national park in the city's southern suburbs under control. Throughout the day, more than 300 bushfires burned up and down Australia's east coast, fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland that has brought some of the most dangerous conditions the country has seen.
In Turramurra, gardens smouldered, thick smoke hung heavy in the air and cars, houses and roads were caked in raspberry-red retardant as if hit by a giant paintball. "It was the embers that floated up that actually went across and set off spot fires in the front yards" resident Nigel Lush told AFP, adding that one roof had been set alight. Another resident, Julia Gretton-Roberts, said the blaze spread shockingly quickly. "Next thing I know the fire was opposite our house and it was massive and the police came and grabbed our kids and took them away," she said. "My daughter is pretty freaked out." Firefighter Andrew Connon told AFP "a number of homes were threatened but it was contained by the aerial bombing".
- 'Catastrophic conditions' -
From early morning thousands of firefighters spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called "off the scale" fire risk and "catastrophic" conditions. They were unable to prevent several bushfires from breaching containment lines and trapping residents who had not already evacuated. New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said so far only a dozen buildings had been damaged Tuesday and a handful non-life-threatening injuries were reported, but the crisis was far from over.
Firefighters will be "working on these fires for days and weeks given the enormity of the firegrounds," he said. Even before unfavourable weather hit, days of fires had killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes. "The conditions are expected to get worse," Fitzsimmons said, warning residents in adjacent areas to stay alert. "Complacency kills," he added. Up to 600 schools were closed, as well as many national parks, a total fire ban was introduced for the affected area and Rally Australia -- due to be held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend -- was cancelled. The military pitched in, helping firefighters with logistics and water-dropping sorties using more than 100 aircraft.
- 'We'll fight it first' -
In the town of Hillville a fire that has ripped through an area the size of 25,000 soccer fields approached the home of Daniel Stevens. Like many, his family -- including his mother nursing a broken leg -- have packed their bags, but have resisted leaving their house and everything they own. "We'll fight it first," he told AFP, "but if it jumps the fence line into the paddock, we'll go."
In the nearby town of Taree, dozens of people have already moved to a showground that has become a makeshift evacuation centre. Fifty-nine-year-old Caroline Watson arrived last night with her husband and their dog. "The fires are just rife. They are absolutely everywhere" she told AFP. "They didn't ask us to get out, but we figured it was coming."
Further south in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney, veteran Winmalee firefighter Alan Gardiner said locals were "terrified and on edge". The town still bears the scars of a 2013 blaze that destroyed 200 homes, and residents are acutely aware that with few roads in and out of the mountains, a decision to leave late can be fatal. Efforts to burn fuel in a controlled way have been limited by months of drought-like conditions that made it too dangerous.
Denpasar, Indonesia, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - An Australian tourist who fly-kicked a motorcyclist and assaulted a man in his own home during a drunken rampage was jailed for four months on Tuesday. The ruling comes after Nicholas Carr's antics were caught in a viral video that saw him carry out a campaign of destruction in Seminyak, a popular tourist area on the Indonesian holiday island. "The defendant Nicholas Carr is found guilty and is sentenced to four months" in jail, presiding judge Soebandi, who goes by one name, told the Denpasar District Court. A lawyer for Carr, charged with assault and property damage, said the 26-year-old would not appeal the ruling. He is expected to be released next month because of time already served. In August, Carr ran barefoot on to a street and shouted expletives before the apprentice builder slammed into the bonnet of a moving car and then fly-kicked an unsuspecting motorcycle rider.
The biker, who was thrown from the moving scooter, sustained minor injuries -- later the pair embraced during a court hearing as Carr apologised to the victim. Carr also shattered a convenience store's glass door before stealing a motorcycle. Later, he broke into a house where he assaulted the sleeping homeowner, leaving him with injuries, police said earlier. He was eventually caught by locals and police and taken to hospital. Pictures that circulated on social media showed at the time showed Carr bloodied and bruised, and trussed with hosepipe and rope. Shortly after his arrest, Carr apologised and admitted drinking more than 10 small bottles of vodka as well as other alcohol.
After a string of embarrassing incidents by tourists, Bali officials recently warned that boorish visitors may be kicked off the island, which attracts millions annually to its palm-fringed beaches, colourful nightlife and ancient temples. Australian professional rugby league player David Fifita returned home this week after he was briefly arrested in Bali for assaulting a nightclub security guard. Several days after Carr's arrest, a Czech couple who were slammed for disrespecting a Balinese temple took part in a ritual purification ceremony.
Lyon, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - An unusually strong earthquake hit south-eastern France on Monday, injuring four people, one of them seriously, authorities said. A physicist at a geophysics institute the IPGP said that quakes of this strength are rare in that region, but warned of possible aftershocks and said people should leave fragile buildings. The quake, with a magnitude of 5.4, was felt in a vast area between the cities of Lyon and Montelimar which are about 150 kilometres (93 miles) apart, the national seismological office said. "I was leaning against the oven in my mother's bakery when I felt the tremor," said Victoria Brielle, a resident in Privas, some 25 kilometres from the quake's epicentre. "A customer said her sideboard had moved and all her crockery was broken," she said.
Another resident in the area, Didier Levy, who lives in a 15th century castle, told AFP that "chandeliers were still trembling" several minutes after the quake. Levy, who said his dog starting barking even before humans felt the tremors, added: "I have never experienced anything like it, I could feel the trembling even though these wall are one metre thick." One person was seriously hurt when some scaffolding collapsed, the regional prefect's office said. Three other people in the neighbouring Ardeche region were slightly injured.
Quakes in this region are rarely higher than Magnitude 5, said Mustapha Meghraoui of the IPGP's office in Strasbourg. "We can say that this is a rare one," he added. But he said there might be an aftershock of around 4.5. "If people are in a fragile house, they would be better leaving it" for something more robust for a while, he said. The scale of the damage suggested the quake happened at a depth of between five and 10 kilometres, he added. But they were working on a more accurate reading.
Goma, DR Congo, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - A local radio station that has been involved in the fight against Ebola in eastern DR Congo said Monday it was closing down after one of its broadcasters was murdered. Joel Musavuli, head of Lwemba radio in Mambasa in Ituri province, told AFP that the station had been targeted by armed groups hostile to the campaign to roll back the Ebola epidemic.
"Each of us have received threats since last month. We have now decided to stop broadcasting, Musavuli said, adding that he himself had escaped two kidnap attempts. "We are victims of our commitment to the awareness campaign about the spread of Ebola virus disease. We don't know why the militiamen are targeting us." Nearly 2,200 people have died since the notorious haemorrhagic disease erupted in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2018, according to the latest official figures.
The fight against the outbreak has been hampered by local fears and superstititions, exploited by militia groups that are rampant in the remote region. Several health workers have been killed and media that have supported the campaign have received threats.
Several radio stations in the Mambasa area say they have stopped broadcasting anti-Ebola messages because of intimidation. On November 2, Lwemba broadcaster Papy Mahamba was killed at his home by unidentified men. His wife was injured and their house set ablaze. The station said the authorities had failed to take action against the threats. It said it would resume broadcasts after "the state has restored authority in the area".