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Afghanistan

Afghanistal US Consular Information Sheet March 03, 2009


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:


Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, but still faces daunting challenges, including de

eating terrorists and insurgents, recovering from over three decades of civil strife, dealing with years of severe drought and rebuilding a shattered physical, economic and political infrastructure. Coalition and NATO forces under ISAF work in partnership with Afghan security forces to combat Taliban and al-Qa’ida elements who seek to terrorize the population and challenge the government. Violence in 2008 reached unprecedented levels, as both ISAF/Afghan forces and the Taliban initiated more battles than ever before. President Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on December 7, 2004 and the Afghan Parliament was subsequently convened in late 2005. The government is working to develop a more effective police force, a more robust legal system, and sub-national institutions that work in partnership with traditional and local leaders to meet the needs of the population. The U.S. works closely with the international community to provide coordinated support for these efforts. An Afghanistan-hosted Peace Jirga with Pakistan resulted in a commitment to cooperate in combating terrorism, facilitate the return of Afghan refugees, and support regional economic activity. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Afghanistan for additional information.


ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:


 A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport or any other ports of entry in Afghanistan. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports are not stamped to show that they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125. 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:


The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan emphasizes that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. The Taliban and associated insurgent groups, al-Qaida network terrorist organizations, and narco-traffickers oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. These groups aim to weaken or bring down the Government of Afghanistan and to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence, including targeting civilians. Terrorist activities may include, but are not limited to bombings -- including improvised explosive devices and car bombs -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings. There were over 120 suicide attacks in 2008. There is an ongoing threat to attack and kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. In 2008,, more than 30 NGO workers were killed (six foreigners) and at least 78 NGO staff members (seven foreigners) were abducted. Over 25 other foreign civilians, including journalists, were kidnapped. Kabul continues to experience suicide bombings against Afghan government personnel and installations, Afghan and coalition military assets, and international civilians. Riots -- sometimes violent -- have occurred in response to various political or other issues. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans' use of the Kabul-Jalalabad, Kabul-Kandahar highways and other roads throughout the country is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. Insurgents continue to use roadside and car bombs to conduct attacks and abductions along major highways. Millions of unexploded land mines and other ordinance present a constant danger. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns. The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death. Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, mostly in poor condition, irregular cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world. 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 pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.


CRIME:


 A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries as well as kidnappings and assault. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.


INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for assistance. The Embassy 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 provide a list of attorneys if needed. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in Afghanistan is: 119 Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.


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 Afghanistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Another sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing is often viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. 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.


SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:


Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are limited. Some ATM machines exist at Standard Charter Bank and Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them. International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities, but can be unreliable. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited. In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page for our dual nationality flyer. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States. Please see our Customs Information sheet.


MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:


Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. Several western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), Acomet Family Hospital (www.afghancomet.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country. There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul, however, there have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy’s web site at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html. For additional information on Avian Influenza, please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Afghanistan. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx| The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Afghanistan. However, if one has questions, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Afghanistan at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org before you travel. 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.


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 Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. All drivers face the potential danger of encountering improvised-explosive devices and land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordinance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and kidnappings are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.


AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:


As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.


CHILDREN'S ISSUES:


 For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. R


EGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:


Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located in Kabul on Great Massoud (Airport) Road, local phone number 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 0700-201-908. The web site is http://kabul.usembassy.gov/ * * * * * This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 16, 2008 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sun 1 Sep 2019
Source: MENAFN - Afghanistan Times [edited]

Two new polio cases have surfaced separately in capital city of Tirinkot and Chora district of southern Uruzgan [Oruzgan] province, a statement from the relevant ministry said [Sun 1 Sep 2019].

A 30-month-old child and another 6-month-old infant were permanently paralyzed as a result of the polio virus.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), the total number of polio cases in 2019 reached 15 with the 2 new cases, saying all of these cases had been reported from inaccessible areas.

"Of the 15 polio cases this year [2019], 14 have been reported from the southern region of Afghanistan,' the statement said, adding "7 positive cases came from [Oruzgan], 5 from Helmand, and 2 other from Kandahar."

Only 1 out of 12 polio cases was reported from eastern Kunar province while the rest happened in the southern zone.

"Access to health services is the right of every citizen of the country," said Dr Ferozuddin Feroz, the Minister of Public Health. "We are deeply concerned about the increasing polio cases and the number of children who still don't have consistent and proper access to vaccination," he added.

He said the virus could spread further in the country and more children would be affected and paralyzed by polio virus.

He called upon people to 'work together and protect innocent children against polio and facilitate a safe and secure environment for our frontline workers in order to enable them administer vaccine drops to children in every nook and cranny of the country."

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure and the vaccine is the only safe and effective way to protect children.

The polio vaccine is safe and harmless for new-born children whether they are sick or not. It is very important that new-borns and sick children get the vaccine because they may have lower immunity which makes them more susceptible to the virus.

Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.
========================
[As I mentioned in the moderator comment of the last post (Poliomyelitis update (71): global (Pakistan, Congo DR) http://promedmail.org/post/20190901.6651501), "While there have been no newly confirmed cases reported from Afghanistan this week nor have there been positive environmental samples reported from either Pakistan or Afghanistan, it doesn't mean the virus is not still circulating, just that there aren't new confirmations." Unfortunately there were cases under investigation.

As correctly stated in the media report above, the addition of these 2 newly confirmed cases brings the number of confirmed WPV1 cases reported by Afghanistan during 2019 to date to 15.

Oruzgan is located in the central part of Afghanistan, sharing southern and southwestern borders with Kandahar and Helmand provinces where other polio cases have been reported this year (2019) as well (<http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/afghanistan_admin-2009.jpg>).

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Afghanistan:
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:26:06 +0200 (METDST)

Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - Scores of people including children were wounded Monday after a series of explosions shook the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.

As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province, authorities said, and casualty numbers rose as the day wore on.   "The explosions were caused by IEDs in different parts of the city and as groups of people were celebrating independence day," the Nangarhar governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said, referring to improvised explosive devices.   Jalalabad is the scene of frequent bomb attacks, and the surrounding terrain is home to both Taliban fighters and the Islamic State group's local affiliate.

At least 52 people were wounded, Khogyani said. Zaher Adel, a spokesman for a local hospital, said 66 wounded people had been brought in. An AFP correspondent saw children among the victims.   This year's August 19 celebrations mark 100 years of Afghan independence from British influence.   The day was supposed to be one of national pride and unity, but was overshadowed by an IS suicide attack Saturday on a crowded Kabul wedding hall that killed at least 63 people.

In Kabul, locals took to the streets to wave the black-red-and-green Afghan flag, but several public events to commemorate the date were scrapped as Kabul mourns and due to fears of a fresh attack.    "We postponed the celebrations to honour the victims, but we will definitely take revenge for our people," Afghan President Ahraf Ghani said.   "We will avenge the blood of our people, every drop of it."

Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day, even though the US and the Taliban are in final negotiations for a deal that would see US troops begin to quit Afghanistan and could potentially lead to a reduction in violence.
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:47:26 +0200 (METDST)
By By Emal Haidary and Mushtaq Mojaddidi

Kabul, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Joy and celebration turned into horror and carnage when a suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall, killing at least 63 people in the deadliest attack to rock Kabul in months, officials and witnesses said Sunday.   The massive blast, which took place late Saturday in west Kabul, came as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan and hopefully build a roadmap to a ceasefire.   The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later.

The attack "changed my happiness to sorrow", the young man, who gave his name as Mirwais, told local TV station Tolo News.   "My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting," he said.   "I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again."   Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said at least 63 people had been killed and 182 injured.   "Among the wounded are women and children," Rahimi said. Earlier he stated a suicide bomber carried out the attack.

Afghan weddings are epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating for hours inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children.   "The wedding guests were dancing and celebrating the party when the blast happened," recounted Munir Ahmad, 23, who was seriously injured and whose cousin was among the dead.   "Following the explosion, there was total chaos. Everyone was screaming and crying for their loved ones," he told AFP from his bed in a local hospital, where he is being treated for shrapnel wounds.

Images from inside the hall showed blood-stained bodies on the ground along with pieces of flesh and torn clothes, hats, sandals and bottles of mineral water. The huge blast ripped parts of the ceiling off.   The wedding was believed to be a Shia gathering. Shia Muslims are frequently targeted in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, particularly by the so-called Islamic State group, which is also active in Kabul but did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility.

Wedding guest Hameed Quresh told AFP the young couple were saying their vows when the bomb went off.    "We fainted following the blast, and we don't know who brought us to the hospital," sobbed Quresh, who lost one brother and was himself wounded.   Another guest told Tolo that some 1,200 people had been invited. With low security, weddings are seen as easy targets.   The attack sent a wave of grief through a city grimly accustomed to atrocities. President Ashraf Ghani called it "barbaric", while Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah described it as a "crime against humanity".

- Withdrawal deal expected -
The attack underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face. While the police and army claim they prevent most bombings from ever happening, the fact remains that insurgents pull off horrific attacks with chilling regularity.   On July 28, at least 20 people were killed when attackers targeted Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh as he campaigned in presidential elections.    The incident showed how even amid tight security and known threats, insurgents can conduct brazen attacks.   The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban that would see Washington begin to withdraw its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan.

The deal relies on the Taliban providing guarantees they will stop jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Saturday's attack suggests any such promise would be tough to keep.   The "Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists," Ghani said.   Few believe such a deal will bring quick peace.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban could return, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war.   Meanwhile, in the northern province of Balkh, 11 members of the same family were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb, officials said. The provincial governor blamed the Taliban for planting the device.
Date: Mon, 1 Jul 2019 11:19:17 +0200

Kabul, July 1, 2019 (AFP) - At least one person was killed and dozens wounded in a Taliban-claimed attack which saw a powerful car bomb rock Kabul early Monday, followed by gunmen who battled special forces in an area housing military and government buildings.   Many children were among the wounded, according to a hospital statement, after the rush-hour explosion sent a plume of smoke into the air above the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the Afghan capital and shook buildings up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) away.

AFP reporters could hear gunshots and multiple smaller explosions as fighting between the gunmen and special forces continued more than four hours after the attack began.   "At first, a car bomb took place and then several attackers took over a building. The area is cordoned off by the police special forces and (they) are bringing down the attackers," interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.    He later said that at least one attacker had been killed.   Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said that at least one person had been killed and 65 wounded -- including nine children -- and warned that casualties could rise.   "Among the wounded, many children who were going to school," said the Twitter account of the Emergency Hospital in Kabul, where many victims were taken.   Some social media images purportedly taken at the hospital showed wounded, stunned children in school uniforms, still clutching books as they arrived for treatment.

The Taliban claimed the attack, which came just two days after the insurgents began a seventh round of talks with the US in Qatar as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan's September presidential election.   Militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid released a statement saying the insurgents had targeted a defence ministry building in the area, which was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, with helicopter gunships seen overhead as firing continued.   Authorities have not confirmed the target.    "We were sitting inside the office when the world turned upside down on us," Zaher Usman, an employee at a branch of the culture ministry, which he said stands just 150 metres (yards) from the blast.

- Brief lockdown -
"When I opened my eyes, the office was filled with smoke and dust and everything was broken, my colleagues were screaming," Usman told AFP by telephone.   Shams Amini, a spokesman for the Afghan Football Federation, told AFP that the blast occurred near their HQ gates, and said some colleagues had been injured.   Nearby Shamshad TV station, which was attacked in 2017, aired images of broken glass and damage to its offices. "I was terrified," Shamshad anchor Hashmat Stanikzai told AFP.

The explosion came as the US was set to begin a third day of negotiations with the militants in Doha. There was no immediate confirmation if they would go ahead after the blast.   With the attack still ongoing, the Taliban spokesman in Doha again insisted that the insurgents will not negotiate with Kabul.   "Once the timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces is set in the presence of international observers, then we will begin the talks to the Afghan sides, but we will not talk to the Kabul administration as a government," Suhail Shaheen tweeted. 

The insurgents have long refused to negotiate with the Western-backed government, whom they deem puppets.   The talks have so far centred on four issues -- counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue and a permanent ceasefire.   A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among Afghans who fear Washington will rush for the exits and allow the militants to return to some semblance of power.   In return, the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremism, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.   However, US officials have insisted that "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", including intra-Afghan talks.
Date 24 Jun 2019
Source: Mena FN [edited]

The number of polio positive cases in Afghanistan has reached 10 so far in 2019, with 4 cases reported from Uruzgan [Oruzgan] province and 1 new case detected in the Mehr Abad area of Tirinkot, the provincial capital.

According to Ministry of Public Health, a 21-month-old girl is permanently paralyzed in Tirinkot, making 10 cases of polio in Afghanistan so far [in 2019].

The Health ministry in a statement said that last week, another polio case was reported from Trinkot, which paralyzed a 30-month-old boy [see Poliomyelitis update (50): Afghanistan (OZ) http://promedmail.org/post/20190619.6528976].

House-to-house polio campaigns have been banned in this area since May 2018. This means children under [5 years of age] living in the area have not been vaccinated and protected from the virus since then, the ministry added.

Only one out of 10 polio cases were reported from Eastern Kunar province, while the rest have been reported from the southern region: 4 cases in Urozgan [Oruzgan], 3 in Helmand and 2 cases in Kandahar.

"Access to health services is the right of every citizen of the country," said Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, the Minister of Public Health of Afghanistan. "We are deeply concerned about the increasing polio cases and the number of children who still don't have consistent access to vaccination. The virus could spread, and more children will be affected and paralyzed by polio virus in Afghanistan. I ask everyone to work together and protect innocent children against polio, to provide a safe and secure environment for our frontline workers to vaccinate children in every corner of the country."

The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and new-born children. It is very important that new-borns and sick children get the vaccine, because they may have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus.

Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars, the statement added.
======================
[In last week's report on the 30-month-old male child from Oruzgan, there was mention that the vaccination teams were unable to enter the zone where the child lived due to security concerns. The media report above mentions there haven't been vaccinations provided through household visits in this zone since May 2018.

Oruzgan is located in the central part of Afghanistan, sharing southern and southwestern borders with Kandahar and Helmand provinces where other polio cases have been reported this year (2019) as well (<https://www.afghana.com/GetLocal/Afghanistan/Provinces.htm>).

With the addition of this newly confirmed case, there have now been 10 cases of confirmed poliomyelitis reported from Afghanistan since the beginning of 2019. Add these to the 27 cases confirmed in Pakistan, and there are now 37 cases reported this year (2019), 4 more than the total number of cases reported during 2018.

HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/1257>  - ProMED Mod.MPP]
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Belarus

Belarus - US Consular Information Sheet
November 25, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Belarus became an independent republic in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In 1996, a constitutional referendum, not recognized by the internat
onal community, centralized power in the executive branch (president), headed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Economic and political reform in Belarus has stalled or is being reversed under his authoritarian government.
The Belarusian Government’s human rights record remains very poor.
President Lukashenka gained a third five-year term as president in March 2006, in an election that international observers judged to be seriously flawed.
Democratic nations, including the United States and the members of the European Union, condemned the subsequent governmental crackdown on peaceful protests in Minsk, and imposed visa restrictions and other sanctions on senior Belarusian officials. As a result of the release of political prisoners in August 2008, the EU lifted its visa restrictions, but those of the United States remain in effect.
Both Belarusian and Russian are official languages, and Russian is widely spoken throughout the country, particularly in the cities.
Tourist facilities are not highly developed, but food and lodging in the capital and some regional centers are adequate.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Belarus for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and visa are required.
Travelers must obtain a visa in advance to visit or transit through Belarus.
Travelers who do not have a visa cannot register at hotels.
U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Belarus are required to register with the local office of the Citizenship and Migration Department of the Ministry of Interior (formerly OVIR) within three business days after arrival.
The registration fee is one National Minimum Tariff Unit (currently about $17).
Failure to register can result in fines and difficulties when departing.
U.S. citizens staying in hotels are automatically registered at check-in.
Visa validity dates are strictly enforced; travelers should request visas of sufficient length to allow for changes in arrival and departure plans, and should carefully review the beginning and ending dates of their visas before traveling.
A valid exit visa is necessary to depart Belarus.
Generally, the visa issued by a Belarusian Embassy or Consulate is valid for both entry and exit.
Photocopies of visas may be helpful in the event of loss, but note that a copy of a visa will not be sufficient for entry or departure, as Belarusian border officials always require original travel documents.

Travelers who overstay their visa’s validity -- even for one day -- will be prevented from leaving until they have been granted an extension by the Department of Citizenship and Migration.
United States citizens without valid visas face delays in leaving Belarus and may have trouble finding adequate accommodation.
By Belarusian law, travelers with an expired visa may not check in at any hotel or other lodging establishment.

U.S. citizens traveling through Belarus to other countries are strongly advised that there is a transit visa requirement for entering and leaving Belarus.
Transit visas are required even for travelers transiting on direct overnight trains with no stops or transfers on Belarusian territory. Transit visas should be obtained prior to any journey that requires travel through Belarus.
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Russian visas are no substitute for this transit visa.
Most travel agencies, including those in Russia and CIS countries, as well as train ticket sales personnel, are often not aware of this visa requirement and may not seek a transit visa for a traveler unless instructed by the traveler to do so.

U.S. citizens attempting to transit Belarus without a valid Belarusian transit visa have been denied entry into the country and forcibly removed from trains.
In some instances, local border and railway authorities have threatened passengers who did not possess a valid transit visa with jail or extorted “fines.”
American citizens are advised not to pay any border or railway officials for transit visas or “transit visa fines,” as these officials are not authorized to issue such visas.
Americans finding themselves in Belarus without transit visas, if confronted by border or train personnel, should request to be put in contact with consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.
U.S. citizens traveling to Belarus via Russia are reminded that they must possess a Russian transit visa in addition to their Belarusian visa. Russian Embassies outside of the United States, including the Russian Embassy in Belarus, generally do not issue transit or tourist visas to Americans.
Russian transit visas are not normally obtainable at Russian airports.

The Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Republic of Belarus states that all foreign citizens may be granted permission for a temporary stay (up to 90 days within a chronological year), temporary residence (up to one year), or permanent residence.
Belarusian Embassies and Consulates will issue visas for temporary stays.
A temporary stay visa will allow the bearer to be present physically in Belarus for a maximum of 90 days within the 365-day period for which the visa is issued.
Once an individual has spent 90 days in Belarus, at one time or through a combination of visits, he or she will not be eligible to receive another visa until the original 365-day period has passed.

Individuals who receive visas for a temporary stay, but wish to remain in Belarus for longer than 90 days, must apply for temporary or permanent residence with the Ministry of Interior.
Individuals must make the application in Belarus within the 90 days allotted for a temporary stay.
Permission for temporary residence can be granted to students, spouses, or close relatives of Belarusian citizens, or for “work, business, or other activities.”
Travelers may contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk for information about application procedures for temporary or permanent residence.
Every foreigner entering Belarus is required to fill out a migration card.
This card should be retained for the whole period of stay and should be presented to the border authorities when exiting Belarus.

Foreign citizens without a valid Belarusian visa, migration card, or proper registration with the Department of Citizenship and Migration as a temporary visitor or resident can be subject to sanctions up to and including deportation under the provisions of the Code of Administrative Violations.
Depending on the circumstances, deportees also can be banned from returning to Belarus for a period from one to ten years.

Foreign citizens visiting and transiting Belarus also should be prepared to demonstrate sufficient financial means to support their stay.
For individuals staying in Belarus for less than one month, this amount is equal to approximately $15/day/person.
For those staying for longer than one month, the requirements call for $375/month/person.
Belarusian officials may request this proof of funds at the time of visa application, at the border, or during registration.
According to the Ministry of Interior, cash, credit cards, paid hotel reservations, or a letter from an inviting party pledging full financial support are sufficient means to demonstrate financial wherewithal.

Belarus requires all foreign nationals (other than accredited diplomats) entering the country to purchase medical insurance at the port-of-entry, regardless of any other insurance they might have.
Costs for this insurance will vary according to the length of stay.
(Subject to change, current information puts costs at approximately $1 for a one or two day stay, $15 for a stay of up to 31 days, and $85 for a stay of one year.)

Travelers entering Belarus by air with more than 35 kilograms of luggage (77 pounds) will be charged 2 Euros per kilogram in excess of that limit.
The fee must be paid in dollars or Euros.
In accordance with current customs regulations, foreigners may enter Belarus with up to $10,000 and exit the country with up to $3,000 without submitting a written declaration.
For additional information on customs rules for Belarus please see the Belarusian State Customs Committee official web site.
The Belarusian Government enforces a requirement for special permits to travel in “protected border zones.”
The Government of Belarus has not provided information defining the parameters of those zones.
Travelers should be alert for warning signs, road barriers, and/or border guard posts, and are advised not to cross into such areas without permission.

Foreign missionaries may not engage in religious activities outside the institutions that invited them unless they have a religious worker visa.
One-year validity, multiple-entry, "spiritual activities" visas, which are required of foreign missionaries, can be difficult to get, even for faiths that are registered with the government and have a long history in the country.
Approval often involves a difficult bureaucratic process.

A law enacted in 2002 required all religious groups and organizations, including recognized “traditional” religions such as Russian Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, Sunni Islam, and Lutheranism, to re-register; most organizations have done so.
Unregistered religious groups may not legally gather for religious purposes.
Many unregistered groups continue to meet, however, leaving them vulnerable to selective implementation of the law by authorities.
The law also stipulates that only Belarusian citizens can head religious organizations in Belarus.
In recent years, authorities have harassed, warned, fined, and briefly detained members of some unregistered and so-called "non-traditional" faiths for engaging in unsanctioned worship or proselytism. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that any U.S. citizen who chooses to attend a religious service of an unregistered religious group do so only after consulting with members of the group about the risk of harassment or possible arrest by local law enforcement authorities.
U.S. citizens are also urged to contact the U.S. Embassy should they encounter any problems with authorities due to their participation in such services or events.

Naturalized U.S. citizens originally from Belarus do not automatically lose Belarusian citizenship upon naturalization.
Such individuals retain Belarusian citizenship unless they take specific steps to renounce it.
The Belarusian authorities will allow naturalized U.S. citizens from Belarus to enter the country without a valid Belarusian passport on a “certificate of return” issued by Belarusian Embassies and Consulates, but please note that a valid Belarusian passport will be required to leave the country.
It can take two to four weeks to receive a new Belarusian passport.
For additional information please consult with the Embassy of Belarus at http://www.belarusembassy.org.
Belarusian citizens, including dual nationals, are subject to Belarusian laws requiring service in Belarus’ armed forces, as well as other laws pertaining to passports and nationality.
American-Belarusian dual nationals of military age who do not wish to serve in the Belarusian armed forces should contact the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C. to learn more about an exemption or deferment from Belarusian military service before going to Belarus.
Without this exemption or deferment document, they may not be able to leave Belarus without completing military service, or may be subject to criminal penalties for failure to serve.

Children born to Belarusian parent(s) before August 15, 2002, even if born in the United States and in possession of a U.S. passport, may not be issued a Belarusian visa for travel to Belarus.
The Belarusian government considers these children to be Belarusian citizens until age 16, when they may choose to accept or reject that claim to citizenship.
Instead of a visa, a "certificate of return" is issued that will allow the child to enter Belarus.
It is imperative that parents of such children understand that, in order to leave the country, the child will be required to have a Belarusian passport if he/she does not already have one.
It can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete the application procedures and receive a new Belarusian passport.
(Note: if the parent left Belarus on a series PP passport, given to Belarusians who reside abroad and have cancelled their local registration, then Belarus would not require the child to reject his/her claim to citizenship).
For children born to one Belarusian parent and one foreign parent after 2002, the parents must by mutual consent agree to Belarusian citizenship for the child, regardless of the place of birth.
If the parents cannot reach consensus, Belarus would only force Belarusian citizenship on a child in cases where the child would be left stateless.
Visit the Embassy of Belarus web site at http://www.belarusembassy.org/ for the most current visa information, or contact the Embassy of Belarus at 1619 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel: 202-986-1606, fax: 202-986-1805, consul@belarusembassy.org.
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:
Both organized and spontaneous demonstrations occur in Belarus.
Localized street disturbances relating to political events occur most frequently in Minsk or larger cities.
In some instances, authorities may use force to disperse protesters; bystanders, including foreign nationals, may face the possibility of arrest, beating, or detention.
Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can sometimes become confrontational and escalate into violence.
For this reason, it is recommended that American citizens avoid all demonstrations and protest gatherings.

Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance.
Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.
These sites are not always clearly marked and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.

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

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Belarus has a moderate incidence of street crime. Though violent crime against foreigners is rare, criminals have been known to use force if met with resistance from victims.
Common street crime, such as mugging and pocket picking, occurs most frequently near public transportation venues, near hotels frequented by foreigners, and/or at night in poorly lit areas.

American citizens and other foreigners in Belarus have also been the victims of car theft, car vandalism, and hotel and residential break-ins.
Foreigners visiting nightclubs should pay particular attention to their surroundings, as criminal elements may rob unsuspecting patrons after surreptitiously drugging their drinks.
Travelers should keep a copy of their passport in a separate location from their original passport.

As in many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available in Belarus. 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 in finding appropriate medical care, contacting family members or friends and explaining 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.
To see if you can be compensated in the U.S. as a victim of violent crime overseas, see our information on Victims of Crime.

The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Belarus are: 111 Fire and Rescue Squad, 102 Police, 103 Ambulance (Medical Emergency)
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care in Belarus is limited.
There is a severe shortage of basic medical supplies, including anesthetics, vaccines and antibiotics.
Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Travelers are encouraged to ensure that they bring an adequate supply of prescription medications in the event that there are delays in departing Belarus.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Belarus.
For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to Belarus on a 30 day visit.
Long-term residents or students must obtain an HIV/AIDS test in Belarus and submit the results to the Department of Citizenship and Migration.
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 (CDC) 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) website 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 Belarus is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
American citizens on short-term visits to Belarus (up to 90 days) are permitted to drive with a valid U.S. state driver’s license.
U.S. citizens should, therefore, always carry their passports with them to prove date of entry into the country in the event that police stop them.
If residing in Belarus for more than 90 days, one should apply for a Belarusian driver’s license.
Drivers will be required to successfully complete a two-part test in Russian; the first part is a computer-based multiple-choice test on local driving rules, and the second part is a driving test.
To receive a local driver’s license, drivers will also need to complete a medical exam at a special medical clinic, which will include a general physical, a chest x-ray, and an eye exam.

Radar traps and road construction sites, often unlit at night, are widespread.
Except for a stretch of the main east-west highway, where the speed limit is 100 km/h (60 mph), the maximum speed limit on divided highways or main roads outside village, town or city limits is 90 km/h (55 mph).
Speed limits in cities are 60 km/h unless marked and will usually range between 40 km/h and 70 km/h, with frequent radar traps.
Visible and hidden dangers exist, including potholes, unlit or poorly lit streets, inattentive and dark-clothed pedestrians walking on unlit roads, drivers and pedestrians under the influence of alcohol, and disregard for traffic rules.
Driving in winter is especially dangerous because of ice and snow.
Driving with caution is urged at all times.

Radio-dispatched taxi services are generally reliable, arrive promptly once called and usually offer the lowest fare.
Most radio-dispatched taxis are metered, although fares can vary greatly and are considerably higher in the late evening and overnight hours.
The use of informal taxis or "gypsy cabs" is not recommended.

Minsk has a clean, safe, and efficient subway system that easily reaches most of the city center. Service is stopped briefly during the early morning hours, but otherwise runs regularly throughout the day.
Ticket prices are extremely low by western standards.
Though their routes are extensive, buses and trolleys lack heating or cooling capabilities and are usually crowded.

Travelers on all public transportation should be wary of pickpockets and other petty crime.
For travelers interested in car rental, only one major western rental agency currently operates in Minsk.
In general, rental car networks in Belarus are not well developed.

Travelers may experience significant delays (of several hours) in crossing the border by road into neighboring countries.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Also visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at: http://siteks.com/sites/touragency/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Belarus, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Belarus’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:
Traveler's checks are normally not accepted in Belarus as a means of payment, but can be freely exchanged for cash at any bank.
Most hotels, restaurants, and stores accept major credit cards.
All Belarusian banks provide cash from major credit cards.
All payments in Belarus are made in Belarusian rubles.
Authorized currency exchange centers are widely available throughout major cities.


ATMs are also available for use, and it has become easier to use credit cards and debit cards in Belarus, especially in Minsk; however, this does not mean that it is safer to do so.
There have been reports of instances in which U.S. citizens have had their card numbers “skimmed” and the money in their debit accounts stolen or their credit cards fraudulently charged.
(“Skimming” is the theft of credit card information by an employee of a legitimate merchant or bank, manually copying down numbers or using a magnetic stripe reader.)
In addition to skimming, the risk of physical theft of credit or debit cards also exists.
To prevent such theft, the Embassy recommends that travelers keep close track of their personal belongings and only carry what is needed when out.
If travelers choose to use credit cards, they should regularly check their account status to ensure its integrity.
Persons seeking to marry in Belarus should consult the information located on the Embassy web site at http://minsk.usembassy.gov/marriage.html.
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 Belarusian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Belarus 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.
Access for U.S. consular officers to U.S. citizens in detention is often limited and/or delayed.
Although U.S. citizens are able to obtain legal representation, there has been at least one case of delayed notification, hindered consular access, limited medical treatment, and trial behind closed doors. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Belarus are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Belarus.
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 in Minsk at 46 Starovilenskaya Ulitsa; telephone (375 17) 210-1283 or after hours (375 29) 676-0134, fax (375 17) 334-7853 or (375 17) 17-217-7160 (consular section).
The Consular Section may also be reached by email at ConsularMinsk@state.gov
*

*

*
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Belarus dated December 7, 2007, and updates the sections on Exit/Entry Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Criminal Penalties.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2018 06:04:14 +0200
By Tatiana Kalinovskaya

Minsk, Aug 2, 2018 (AFP) - A massive corruption scandal has rocked the health service of ex-Soviet Belarus, leading even officials in the country dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship" to call for an overhaul of the system.   Authorities have arrested dozens of medics, drug company representatives and bureaucrats on suspicion of siphoning off millions of dollars in state funding.   Valery Vakulchik, head of the powerful KGB state security service, in televised comments last month denounced what he called a vast system of procurement of drugs and medical equipment at inflated prices.   Prices were habitually hiked by up to 60 percent and in some cases even doubled, he said.   Following his announcement, 37 top health officials were arrested and criminal investigations were opened involving 60 people including local representatives of international pharmaceutical companies.

The KGB chief acknowledged that the Soviet-style bureaucracy in the country bordering the European Union, ruled by strongman Alexander Lukashenko, helped promote corruption.   "The existing system of procuring medical equipment and drugs created the conditions for corrupt practices," he said.    "Bona fide suppliers could not rely on a positive outcome," he added, while procurements were made not directly from producers but "via numerous middlemen (and) finance companies."   Those detained in the scandal include deputy health minister Igor Lositsky, doctors at reputed clinics and leading business figures involved in producing and importing medicines.   One of the arrested businessmen is Sergei Shakutin, director of Iskamed group, who is the brother of one of Lukashenko's close associates.   Belta state news agency has published photos of searches at the home of a medical centre director that uncovered $500,000 in cash.   Officers also found $620,000 in the garage of the director of a public enterprise that imported medical equipment.

The KGB chief said bribes paid to corrupt officials amounted to millions of dollars.   "There will be further arrests since the people detained so far are just the perpetrators," Sergei Satsuk, editor of news site Yezhednevnik, who is familiar with the case, told AFP.   The chief beneficiaries in such schemes were retired law enforcement officials who set up companies to enter the lucrative medical equipment market, Satsuk said.   "In 10 years they drained all the juice out of the country's medical system," he said.   He said this involved supplying equipment that was not just over-priced but also often lacked the necessary certification or came with faked documentation.    Some equipment was imported as second-hand but re-sold as new.

- Powerful temptation -
This is one of the biggest corruption scandals in the history of Belarus, which is wedged between Russia and Poland and has been led by Lukashenko since 1994.   "Bureaucracy has privatised the state. We need to reform the whole system of state management, otherwise corruption schemes will spring up wherever budget funds are being spent," independent economist Yaroslav Romanchuk told AFP.

Other smaller corruption scandals have in recent years hit the sports, forestry and energy ministries as well as large companies, factories and banks.   Three ministers have been sacked and senior bureaucrats and regional officials have been arrested.   "Even if you clean out the state structures of bribe-takers, corruption won't die in Belarus for a single day," said Romanchuk.   "The very next day new people in old posts in the old system will relaunch the old corruption schemes."   The system "creates the most powerful temptation to set up schemes with kickbacks, bribes, swindling and abuses of office," Romanchuk said.
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2018 18:11:12 +0200

Minsk, July 24, 2018 (AFP) - Belarus on Tuesday announced that it is extending visa-free travel for tourists from five days to 30 days in a move that could attract more visitors to the ex-Soviet state on the European Union's doorstep.

Strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree allowing visitors from 80 countries including 39 in Europe, as well as the United States, Australia and Japan to stay for 30 days.   The ruling will enter force when the decree is published in one or two days.   The decree says the move is aimed at "promoting further development of the Belarusian tourism sector" as well as making the country more attractive as a host for sports events and festivals and improving its connectedness to the global economy.

Belarus said it is keen to promote itself as a medical tourism venue and for people keen to recuperate and undergo spa procedures at its sanatoriums.   The visa-free rule requires visitors to fly in and out of Minsk's main airport.    As before, the visa exemption does not apply to foreigners arriving or leaving from Russia because of a lack of border controls betweeen the neighbours.

Minsk has close ties to former Soviet master Moscow, with Belarus part of an economic union with Russia.   Chinese people will also be covered by a separate visa agreement that comes into force in August.   Ties between Belarus and the European Union have improved since the 28-nation bloc began lifting most of its sanctions on the country in 2015 after Lukashenko released high-profile political prisoners.
Date: Tue, 17 May 2016 07:34:10 +0200

Belmopan, Belize, May 17, 2016 (AFP) - Belize has joined the growing number of Latin American nations grappling with the Zika virus, after the health ministry confirmed the country's first known case.    Authorities said Monday the infected person resides in Belize City, adding that efforts would be taken to prevent the virus from spreading.

"An immediate investigation was launched and several actions were simultaneously initiated to minimize and contain a potential outbreak," a health ministry statement said.   The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause the birth defect microcephaly, which can cause babies to be born with unusually small heads and deformed brains.
Date: Fri 17 Jul 2015
Source: Rusnovosti [in Russian, trans. ProMED Mod.NP, edited]

The deceased patient was infected in Belarus
-----------------------------------------------
Rospotrebnadzor [Federal Service for Consumer Protection and Human Welfare] reported that the 1st death from tick-borne encephalitis has been registered in Moscow. The tick-borne disease was imported.

Rospotrebnadzor reports, "Infections in the capital are not registered this year [2015] and have never been registered previously. The patient was infected in Belarus."

According to Infectious clinical hospital No. 1 of the Department of Health of Moscow, 10 imported cases of viral encephalitis were identified in the 1st half of 2015; 2 cases of infection occurred in the Altai region and in the Republic of Karelia. One [imported] case was brought from the Kostroma region, the Yaroslavl region, the Volgograd region and the Republic of Udmurtia, as well as from Belarus and Mongolia.

Rospotrebnadzor also reports that the rise of the biological activity of _Ixodes_ ticks was noted. These ticks are considered the main vectors of infections such as tick-borne spring-summer encephalitis, tick-borne borreliosis (Lyme disease), granulocytic anaplasmosis, and monocytic ehrlichiosis.
=====================
[Nearly 10,000 people sought medical aid after tick bites in Moscow for the period April-June of this year (2015), among them there are more than 1900 children up to 17 years. Last year (2014) for the same period it was recorded that around 8000 people sought medical aid after tick bites. The ticks attacked people mainly in the territory of the Moscow region.

This is the season of tickborne encephalitis virus (TBEV) transmission in Russia and neighboring countries. Russia, especially western Siberia, has the largest number of reported TBE cases. For additional details on TBE, see Mod.LL's extensive comments drawn from the US CDC (<http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/tickborne-encephalitis>). The CDC information notes that in Russia, 2 inactivated TBE vaccines are available: TBE-Moscow (Chumakov Institute, Russia) and EnceVir (Microgen, Russia). The European and Russian vaccines should provide cross-protection against all 3 TBEV subtypes. Vaccine failures have been reported, particularly in people aged over 50 years.

In the previous post on TBE, ProMED Corr.BA noted, "According to weekly monitoring, from 1 Apr-15 Jul [2015] in Russia, more than 412,000 cases of tick bites were registered, including 94,270 children. Compared with the same period of last year (2014), the number of people affected by the tick bites increased by 19 per cent. In 2015, 947 cases of tick-borne encephalitis have registered in Russia. The largest number of cases was reported in the Krasnoyarsk region, followed by Novosibirsk [Siberia], Irkutsk, Tyumen, Kirov, Sverdlovsk, Vologda, Leningrad, Kemerovo, Pskov, and Kostroma regions, the Republic of Khakassia, the Perm and Primorye regions, St Petersburg [city], Moscow (importations from Yaroslavl, Vologda, Karelia, Altai, and Mongolia, Belarus)." - ProMED Mod.TY]

[The locations mentioned in this posting can be seen on the map at

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: 15 Jul 2015
Source: Evening Brest [machine translation & edited]

Belarus has 1 imported case of measles. The Ministry of Health of Belarus does not rule out the possibility of other imported cases of measles. This is especially true during the summer holidays and vacations.

According to the deputy chief doctor of the "National Center for Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health," Lyudmila Naroychik, other European countries often record measles. In 2014 Belarus recorded 5 imported cases of measles. So far in 2015, Belorus has already record 1 imported case. The infections have been from Russia, Israel, Spain, Turkey, according to BelTA  [unclear whether this refers just to 2014, or other years as well].

Measles is included in the national immunization schedule, and if vaccination is carried out, even in adulthood the person retains immunity. In this regard, it is important to get vaccinated before traveling abroad.
==================
[The HealthMap/ProMED map of Belarus can be found at:
More ...

Mauritius

General:
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Mauritius is a Republic island nation situated in the southwestern Indian ocean towards Madagascar. There are excellent tourist facilities and English is well understood throughout the country. The c
imate is subtropical and quite humid. This is particularly the case between December to March each year and cyclones occasionally occur at this time also.
Security Situation:
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The security situation within the country is very
good but petty crime can be a problem against tourists. At night, it is probably unwise to venture alone outside the grounds of your hotel. The central market place in Port Louis is known to be a site for pickpockets so remember to take care. Grand Baie and Flic en Flac are also known concerns for petty crime. Those having a self-catering holiday should be aware that house breaking is becoming more common and so make sure any valuables are well hidden away and not left out on view.
Health Facilities:
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Generally the level of health care is reasonable throughout the main tourist areas and hospital care may be provided free of charge. However, many tourists choose to obtain private medical care while in Mauritius. Make sure your travel and health insurance is up to date before you leave home.
Food & Water Facilities:
************************************
In the main hotels the level of food hygiene is good and with care tourists should be well able to stay perfectly healthy during their time in the country. However, like many other destinations, it is wise to maintain certain commonsense rules regarding what you eat and drink. All food should be freshly prepared and it is much wiser to avoid bivalve shellfish altogether. These include mussels, oysters and clams. Fried prawns are usually okay and boiled crab and lobster should be fine. Cold unprepared vegetables such as lettuce is best avoided. Tap water should be checked for a smell of chlorine and if it is not present that it should not be used for either drinking or brushing your teeth. Brucellosis is a small risk so avoid any unpasteurized milk products.

Insects Bites & Malaria Risks:
************************************
The risk of malaria throughout Mauritius is extremely small and currently (2001) the World Health Organisation does not recommend routine prophylaxis for tourists. However, there is a small amount of transmission in the northern part of the country away from the normal tourist routes. Rodrigues Island is free of this disease. Nevertheless, mosquitoes do occur and can transmit other conditions such as Dengue Fever apart from their rather unpleasant bite. Thus avoid mosquito bites is excellent advice and should be followed at all times.
The mosquitoes mainly bite in the evening out of doors and so at these times wear sensible pale coloured clothing to cover your exposed arms and legs,
don't use perfumes and after shaves and apply plenty of good insect repellent. Ones containing high concentrations of DEET are usually recommended.
The risk of Rabies:
************************************
Mauritius is currently regarded as being free of Rabies but tourists are strongly advised to avoid all contact with warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats and monkeys. Any close contact (bite, lick, scratch) should be immediately reported to see if treatment may be recommended.
Swimming in Mauritius:
************************************
There have been a number of reports of those swimming in the sea being hit by speedboats while close to the hotel beaches. Take care to swim in recognised safe zones and remember to watch out for warning signs of strong currents etc. The risk from sharks etc is small but never swim alone or far out from the shore. Listen to the local advice and stay safe. If swimming in some of the rivers and lakes throughout the country there is a risk of a fresh water disease known as Schistosomiasis. This disease is mainly found in Port Louis, Pamplemousses and Grand Port.
If you have been at risk remember to contact your travel health advisor on return to talk this through.
Sun Exposure:
************************************
The level of sunshine in Mauritius can be significant so take care not to get over exposed. The main strength of the sun will be between 11am to 4pm and it is probably unwise to sunbathe during these times.
Road Safety:
************************************
In Mauritius they drive on the left side of the road and the conditions are quite variable throughout the country. Hiring cars or motorbikes abroad is one of the most significant risk factors for tourists and generally should be avoided. Hiring a cab to drive you to your destination is usually a safer option but always pick a good quality car and fix your price before leaving.
Local Laws and Customs:
************************************
Always carry photocopies of your passport and other essential travel documents. These may be required by customs and so you can then keep the originals in a safe location. The carrying of pharmaceutical drugs into Mauritius can cause difficulties. In certain cases the customs officials have been known to confiscate drugs which tourists are using for their own personal health. Under these circumstances it is wise to carry any medications in their original packing and also to have a letter from the prescribing doctor outlining your requirements for the medication in question. This is mainly a problem with some of the higher dose painkillers and general asthma, diabetes, blood pressure or heart medication should not present difficulties. The importation of spear-fishing equipment into Mauritius is prohibited.
Vaccinations for Mauritius:
************************************
Providing you are not arriving into Mauritius from a destination in Africa there will be no vaccines required for entry/exit purposes. However, for your own protection it is usually wise to consider cover against the following;
*
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food and water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food and water borne disease)
For those undertaking a longer more rural trip other vaccines may need to be considered including Hepatitis B.
Summary:
************************************
Staying healthy and enjoying your time in Mauritius is perfectly possible so long as some commonsense rules are followed at all times. Further information is available through the Tropical Medical Bureau

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

12th May 2019

Mauritius - National.
22 Apr 2019. In total, there are 75 people infected with the dengue virus. During the weekend, a 1st case of dengue fever type 2 was recorded in a 3-year-old child. He is currently hospitalized in a Plaines-Wilhems clinic. "We have not yet done any analysis to find out how this type 2 dengue case happened in Mauritius. It will be done in the coming days," says the Ministry of Health.

What is certain, however, is that of the 75 cases identified, at least 4 cases were imported. At the Ministry of Health, it is said to be certain that these people were infected in India and Reunion. "Moreover, the dengue virus type 2 is prevalent in Reunion," says one.

- National. 29 Apr 2019. Port Louis 37 cases with 29 of those in Roche-Bois. Cases rise to 115.

- National. 9 May 2019. Mauritius passes 127 cases, including one in Grand Bay and one in Trou aux Biches
Mauritius - Residence La Cure. 12 Apr 2019

A 3rd case of dengue was detected this Friday [12 Apr 2019] at Residence La Cure. The 3 victims are from the same family. According to a source from the Ministry of Health, this family was visited by infected people of Vallee-des-Pretres some time ago.
[in French, trans. Corr.SB]
Date: Mon 23 Jul  2018
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

The World Health Organization (WHO) says 3 people have died while 453 cases of measles have been confirmed since the latest outbreak hit Mauritius late in March [2018].

According to the WHO African weekly outbreaks bulletin for the week ending 20 Jul, Mauritius has reported measles cases since 21 Mar [2018]. Infections peaked in the week ending 18 Jun, with more than 80 cases confirmed. All came from 9 districts, while the case fatality ratio averaged 0.7 percent.

"The 3 deaths have been in young women with unknown vaccination status, all between the ages of 29 and 31 years. All were immuno-deficient, resulting in the disease being complicated by encephalitis or septicaemia.

"The incidence rate was highest in those aged 0--9 years of age,followed by those aged 20--39 years. The incidence rate of the disease was highest in the districts located in the west of the island including Port Louis, Black River and Plaines Wilhems," the WHO said.

The confirmed cases were notified to the Communicable Disease Control Unit (CDCU) in the Mauritian capital Port Louis. The government has concluded a case analysis which found that 45 percent of the infected people were never vaccinated for measles.

Only 29 percent have previously received at least one dose of some measles-containing vaccine (MCV1), while 26 percent are of unknown vaccination status. Most of the patients are being isolated at home and a public call has been made to limit travels to avoid spreading the disease.

A total of 10 health teams are operating across the island, screening for fever/rash and checking public vaccination status for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) in all schools in the affected areas.

The WHO said the current outbreak of measles in Mauritius demonstrates the importance of maintaining high levels of vaccination coverage against the disease.

"Prior to this current outbreak, the last detected case of measles in Mauritius was in 2009 and the country consistently had one of the highest (measles) vaccination rates in the WHO African region.

However, the vaccination coverage dropped in the past 2 years, leading to the current outbreak. Supplementary immunisation activities are being planned to halt the spread of the disease.  [Byline: Oscar Nkala]
=======================
[Healthmap/ProMED map of Mauritius:
Date: Thu 16 Oct 2014
Source: International SOS [edited]

"The authorities in several countries have implemented entry restrictions to curtail the spread of Ebola from countries that have Ebola cases...."

Entry restrictions
------------------
Kenya on 10 Oct [2014] announced that it had closed the Suam border crossing (Trans-Nzoia county) with Uganda due to reports of an Ebola-related death in Bukwo district (Uganda). Earlier, the Kenyan authorities on 19 Aug [2014] suspended entry of passengers travelling from and through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, excluding health professionals supporting efforts to contain the outbreak and Kenyan citizens.

Cape Verde on 9 Oct [2014] announced that it would now deny entry to non-resident foreigners coming from countries with 'intense Ebola transmission' -- Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia -- or who have been to those countries in the previous 30 days.

Mauritius on 8 Oct [2014] banned entry to all travellers who have visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Congo (DRC) in the last 2 months, rather than just citizens of those countries, as was the case previously. The authorities have announced that entry restrictions for travellers from Senegal and Nigeria will be lifted on 10 Oct & 17 Oct [2014] respectively, if no further cases of Ebola infection are reported [from them].

Seychelles on 8 Oct [2014] suspended entry to travellers who have visited Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria or Congo (DRC) 28 days prior to their journey, with the exception of Seychellois citizens.

Cote d'Ivoire has reopened in early October [2014] its borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Equatorial Guinea is denying entry to travellers whose journeys originated in countries affected by Ebola.

Cameroon on 17 Sep [2014] reopened its borders to travellers from Senegal. An 18 Aug [2014] ban remains in place on travel from Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states -- Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- have stated that travellers coming from Ebola-affected countries (according to the World Health Organisation, WHO) would be monitored for 21 days and that travel to member countries for any gatherings would be discouraged. The SADC provided no details as to how member countries will carry out the associated screening and follow-up and it is likely that countries will have individual processes. There are also reports that some countries require health documentation for entry. Travellers are advised to contact the embassy or health ministry of their destination country to clarify their individual circumstances and prepare their trips accordingly.

South Sudan has placed a ban on travellers coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia or Congo (DRC), or those who have travelled to those countries in the preceding 21 days. According to the health ministry, entry of travellers from Nigeria depends on their travel history in that country and whether they have visited Ebola-affected areas.

Namibia's foreign ministry on 11 Sep [2014] announced that foreigners travelling from countries affected by Ebola would be prohibited from entering the country.

Gambia on 1 Sep [2014] suspended entry of persons who have visited Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Nigeria in the 21 days prior to travel. Those travelling indirectly from any of the aforementioned countries to Gambia via another country also come under this measure.

Cote d'Ivoire announced on 23 Aug [2014] that it had closed its land borders with Guinea and Liberia.

Gabon stated on 22 Aug [2014] that it was restricting the issuance of entry visas to travellers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria on a case-by-case basis.

Rwanda, according to the US Department of State on 22 Aug [2014], has banned entry to travellers who have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone in the 22 days prior to travel.

Senegal on 21 Aug [2014] closed its land border with Guinea, while the country's sea and air borders will also be closed to vessels and aircraft from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Chad on 21 Aug [2014] closed its land border with Nigeria at Lake Chad. The country previously reportedly banned the entry of any travellers originating or transiting through Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria or Sierra Leone, with airlines serving the country reportedly rerouting flights.

South Africa on 21 Aug [2014] restricted entry for all non-citizens travelling from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The government subsequently clarified that this was not a blanket ban and could be waived for 'absolutely essential travel'.

Flights and other transport
---------------------------
Countries that have implemented Ebola-related travel restrictions:

Gambia has banned the entry of flights from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Gabon has banned the entry of flights and ships from countries affected by Ebola.

Senegal has banned flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Cameroon has banned flights to and from Nigeria.

Chad has suspended all flights from Nigeria.

Nigeria has suspended flights to the country operated by Gambian national carrier Gambia Bird.

Cote d'Ivoire has now lifted the ban on passenger flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Details of airlines that have restricted flights to Ebola-affected countries
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Air France suspended flights to Sierra Leone from 28 Aug [2014].

The Togo-based carrier Asky Airlines has suspended flights to and from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Arik Air (Nigeria), Gambia Bird and Kenya Airwayshave suspended services to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

British Airways has extended their suspension of flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone until 31 Dec [2014].

Emirates Airlines has suspended flights to Guinea.

Korean Air suspended flights to and from Kenya from 20 Aug [2014].

Senegal Airlines has suspended flights to and from Conakry (Guinea) until further notice.

Other airlines have modified their routes but are still operating regular scheduled services. These include:
- Royal Air Maroc
- Brussels Airlines

Medical screening
-----------------
Entry and exit health screening is now in place in numerous countries throughout West Africa and is being introduced in Europe and North America countries as well; related measures can include the partial closure of land borders, ports and river crossings in an effort to restrict cross-border travel. Members should allow additional time to pass through medical screening and not travel if they are sick. Staff should continue to monitor local media and this website for developments.

[Land and sea border "closures" in Africa -- and elsewhere in the world are likely to be ineffective. Smugglers have always been able to largely circumvent them -- I'm willing to bet even the 3 hermit kingdoms (q.v.) also have smuggling routes -- including international colleagues resident in Switzerland bringing in cases of fine wine bought for less across the border  n France. Every so often, one was caught and fined.... (Like many other internationals, I lived in France, where the cost of living was lower, while working in Geneva, so had no incentive to do that.) - ProMed Mod.JW]
-----------------------------
Communicated by:
Jonathan Ezekiel
<jezekiel@his.com>
Date: Sun, 31 Mar 2013 14:09:00 +0200 (METDST)

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius, March 31, 2013 (AFP) - Ten people were killed in floods caused by sudden rains in Port Louis, the capital of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, the police information centre said Sunday.   Police said six bodies were found in a pedestrian subway. One body was found near the port and two more in an underground carpark, while one victim reportedly died of a heart attack as the flood waters rose.   "152 millimetres (six inches) of rain were recorded in the country in less than an hour and a half" on Saturday afternoon, a statement from the island's meteorological services said Sunday.

Average rainfall for the entire month of March, the wettest month of the year, in Port Louis is around 220 millimetres.   "We had forecast bad weather and rain, but not on that scale and not in such a short period of time," said Balraj Dumputh, the head of the meteorological service.   People have been advised to stay at home Sunday as further torrential rain is expected.

There has so far not been any official government reaction. Patrick Assirvaden, head of the ruling labour party, said: "It's unprecedented." He put the torrential rain down to "climate change" and said: "We have to adapt to this situation and to the damage caused by nature."   The head of the opposition Alan Ganoo for his part said the government had not been up to dealing with the situation.   Mauritius, with its palm-fringed white sand beaches, is best known as a top-end holiday and honeymoon destination.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 16 Sep 2019 08:19:07 +0200 (METDST)

Tokyo, Sept 16, 2019 (AFP) - Almost 80,000 homes are still without power a week after a powerful typhoon battered eastern Japan, authorities said Monday, with sustained heavy rain prompting evacuation orders and hampering recovery efforts.    Typhoon Faxai powered into the Tokyo region in the early hours of Monday last week, packing record winds that brought down power lines, disrupted Rugby World Cup preparations and prompted the government to order tens of thousands of people to leave their homes.

The storm killed two people, with at least three elderly later confirmed dead due to heatstroke as temperatures soared to above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in areas affected by a post-typhoon blackout.   Some 78,700 households were still without power in Chiba, southeast of the capital, Tokyo Electric Co. (TEPCO) spokesman Naoya Kondo told AFP.   "A complete recovery is still unlikely until September 27 as we have difficulties in mountain areas," he added.   Some 16,700 households were also without water because several water purification plants had no power, a local official said.   With help from the military, officials were dispatching water tanker trucks to the affected areas.

The national weather agency Monday issued new warnings for heavy rain in Chiba, while local authorities issued non-compulsory evacuation orders to 46,300 people due to the risk of landslides.   "A delay in recovery work is expected due to heavy rain," said Kenta Hirano, a disaster management official in Futtsu in Chiba, where more than 1,000 houses were damaged by the typhoon.   Local media showed residents in Chiba hurriedly covering broken roofs with blue tarps.   "We are at a loss as we can't live there again," a 66-year-old man told public broadcaster NHK after the typhoon ripped off the roof of his house.
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 2019 15:38:29 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, Sept 15, 2019 (AFP) - More than 160 firefighters on Sunday battled to contain a large fire near Athens blazing for a second day amid gale force winds, officials said.   And in another emergency, authorities evacuated dozens of people from two villages and a hotel on the island of Zakynthos after a new fire broke out on Sunday.

The fire department said the blaze near Athens burned in the mountains above Loutraki, a coastal resort some 60 kilometres (35 miles) west of Athens.   "The fire is burning near the top of the mountain," Stefanos Kolokouris, the fire department's deputy chief of operations, told state TV ERT.   "We are trying to create a perimeter but the terrain is very difficult, with ravines," he said.   Four water bombers and six helicopters were participating in operations. Given a lack of roads in the area, two squads of firefighters had to be carried to the mountaintop by Super Puma helicopter, state agency ANA said.   Officials had already evacuated 50 people from a local monastery when the fire broke out on Saturday, but stressed that other inhabited areas were not in danger.

On Zakynthos, officials ordered the evacuation of the villages of Agalas and Keri in the south of the island. Some 120 tourists were also relocated to a safe area.   The Greek fire department on Sunday said it had been called to nearly 80 fires over the past 24 hours.   It has already faced more than 9,600 rural and urban fires this year.
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2019 16:08:47 +0200 (METDST)

Singapore, Sept 14, 2019 (AFP) - Pollution from forest fires in Indonesia pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years on Saturday, the government said, a week ahead of the Formula One night race in the city.   The toxic smoke caused by burning to clear land for plantations is an annual problem for Indonesia's neighbours, but has been worsened this year by particularly dry weather.   "There has been a deterioration in the haze conditions in Singapore this afternoon," the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement.   "This was due to a confluence of winds over the nearby region that led to more smoke haze from Sumatra being blown toward Singapore," it said, referring to one of the Indonesian islands where fires are raging.

The NEA said the pollutant standards index (PSI) worsened to 112 in parts of the island Saturday night.   An index reading between 101-200 is considered unhealthy, with residents advised against doing prolonged strenuous exercises outdoors.   Singapore may continue to experience hazy conditions over the next few days, the agency warned.   The city-state of 5.6 million people was shrouded in a thin white haze, with a few residents seen wearing face masks, but there was no major disruption to daily activities.   The F1 race is scheduled from Friday to Sunday on a street circuit in the Marina Bay financial district.

Singapore GP, the Formula One organisers, said the possibility of haze is one of the potential issues covered in their contingency plan for this year's grand prix.   "The plan was formulated and refined with stake holders, government bodies and the Formula One community," Singapore GP said in an emailed statement.   "In the event that the haze causes visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP would work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event."

Neighbouring Malaysia has also been affected by the smoke, with air quality in parts of the country including the capital Kuala Lumpur reaching unhealthy levels over the past few days and triggering a diplomatic row with Jakarta.   In 2015, the index reached "hazardous" levels of more than 300 in Singapore, forcing the closure of schools. Indonesian forest fires were the worst in two decades that year, firing up smog that blanketed large parts of Southeast Asia for weeks.
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2019 11:16:53 +0200 (METDST)

Bangkok, Sept 14, 2019 (AFP) - Floods in northeastern Thailand have submerged homes, roads and bridges, leaving more than 23,000 people in evacuation shelters as anger grows over the government's "slow" emergency response.   Torrential rain has lashed the country for the last two weeks, causing flash floods and mudslides in almost half its provinces, with families evacuated from their homes in boats or makeshift rafts.   Since August 29, 32 people have been killed in the deluge, said a statement from the disaster department on Saturday that also gave the number of people staying in emergency shelters.   Two weather events are behind the widespread floods, the department said -- Storm Podul and a tropical depression that formed over the South China Sea called Kajiki.

Local media reports from the worst-hit province of Ubon Ratchathani showed people wading through chest-deep water and rescuers in boats trying to steer buffalo to higher ground.   Flooding in the province, which borders Laos and Cambodia, has been exacerbated by rising water levels in the Moon and Chi rivers.   "It will take three weeks to drain the floodwater" from up to 90 percent of inundated households, said provincial governor Sarit Witoon.   "The water has slightly receded about four centimetres today and I think it will keep going down," he added.

But the situation is already "unlivable" for families in one-storey homes, said Pongsak Saiwan, local director of opposition party Future Forward.   Access to an entire district is currently cut off due to flood waters, which are about two metres (6.5 foot) deep in the main town, while three major bridges are "impassable", he said.   "The government has been very slow in responding to the situation since the floods started in the beginning of September," Pongsak told AFP.   Ubon Ratchathani's plight started trending on Twitter this week with the hashtag #SaveUbon.   Aerial shots of the flood-hit plains blanketed with muddy river water were widely shared, as well as photos of stray dogs being rescued by passing boats.

One Twitter user compared the flood response to how quickly the government had mobilised and saved 12 young boys and their football coach from a waterlogged cave last year -- an incident that catapulted Thailand to international attention.   "Only 13 lives stuck in the cave and it was still very high-profile, but this is hundreds of thousands of lives," tweeted Yosita8051. "It's not okay."   Thailand's junta leader-turned-premier Prayut Chan O-Cha tweeted on Saturday that he has told agencies to "expedite assistance" to those in the affected areas.
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2019 16:44:33 +0200 (METDST)

Niamey, Sept 13, 2019 (AFP) - Niger launched a campaign on Friday to vaccinate more than four million children against measles, one of the biggest causes of child mortality in the country, the health ministry said.

The one-week nationwide vaccination programme aims to "eliminate measles by the end of 2020", Health Minister Illiassou Mainassara said, adding, it "will reach 4.254 million children" aged from 9 months up to the age of five.   "Despite all the efforts made in the fight against communicable diseases, we still note the persistence of localised measles epidemics (in Niger)," Mainassara said on his way to the capital Niamey to launch the campaign.    But some experts say the vaccination programme should have kicked in sooner    "The delay of this campaign which should have happened in 2018 has resulted in ...the emergence of epidemics in several health districts," said Niger's UNICEF representative, Felicite Tchibindat.

Since January this year, 9,741 suspected cases have been documented in Niger resulting in 53 deaths, she said.   "Measles is a serious and extremely contagious viral disease and remains one of the leading causes of early childhood death, while it can be prevented by vaccination," TchibiNdat said.    She believes the children of migrants, refugees and displaced people will especially benefit from the campaign.    Niger's vaccination programme is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and the Gavi vaccine Alliance.
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2019 16:08:16 +0200 (METDST)

Nairobi, Sept 13, 2019 (AFP) - Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world's first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.   The vaccine -- lab name RTS,S -- targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-born illness.

Kenya joins Malawi and Ghana, which commenced their own pilot programs for the vaccine supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this year.   The vaccine will be introduced in phases across malaria-endemic parts of western Kenya near Lake Victoria, starting with Homa Bay, the country's health ministry said.   "It's an exciting time for Kenya as we roll out this vaccine in parts of the country where the burden of malaria is the highest," Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said in a statement.   RTS,S will be added to the national immunisation schedule in these areas, given alongside other routine shots for children under two.

The health ministry said 120,000 Kenyan children were expected to be vaccinated under the pilot programme.   The country has distributed insecticide-treated mosquito nets, fumigated homes and improved diagnostics in its fight against malaria.   But the disease remains stubborn. The health ministry says malaria claimed more than 10,000 lives in 2016, and infected millions more.   As in the rest of the world, children in Kenya bear the brunt of the disease.    Up to 27 percent of Kenyan children under five have been infected with the disease, the health ministry said.   "This vaccine represents an additional tool that will boost Kenya's efforts in reducing malaria infections and deaths among children," Kariuki said.   WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world.

- 30 years in making -
Known under its commercial name as Mosquirix, the vaccine was developed over 30 years by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with nonprofit PATH and African research institutes.   It is the only vaccine to date to show a protective effect against malaria in young children, WHO says.   It acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest malarial parasite and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remain high despite some gains.   The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.   The vaccine prevented about four in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.

Evidence gained from the vaccine pilot schemes could guide decisions about whether RTS,S is rolled out more widely in future, WHO says.   "This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades," Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO's co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told AFP before the Kenyan launch.   "Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria."   The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 are under five.    Most are in Africa, where more than 90 percent of the world's malaria cases -- and fatalities -- occur.
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2019 11:40:02 +0200 (METDST)

London, Sept 13, 2019 (AFP) - British Airways has cancelled all its scheduled UK flights for September 27, when company pilots will again strike in a long-running row over pay.   It comes after the carrier cancelled all flights departing and arriving in the UK on Monday and Tuesday owing to BA's first strike by pilots in the company's 100-year history.

In a statement released late Thursday, BA called on the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) union "to call off their strike and return to negotiations".    The airline added: "We are very sorry that BALPA's actions will affect thousands more travel plans."   This week's strike sparked travel chaos for about 200,000 passengers, mostly using London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports.   BALPA estimates that the 48-hour strike cost the airline £80 million ($99 million, 89 million euros), but BA has yet to provide a figure.
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2019 13:02:19 +0200 (METDST)

Khartoum, Sept 10, 2019 (AFP) - Sudan reported four confirmed cases of cholera in Blue Nile Tuesday and said three people had also died of acute diarrhoea in the war-torn state.   Health Minister Akram al-Toum has asked the World Health Organization to send supplies of cholera vaccine immediately, the ministry said.

Ministry and WHO officials have been sent to the affected area.   "There are 37 cases of acute diarrhoea in Blue Nile... There have been three deaths," the ministry said in a statement.   Dozens of people died from acute diarrhoea in Sudan in 2016 after thousands of cases were reported nationwide.   Blue Nile state, which has a large ethnic minority population, has been the focus of a rebellion by the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North since 2011.   The army declared a ceasefire after the  overthrow of veteran president Omar al-Bashir earlier this year.
Date: Sat 14 Sep 2019
Source: Vax Before Travel [edited]

A new report from Japan's National Institute of Infectious Disease (NIID) indicates the Rubella virus outbreak continues to spread. As of [4 Sep 2019], there have been 2156 Rubella cases reported by the NIID during 2019.

This is an increase of about 260 rubella cases in Japan since July 2019. On a local basis, the city of Tokyo has reported 37% of Japan's 2019 Rubella cases.

Since Rubella is very dangerous for a pregnant woman and her developing baby, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on [7 Aug 2019], "pregnant women who are not protected against rubella through either vaccination or previous rubella infection, should not travel to Japan during this outbreak."

But, pregnant women should not get a Rubella vaccination with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) says the CDC. This is because the MMR vaccine is an attenuated "live virus" vaccine.

The CDC says "pregnant women who are not vaccinated should wait to get [the] MMR vaccine until after they have given birth. And, women of childbearing age should avoid getting pregnant for at least 4 weeks after receiving the MMR vaccine."

Additionally, the CDC says "if a pregnant woman contracts the rubella virus, her baby could have birth defects such as deafness, cataracts, heart defects, mental disabilities, and organ damage."

And, when a rubella infection occurs during early pregnancy, serious consequences, such as miscarriages, stillbirths, and severe birth defects in infants, which are known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), [may result].

This new NIID report indicates there have been 3 CRS cases in Japan during 2019. As a comparison, during 2005-2015 in the USA, only 8 babies with CRS were reported.

Moreover, [fewer] than 10 people in the USA are reported as having rubella each year. Since 2012, all rubella cases had evidence that they were infected when they were living or traveling outside the USA.

To alert international travellers, the CDC issued a Level 2 Travel Alert regarding Japan's ongoing Rubella virus outbreak in August 2019. This "Practice Enhanced Precautions" Travel Alert says "travellers to Japan should make sure they are vaccinated against rubella with the MMR vaccine before visiting Japan." This CDC Travel Alert is important since approximately 4.5 million US citizens visit Japan annually.

Additionally, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the UK Foreign Travel Advice recommend "pregnant women who are not protected against rubella avoid traveling to Japan."

In the USA, there are 2 approved rubella vaccines: MMR II-Rubella and ProQuad. Both rubella vaccines are available at most pharmacies. Travelers to Japan can request a rubella vaccine counselling appointment with a local pharmacist.

Rubella vaccines, like any medicine, can produce side effects. [People] are encouraged to report vaccine side effects to a healthcare provider or the CDC.  [Byline: Dani Reiter]
========================
[See discussion of rubella in ProMED-mail Rubella - Japan (02)

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Tue 10 Sept 2019
Source: Focus Taiwan [edited]

Taiwan's enterovirus cases continued to increase last week, bringing the total number to nearly 20 000 between [1 and 7 Sep 2019], the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Tuesday [10 Sep 2019].

A total of 19 254 patients sought outpatient or emergency treatment at hospitals for enterovirus infection around the country, up 4% from the figure recorded the previous week [25-31 Aug 2019] and the highest over the same period in nearly 5 years, according to CDC data.

CDC physician Lin Yung-ching said there were 2 severe cases recorded last week, one of which involved an 8-month-old girl and the other a 4-year-old boy, both in central Taiwan. The 2 children were reported in stable condition after treatment.

Some of the 2 patients' family members or classmates with whom they had had contact have also been confirmed as enterovirus cases, and the CDC judged that the infection might have been spread through contact, Lin said.

A total of 303 cases of enterovirus-71 (EV-71), the most severe enterovirus strain, have been reported so far this year [2019], the highest in the same period from 2016 to 2018.

Meanwhile, a total of 36 cases with severe complications have been recorded nationwide, including 27 EV-71 cases, according to CDC statistics.

EV-71 is a neurological disease that attacks the nervous system, and infants under the age of 5 are at highest risk of developing severe complications from this type of infection.

In extreme cases, EV-71 can cause polio-like permanent paralysis, according to the CDC. As Taiwan is still in the peak season for enterovirus infection, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo urged the public to take precautions against the spread of the illness, especially among children.

Children infected with enterovirus should be kept away from school so as to prevent the spread of the disease, as enterovirus is highly contagious, Lo advised.  [Byline: Chen Wei-ting and Evelyn Kao]
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[The enteroviruses are spread from person to person by coughs, sneezes, or touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them. Therefore, practicing good personal hygiene -- washing hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water -- is the best way to prevent from getting and spreading the infectious disease.

However, most people infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick, or present with mild illness, like the common cold. Infants, children, and teenagers are more likely than adults to get infected and become sick because they do not yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to the viruses. Adults can get infected too, but they are less likely to have symptoms, or their symptoms may be milder. Symptoms of mild illness may include fever; runny nose, sneezing, and cough; skin rash; mouth blisters; and body and muscle aches.

Some non-polio enterovirus infections can lead to:
- Viral conjunctivitis;
- Hand-foot-mouth disease;
- Viral meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain);
- Viral encephalitis (infection of the brain);
- Myocarditis (infection of the heart);
- Pericarditis (infection of the sac around the heart);
- Acute flaccid paralysis (a sudden onset of weakness in one or more arms or legs);
- Inflammatory muscle disease (slow, progressive muscle weakness).

Infants and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of having these complications. People who develop myocarditis may have heart failure and require long-term care. Some people who develop encephalitis or paralysis may not fully recover.

Enterovirus cases were reported from Taipei, Taiwan in 2017 (Human enterovirus - Taiwan: alert http://promedmail.org/post/20170418.4978387), and health alerts like the one mentioned in report above were issued to the general public to observe proper hygiene to reduce disease transmission. Also the case number for EV-71 associated severe disease has also increased, which is a cause for public health concern. - ProMED Mod.UBA]

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