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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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Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

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Senegal

Senegal - US Consular Information Sheet
July 08, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Senegal is a developing West African country.
The capital is Dakar.
Facilities for tourists are widely available but vary in quality.
Read
the Department of State Background Notes on Senegal for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required.
For U.S. passport holders, a visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days.
Current yellow fever vaccination is mandatory to enter Senegal and meningitis vaccination is highly recommended if the traveler is arriving from or has recently traveled to an endemic area.
Travelers unable to provide proof of vaccinations may be required to pay for and receive vaccinations at the Dakar airport.
Travelers should obtain the latest information on entry requirements from the Embassy of Senegal, 2112 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 234-0540, and at the Senegal Tourism Authority's official web site, http://www.senegal-tourism.com.
Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Senegalese embassy or consulate.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Public demonstrations, political gatherings, and student protests are relatively common in Senegal, both in Dakar and in outlying regions, particularly on Friday afternoons. In the past, these events have sometimes turned violent.
Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.
For guidelines on dealing safely with public demonstrations, please see the American Citizen Services page of the U.S. Embassy Dakar web site at http://dakar.usembassy.gov/service.html.
Lac Rose (Pink Lake) is a popular tourist destination in Senegal.
The Lac Rose area has a large number of tourists and isolated beach areas, but lacks multiple exit and entry points.
The U.S. Embassy recommends that all visitors to Lac Rose and its surrounding beaches be particularly vigilant and not travel alone.
Banditry occurs with some regularity on the main highways after dark, particularly in the central and eastern area of Senegal, including around Tambacounda and Matam. Bandits often target RN2 (National Road) between Ndioum and Kidira and occasionally target RN1 between Kidira and Tambacounda.
The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens avoid non-essential travel to the Casamance region west of the city of Kolda, except direct air travel to the Cap Skirring resort area or to the city of Ziguinchor.
If travel is deemed essential, the U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens carefully monitor the security situation before traveling.
There are currently instances of fighting in the Casamance region (composed of the Ziguinchor and Kolda regions) involving factions of the Casamance separatist MFDC (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance) in southern Senegal and the Senegalese military. Some military and political leaders in the Casamance region have been killed.
In May 2008, rebels kidnapped 16 local residents 5 kilometers from Ziguinchor and then cut off their left ears before releasing them.
That same month two soldiers and a peasant were killed in other clashes near the same area.
Reports of banditry in the area remain high.
In addition, vehicles have been attacked by armed bandits even during daylight hours on well-traveled roads.
On February 14, 2007, four people were killed when their bus was attacked after being stopped at a roadblock.
Landmine explosions continue to plague inhabitants of the Casamance, with fatalities and serious injury continuing into 2008.
One man was killed in Tounkara, approximately 70 kilometers north of Ziquinchor.
A Senegalese soldier was injured by a landmine near Boutoupa-Camaracounda, on the border with Guinea Bissau.
Since 1990, more than 1,000 people have been killed by land mines in the Casamance. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remain on well-traveled routes at all times.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair’s Internet site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including 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:
Minor street crime is very common in Senegal, particularly in cities.
Most reported incidents involve pickpockets and purse-snatchers, who are especially active in large crowds and around tourists. Aggressive vendors, panhandlers and street children may attempt to divert the victim’s attention while an accomplice carries out the crime.
To avoid theft, U.S. citizens should avoid walking alone in isolated areas or on beaches, particularly at night, lock their doors and close their windows when driving, and avoid public transportation.
Americans should not walk on dark streets at night, even in groups.
To minimize inconvenience in the event of theft, U.S. citizens should carry copies, rather than originals, of their passports and other identification documents.
U.S. citizens should carry a credit card only if it will be used soon, rather than carrying it as a routine practice.
There is traditionally an increase in crime before major religious holidays.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to use common sense and situational awareness to ensure personal safety and to reduce the risk of becoming a crime victim.
Always be aware of the surroundings, especially in large cities and crowded places such as markets and taxi parks.
Keep a low profile, remain vigilant, and avoid potential conflict situations.
Do not wear flashy clothing or jewelry, and be cautious about displaying any amount of currency in public.
Use common sense when faced with something out of the ordinary or if someone is following you.
While violent crime is not common in Senegal, it does occur.
There have been incidents in the past year of Americans in groups of two or three being robbed at knife-point.
If confronted by criminals, remember that cash and valuables can be replaced, but life and health cannot.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to walk away from a criminal confrontation no matter the material cost.
Break-ins at residential houses occur frequently as in major cities everywhere.
Persons who plan to reside in Senegal on a long-term basis should take measures to protect their dwellings.
Long-term residents should consider installation of window grilles, solid core doors with well-functioning locks, and an alarm system.
In the past year, a number of American citizen residences have experienced burglaries.
No violence or personal injuries have been reported in these cases, in which the burglars appear to have been exclusively seeking financial gain.
Fraud is prevalent in Senegal and U.S. citizens are often the target of scams that may cause both financial loss and physical harm.
Typically, business scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of West Africa.
The perpetrators of these scams often claim to be victims of various western African conflicts (notably refugees from Sierra Leone) or relatives of present or former political leaders.
There are many variations of these business scams.
In some cases, a series of “advance fees” must be paid in order to conclude the transaction, such as fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes.
In fact, the final payoff does not exist since the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees.
Another common variation consists of a request for the U.S. citizen's bank account information, purportedly to transfer money into the account.
Once the perpetrator obtains this information, however, he or she then simply transfers all money out of the victim's account.
Other variations include apparently legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts and offers to sell gold at a very low price.
In the last case, the seller may present real gold to be verified then substitute fake gold and disappear with the payment.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud or business scam is to use common sense:
If an offer seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam.
You should carefully research any unsolicited business proposal originating in Senegal before you commit funds, provide goods or services, or undertake travel.

Visa scams take advantage of people who wish to travel to the U.S.
Generally, these scams "guarantee" a U.S. visa for participants who pay a large sum of money to register for a conference or attend an event in the United States.
In fact, only consular officers of the U.S. State Department may issue visas, so any offer that guarantees a U.S. visa is a scam.
Please refer to the State Department web site at http://travel.state.gov or the web site of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar at http://dakar.usembassy.gov/visas.html for authoritative information about the visa process and the costs involved.
In addition to business and visa scams, personal and dating scams are also prevalent. U.S. citizens should be wary of persons claiming to live in Senegal who profess friendship or romantic interest over the Internet.
A chat or e-mail exchange which quickly moves to discussion of intimate matters is often an indication of a scam.
Beware of any request or appeal for money.
In a typical personal scam, the scammer typically asks the U.S. citizen to send money for essential purposes: living or travel expenses, medical treatment, visa costs or bribes to free unjustly imprisoned family members.
Scammers often claim emergency circumstances, hoping that the intended victim will send money quickly and without careful consideration.
Many variations of these scams exist, all with the principal goal of soliciting money from the victim.
Several U.S. citizens in West Africa have reported losing thousands of dollars through such scams.
The anonymity of the Internet means that the U.S. citizen cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality or even gender of the correspondent.
In some cases, the correspondent is a fictitious persona created only to lure the U.S. citizen into sending money.
U.S. citizens may prepay for a plane ticket directly with an airline rather than wiring money for transportation to the traveler.
U.S. citizens may also research the legitimate immigration process with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) web site at http://www.uscis.gov.
U.S. citizens who are victims or witnesses of a crime are encouraged to report crimes to the police by telephoning 800-00-20-20; 800-00-17-00, Senegal's police hotline numbers. Another 24 hour phone number for the police in Senegal is 33-821-2431.
The Government of Senegal has also created a tourist police unit, which may be reached at (+221)33 860-3810.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Senegal is 800-00-20-20 and 800-00-17-00. See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Several hospitals and clinics in the capital, Dakar, can treat major and minor injuries and illnesses.
There is inadequate inpatient psychiatric care and limited office-based psychiatric treatment.
Public hospitals do not meet U.S. standards.
Medical facilities outside Dakar are limited.
French medications are far more readily available than American pharmaceuticals, and drugs in stock are often listed under the French trade name.
Medications may be obtained at pharmacies throughout Dakar and in other areas frequented by tourists, and are usually less expensive than in the U.S. Travelers should carry a supply of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic name for the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications.
Malaria is a serious risk to travelers in Senegal.
Travelers should consult their physician to discuss the benefits and risks of taking anti-malarial medication.
Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial medications they have been taking.
For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, visit the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/faq.htm.
Water supplies in Senegal are not consistently free of disease-causing microorganisms.
For this reason, the Embassy recommends drinking filtered or boiled water, particularly for babies under one year of age.
Raw vegetables and fruits should be washed in a bleach solution before eating.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

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

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Senegal is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Senegal is very different from driving in the United States.
Many U.S. citizens find the traffic in Senegal chaotic, particularly in Dakar.
Drivers tend to exceed speed limits, follow other vehicles closely, ignore lane markings and attempt to pass even when facing oncoming traffic.
Many vehicles are not well-maintained; headlights may be either extremely dim or not used at all. Roadways are poorly lit and poorly marked and many sections have deteriorated surfaces.
Some roads have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic; others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway.
Due to limited street lighting, pedestrians are difficult to see at night.
Drivers in both rural and urban areas may expect to frequently encounter and share the road with motorcycles, bicyclists, pedestrians, livestock and animal carts.
Caution and defensive driving techniques are strongly recommended.
While most main roads in Senegal are in relatively good condition for daytime driving, smaller roads are poor by American standards.
During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles.
Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched.
Service stations are available along main roads.
Due to poor road conditions and the risk of crime, driving outside major cities at night is not recommended.
Due to language barriers (outside Dakar, relatively few Senegalese speak French) and the lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult in the event of distress.
For safety reasons, the Embassy recommends against the use of motorbikes, van taxis ("cars rapides"), and public transportation.
They can be dangerous due to overloading, careless driving, inadequate maintenance, and the lack of basic safety equipment such as seat belts.
Regulated orange-striped sedan auto taxis are safer, but make sure to agree on a fare before beginning the trip.
In Senegal, one drives on the right-hand side.
Vehicles give priority to traffic coming from the right, except at traffic circles, where vehicles already in the circle have the right of way.
Before January 2005, however, cars entering traffic circles had the right of way.
This change is not well known, so drivers should exercise extreme caution at traffic circles.
All drivers are expected to carry the following documents in their vehicles and present them at any time at the request of the police:
(1) valid driver's license; (2) valid insurance papers; (3) vehicle registration/immatriculation card ("carte grise"); (4) "vignette" tax disc for the current year; and (5) valid identification.
If Americans carry a copy of their U.S. passport, the copy must be clear enough to identify the driver of the vehicle.
Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries, and found not to have been at fault.
If you are found to have caused an accident, the penalty ranges from five months to two years in prison, with a possible fine.
If you cause an accident which results in a death, the penalty can be as high as five years in prison.
For guidance on what to do if you are in an automobile accident in Senegal, please see the American Citizen Services page of the U.S. Embassy Dakar web site at http://dakar.usembassy.gov/service/living-in-senegal-and-guinea-bissau/driving-in-senegal.html.
Senegalese law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving, unless the driver is using “hands-free” equipment.
Protective helmets are mandatory for all bicycle, moped, scooter and motorcycle drivers/riders and passengers.
When police officers stop a vehicle for a traffic violation, the police officer will generally confiscate the driver’s license or ID card until the fine is paid.
We encourage you to comply with the request. Sometimes, police officers try to solicit bribes instead of or in addition to the fine.
The U.S. Embassy does not encourage paying bribes. 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 Senegal, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Senegal’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:
Senegalese law requires that all persons carry personal identification at all times, and all Senegalese law enforcement officials have the authority to challenge suspicious activity and to request personal identification.
Be aware that they may request personal identification even without cause, which is generally not the case in the U.S.
If a U.S. citizen does not cooperate and provide identification, s/he may be detained for up to 48 hours without the filing of formal charges.
The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification by Senegalese authorities of the arrest of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. If arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.
You may not bring several types of items into Senegal without clearance by Senegalese customs officials: these include computers and computer parts, video cameras and players, stereo equipment, tape players, auto parts, and various tools and spare parts.
Airport customs officials may hold such items if brought in as baggage or carry-on luggage.
Travelers should check with the Embassy of Senegal in Washington, DC, regarding these restrictions. (See Entry Requirements Section above for contact information.)
Senegalese customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes.
ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States.
For additional information, call (212) 354-4480, send an email to atacarnet@uscib.org or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
Travelers can obtain cash from some ATMs in Senegal.
Travelers can get cash and/or traveler's checks through international credit cards, such as Master Card, Visa, and American Express, by presenting their credit card at a local financial institution sponsoring their card. 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 Senegalese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Senegal are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Senegal 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 Senegal.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenue Jean XXIII, Dakar; the mailing address is B.P. 49, Dakar, Senegal.
The telephone number is (221) 33 829-2100; after hours (221) 33 829 2209.
The U.S. Embassy web site is http://dakar.usembassy.gov/.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information Sheet for Senegal dated November 08, 2007 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Registration and Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 01:36:21 +0200 (METDST)

Dakar, Sept 17, 2019 (AFP) - Four people died after a boat carrying dozens of tourists capsized during heavy storms in Senegal, authorities and emergency services said Tuesday.   The death toll could rise as three passengers were said to be missing after the accident.  The boat was carrying several Senegalese nationals, six French people, two Germans, two Swedes and one person from Guinea-Bissau, when it turned over Monday in driving rain and a heavy swell, fire department chief Papa Angel Michel Diatta said.   All the dead were Senegalese, officials and emergency services said.

Two worked in a national park, one was a woman and the other victim was a child, Diatta said.   The boat was heading for the Madeleine islands, site of an offshore national park popular with tourists who travel from Dakar, coastal capital of the West African country.   Senegalese President Macky Sall appealed for "greater caution and respect for existing security norms duing the rainy season" in a tweet.

Emergency services continued to look for those missing on Tuesday. AFP journalists saw a dozen divers at the scene. Distressed families were waiting on the shore to get news of their loved ones.    "The gendarmerie called us at 5:00 am (GMT and local time). My brother was on the boat. The worst thing is not knowing," said Aminata Diop, who was among the relatives on the beach.   There are "four dead bodies and between three and four people are missing. Thirty-five people were on the boat. Search and rescue operations are continuing this morning," Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye told AFP by telephone.

The causes of the accident were unclear. The interior minister told Senegalese media overnight that several tourists were worried about the heavy rains and wanted to return to the pier but others wanted to stay on the boat.   The survivors spent the night on the island, Ndiaye told local radio on Tuesday. Blankets and food were sent to them and they were to be ferried back to the mainland in the morning, he added.   The rainy season arrived late this year and heavy storms have resulted in several casualties this month.    Two fishermen were killed on their canoe in the same area nearly two weeks ago.
- National. 12 Nov 2018

Suspected cases totalling 2123 with 216 confirmed have been reported across 6 regions, with one death confirmed, as of 3 Nov 2018. The CDC has issued a travel warning. The 6 regions currently reporting confirmed cases are Diourbel (169), Fatick (34), St. Louis (6), Dakar (3), Louga (3) and Thies (1).

- National. 9 Nov 2018. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions, for the African country of Senegal, on 7 Nov 2018. Senegal, which is located on the north-west coast of central Africa, is an important partner of the US in promoting peace and security. Because dengue is a viral disease and spread by mosquito bites, all travellers to Senegal should prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellent and wearing protective clothing when outdoors, and sleeping in an air-conditioned or well-screened room or under an insecticide-treated bed net, said the CDC. Moreover, half of the world's population living in 128 countries is at risk of dengue.

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Senegal:
Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2018 16:38:21 +0000
A ProMED-mail post

- National. 19 Oct 2018. In the capital of Sine, there are currently 31 cases. In the capital of Mouridism, there are 8 cases; 6 cases were counted in Rosso, Senegal.

- National. 15 Oct 2018. Dengue fever worries the population in several localities of Senegal. Fatick area has 3 cases. Currently, at least 23 dengue cases have been confirmed in the same region of Fatick (center), following tests on 487 suspected cases, revealed the chief of the commune, Mamadou Sarr at the beginning of October 2018.

In Senegal, dengue fever is concentrated this year [2018] in the Fatick region. In September 2018, 3 cases had been counted; the number rose to 23 cases in October 2018. According to the chief medical officer of the local area relayed by the Senegalese press agency: "Following tests on 487 suspected cases, at least 23 dengue cases were confirmed, and the average age of people affected by the disease varies between 20 and 40 years old. Most are women.

This is the 4th dengue epidemic in Senegal. On 19 Oct 2017, the disease was revealed to the public in the Louga region. The Institut Pasteur in Dakar confirmed the diagnosis of 9 cases of dengue fever out of a total of 24 samples received on 6 and 12 Oct 2017, respectively, which had been carried out at the Santhiaba health post in Louga commune, in northwest Senegal. On 27 and 28 Oct 2018, 2 other confirmed cases were recorded in the commune of Dahra, next to that of Louga. On 6 Nov 2017, the Senegalese health authorities recorded 79 confirmed cases out of 510 samples tested: 70 in Louga, 6 in Dahra, 2 in Coki, 1 in Keur Moma Sarr. "No serious case is noted so far. All the patients have been treated as outpatients," said the Ministry of Health and Social Action.

This is not the 1st time that an outbreak of dengue fever has been reported in the country. There were outbreaks also in 1981, 1984 and 2009, said Dr. Abdoulaye Bousso of the Center for Emergency Health Operations (COUS), an entity under the supervision of the Ministry of Health and Social Action in 2017. As of 30 Oct 2017, a total of 232 suspected patients, out of 36 positive cases (34 in Louga and 2 in Dahra), had been enumerated by the Senegalese health authorities. "No complication was noted in these patients; all patients diagnosed positive are doing well and have resumed their daily activities," said the Ministry of Health. For this year [2018], the number increased to 32 confirmed cases.
Date: Thu, 3 May 2018 17:48:15 +0200

Ziguinchor, Senegal, May 3, 2018 (AFP) - Armed men tried to blow up a key bridge in a touristy part of Senegal's restive Casamance region, killing a fisherman, a military source said on Thursday.   The overnight attack on the Niambalang bridge near the Casamance capital Zinguinchor was the first on the bridge since 1998.   "Armed men tried to blow up the bridge with explosives" but failed, a military source told AFP.

They torched the huts of eight fishermen living underneath the bridge, killing one, the source said. A relative of the fisherman confirmed this.   The bridge links Zinguinchor to the beach resort of Cap Skirring, which is popular with Western tourists.   Tensions have mounted in Casamance following the massacre of 14 young men in execution-style killings in a protected forest on January 6.   The bloodbath caused some to blame a group that has led a 35-year armed campaign for the region's independence.
Date: Fri 19 Jan 2018
Source: WHO [edited]

On [3 Jan 2018], the Ministry of Health of Senegal notified WHO of a case of Rift Valley fever (RVF) reported from a hospital in Dakar. On [29 Dec 2017], a blood sample taken from a 52-year-old Korean man, resident in the Gambia, done at the Institute Pasteur Dakar, was positive for RVF on IgM testing. Previous PCR testing had been negative for RVF and other arboviruses.

The case patient worked for a fishing company in the Gambia and had no known history of handling raw meat. On [5 Dec 2017], the case patient travelled with his brother and 2 colleagues from Banjul, the Gambia, to Ziguinchor, Senegal. On [8 Dec 2017], the case patient continued travelling with his brother, a colleague, and a driver, from Ziguinchor to Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, and continued to Buba the following day. On [10 Dec 2017], the case patient returned from Buba to Bissau, and presented with a dry cough, fever, headache, and joint pain. His brother and the driver also developed a dry cough on [10 Dec 2017], which improved the following day. The group returned to the Gambia (via Ziguinchor) on [12 Dec 2017].

The case patient, however, continued to suffer a persistent cough during this time. On his return to Banjul, he additionally developed fever, headache, and vertigo. He was hospitalized on [20 Dec 2017] and diagnosed with severe malaria. On [23 Dec 2017], he became delirious and developed psychomotor agitation, profuse mucousy diarrhoea, bile-stained vomiting, and haemorrhage. On [25 Dec 2017], he became comatose and was evacuated by ambulance to Dakar. His symptoms improved, and blood samples were taken on 26, 28, and 30 Dec 2017. However, he experienced a recurrence of haemorrhagic symptoms on 31 Dec 2017 and died the same day.

Public health actions
A case investigation was conducted by a multidisciplinary team from the Centre of Health Emergency Operations of the Ministry of Health of Senegal. As part of this investigation, blood samples were collected from the brother of the case and the colleague and driver who accompanied him to Guinea-Bissau. These samples were all negative for RVFV by PCR. The results of the investigation and recommendations for action from the Ministry of Health of Senegal are pending. A case investigation was conducted by a multidisciplinary team from the Epidemic and Disease Control Unit of the Ministry Health of the Gambia. Enhanced RVF surveillance in the animal population and community RVF sensitization have been implemented in the country.

Situation interpretation
Outbreaks of RVF are uncommon in the Gambia and its neighbouring countries. The last documented human case of RVF in the Gambia was reported in 2002. There is currently no indication of risk of a major RVF outbreak in the Gambia, Senegal, or Guinea-Bissau. Heavy rainfall, causing flooding and mass emergence RVF vectors, _Aedes_ and _Culex spp._ mosquitoes, is closely associated with RVF outbreaks. Uncontrolled movement of livestock can increase the risk of spread of the disease to new areas. RVF can cause trade reductions and important economic losses due to high mortality and abortion rates among infected livestock. Integrated control measures that address both human and animal health are therefore necessary (e.g. preventive animal vaccination, vector control, control of animal movements, educational campaigns for populations at risk).
====================
[The case, who travelled in 3 different countries (The Gambia, Senegal, and Bissau) was diagnosed as being affected by malaria. Later, this person and people accompanying him exhibited symptoms that can be attributed to RVF. However, all of the other 3 tested negative, while the case was diagnosed RVF positive on IgM testing and negative on PCR. The situation needs some clarification, especially since it is not the flooding season in the region, which favors the multiplication of disease vector insects and thereby precipitates the appearance of RVF in animals with possible contamination of humans. - ProMED Mod.AB]

[Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus can persist for a long time in some areas, maintained in _Aedes_ vector mosquitoes that deposit eggs in seasonally-flooded areas, where those eggs are transovarially infected with the virus. Adult female mosquitoes coming from infected eggs can transmit the virus during their 1st blood meals. Eradicating the virus from these areas is not possible with current technology.

Although ProMED-mail has not previously posted cases of RVF in the Gambia, there is a report from neighboring Senegal. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Mauritania, a country in close proximity (neighboring with Senegal to its north) has also experience recurrent outbreaks of RVF (see prior ProMED-mail posts). - ProMED Mod.MPP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue 17 Sep 2019
Source: Boston Globe [edited]

Rhode Island officials announced Tuesday [17 Sep 2019] that 2 more human cases of eastern equine encephalitis [EEE] were confirmed in the state.

The 2 people -- one a Coventry child younger than 10 and the other a person in their 50s from Charlestown -- have been discharged from the hospital and are recovering, according to a statement from the state's Department of Public Health.

Authorities think the 2 people contracted EEE in late August [2019]. The cases were confirmed by tests done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 3 confirmed EEE cases in Rhode Island this year [2019]. A West Warwick resident diagnosed with the mosquito-borne illness died this month [September 2019].

All 3 people contracted EEE before areas at critical risk for the disease were aerially sprayed with pesticide, state officials said.

EEE is a rare but potentially fatal disease that can cause brain inflammation and is transmitted to humans bitten by infected mosquitoes, according to federal authorities. About 1/3 of infected people who develop the disease will die, officials have said, and those who recover often live with severe and devastating neurological complications. There is no treatment for EEE.

"This [2019] has been a year with significantly elevated EEE activity, and mosquitoes will remain a threat in Rhode Island until our 1st hard frost, which is still several weeks out," said Ana Novais, the deputy director for the state's health department. "Personal mosquito-prevention measures remain everyone's 1st defence against EEE. If possible, people should limit their time outdoors at sunrise and sunset. If you are going to be out, long sleeves and pants are very important, as is bug spray [repellent]."

EEE was also confirmed in a deer in Exeter this week [week of Mon 16 Sep 2019].

In Massachusetts, 8 human cases of EEE have been confirmed this year [2019]. Last month [August 2019], a Fairhaven woman with EEE died.
========================
[The 1st Rhode Island case died. Now there are 2 additional EEE cases who have recovered sufficiently to have been discharged from the hospital. Although most reported cases of EEE this year [2019] have occurred in horses, there have been several recent human cases as well. Individuals living in areas where human or equine EEE cases have occurred should heed the above recommendations to prevent mosquito bites. Avoidance of mosquito bites is the only preventive measure available. Fortunately, horses can be vaccinated, but there is no vaccine available for humans.

The risk of EEE virus infection for humans and horses will continue in Rhode Island and the other affected states until the 1st killing frosts occur, likely in October (2019). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Rhode Island, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/241>]
Date: Tue 17 Sep 2019
Source: Detroit Free Press [edited]

State health officials said Tuesday [17 Sep 2019] that 3 Michiganders have died from the rare and dangerous mosquito-borne virus eastern equine encephalitis [EEE], and 4 others have been sickened by the disease, amid the biggest outbreak in more than a decade.

Those who live in all 8 of the affected counties -- Kalamazoo, Cass, Van Buren, Berrien, Barry, St. Joseph, Genesee, and Lapeer counties -- are urged to consider canceling, postponing, or rescheduling outdoor events that occur at or after dusk, especially those that involve children, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This would include events such as late-evening sports practices or games or outdoor music practices "out of an abundance of caution to protect the public health, and applies until the 1st hard frost of the year [2019]," according to an MDHHS news release.

The 3 people who died were all adults and lived in Kalamazoo, Cass, and Van Buren counties, [respectively], said Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The 4 other confirmed cases are in Kalamazoo, Berrien, and Barry counties.

Animals have also been confirmed to have the virus in St. Joseph, Genesee, and Lapeer counties.

The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department also issued a recommendation to local communities and school districts to consider canceling outdoor events at dusk or after dark, when mosquitoes are most active, or move [the events] indoors.  "Michigan is currently experiencing its worst eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. "The ongoing cases reported in humans and animals and the severity of this disease illustrate the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites."

EEE is one of the deadliest mosquito-borne viruses in the US. One in 3 people who are infected with the virus die. The only way to prevent it is to avoid mosquito bites. The MDHHS says residents should
- apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET or other US Environmental Protection Agency-registered product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer's directions for use;
- wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites;
- maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside;
- empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires, or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs; and
- use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

Symptoms of EEE include
- sudden onset of fever, chills;
- body and joint aches, which can progress to a severe encephalitis;
- headache;
- disorientation;
- tremors;
- seizures;
- paralysis; and
- coma.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should visit a doctor.

[Byline: Kristen Jordan Shamus]
=======================
[The number of human cases remains at 7. However, 3 of these have died since the 6 Sep 2019 report (see Eastern equine encephalitis - North America (18): USA human, horse, deer http://promedmail.org/post/20190910.6667626). However, even among the survivors, there is a significant risk of permanent neurological damage following clinical encephalitis. CDC reports that many individuals with clinical encephalitis "are left with disabling and progressive mental and physical sequelae, which can range from minimal brain dysfunction to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction. Many patients with severe sequelae die within a few years" (<https://www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/tech/symptoms.html>). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Michigan, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/225>
Michigan county map:
Date: Mon 16 Sep 2019
Source: Patch [edited]

The state Department of Public Health is warning that an adult resident of East Lyme has tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). This is the 1st human case of EEE identified in Connecticut this season [2019].  The patient became ill during the last week of August [2019] with encephalitis and remains hospitalized. Laboratory tests, which were completed today at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Laboratory in Ft. Collins, Colorado, confirmed the presence of antibodies to the virus that causes EEE.  "EEE is a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages," said DPH commissioner Renee Coleman Mitchell in a release. "Using insect repellent, covering bare skin, and avoiding being outdoors from dusk to dawn are effective ways to help keep you from being bitten by mosquitoes."  The EEE virus has been identified in mosquitoes in 12 towns and in horses in 2 other towns.

Towns where mosquitoes have tested positive for EEE include Chester, Haddam, Hampton, Groton, Killingworth, Ledyard, Madison, North Stonington, Plainfield, Shelton, Stonington, and Voluntown. Horses have tested positive for EEE virus in Colchester and Columbia this season, and the virus has been detected in a flock of wild pheasants.  Other states throughout the northeast are also experiencing an active season for EEE. In addition to the virus being found in mosquitoes, there have been a total of 8 human cases of EEE infection in Massachusetts and one human case in Rhode Island, with one case in each state resulting in a fatality. "This is the 2nd human case of EEE ever reported in Connecticut," said Dr. Matthew Cartter, director of infectious diseases for the DPH. "The 1st human case of EEE reported in Connecticut occurred in the fall of 2013."

The DPH advises against unnecessary trips into mosquito breeding grounds and marshes, as the mosquitoes that transmit EEE virus are associated with freshwater swamps and are most active at dusk and dawn. Overnight camping or other substantial outdoor exposure in freshwater swamps in Connecticut should be avoided. Even though the temperatures are getting cooler, the DPH is advising that mosquito season is not over, and residents should continue to take measures to prevent mosquito bites, including wearing protective clothing and using repellents.  Although EEE-infected mosquitoes continue to be detected in the south-eastern corner of the state, the numbers are declining, and we are not experiencing the excessively high levels of activity seen in Massachusetts. There are currently no plans to implement widespread aerial pesticide spraying in the state.

Severe cases of EEE virus infection (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, and coma. Approximately 1/3 of patients who develop EEE die, and many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage, according to the DPH.

There is no specific treatment for EEE. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and no effective anti-viral drugs have been discovered. Severe illnesses are treated by supportive therapy, which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections. It takes 4-10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito to develop symptoms of EEE.

The management of mosquitoes in Connecticut is a collaborative effort involving the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, and the DPH, together with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Connecticut. These agencies are responsible for monitoring and managing the state's mosquito population levels to reduce the potential public health threat of mosquito-borne diseases.

Information on what can be done to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes and the latest mosquito test results and human infections is available online.  [Byline: Rich Kirby]
===========================
[This has been an active year for EEE virus transmission in the eastern USA from the upper Midwest to the northeastern states and south to Florida. Although historically, EEE human cases in Connecticut have been very rare, the occurrence of a human case in the state this year (2019) is not surprising. There have been equine and/or human EEE cases this summer (2019) in the 3 bordering states: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. Interestingly, pheasants are mentioned in the above report. They are susceptible and, after being infected with the virus from the bite of an EEE-carrying mosquito, become ill or moribund with viremia titers that can reach 10^9 per ml. Ill or moribund pheasant can be attacked and cannibalized by pen mates that, in turn, are infected orally and may become ill and die as well. As the above report cautions, the only way to avoid infection is for people to avoid mosquito bites. Although the incidence of EEE cases and virus-positive mosquitoes may be declining, there is a risk of infection until the 1st killing frost occurs in autumn, when the mosquitoes are no longer active. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Connecticut, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/210>]
Date: Wed 11 Sep 2019
Source: BBC Afrique [In French, trans. Mod.LXL, edited]

At least 18 people died in 10 days after eating pesticide-contaminated food in 2 localities in Burkina Faso. A dozen still remain under observation in hospitals, according to the Minister of Health.  The 1st cases were reported on [1 Sep 2019] in the town of Didyr in the centre-west of the country, said Professor Claudine Lougue, Minister of Health.  About 15 members of the same families felt unwell after eating local dishes made from bean leaves and small millet seeds, which are actually seed remains. Thirteen died later despite medical care.

On Monday [2 Sep 2019], the ministry received another alert, this time from the central-eastern region. Here again, 14 people from the same family were admitted to the health centres. Five have lost their lives. After analysis, doctors diagnosed massive food poisoning, said the minister. Complementary examinations incriminate pesticides, she said.  "Investigations have been made on samples of biological products such as blood and urine, and we found an unusually high level of pesticides in foods that were consumed. There was an abnormally high level of pesticides, and these pesticides were strongly incriminated," said the minister.

The remains of food have been secured, announced Professor Lougue, who calls on citizens to observe strict hygiene measures in the use of plant leaves for consumption. Pesticides are used for the needs of field work, especially in the countryside during this period of wintering.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 16:44:19 +0200 (METDST)

London, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - British Airways pilots on Wednesday cancelled a strike that had been due September 27, the British Airline Pilots Association union said after two walkouts last week that cost the company dear.   "Someone has to take the initiative to sort out this (pay) dispute and with no sign of that from BA the pilots have decided to take the responsible course," BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said in a statement.    The union chief added that the airline's "passengers rightly expect BA and its pilots to resolve their issues without disruption and now is the time for cool heads and pragmatism to be brought to bear.    "I hope BA and its owner IAG show as much responsibility as the pilots," he added.   It was now "time for a period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the (BA) brand."

However the union added that should the airline "refuse meaningful new negotiations, BALPA retains the right to announce further strike dates".   British Airways, which likes to call itself "the world's favourite airline", flew into turbulence last week as pilots staged a costly and historic two-day strike, tarnishing its global reputation according to aviation analysts.   Pilots walked out for the first time in the company's 100-year history, sparked by a bitter and long-running feud over pay.   BA faced the embarrassment of grounding its entire UK fleet on September 9 and 10, causing the cancellation of about 1,600 flights.   The move sparked travel chaos for about 200,000 passengers who had been due to fly in and out of London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

The disruption continued into September 11 because half of BA's 300 aircraft and more than 700 pilots were mostly in the wrong place.   As a result, BA was forced to cancel approximately ten percent of its daily 850 flights in and out of Britain that day.    BALPA and its members are demanding a bigger share of British Airways profits.   The airline has offered a salary increase of 11.5 percent over three years, which it argues would boost the annual pay of some captains to £200,000 ($250,000 or 226,000 euros).   However, the union has rejected the proposal made in July.   BALPA meanwhile estimates that last week's 48-hour strike cost the airline £80 million.   BA is owned by IAG, which was formed in 2011 with the merger of British Airways and Spain's Iberia. IAG has since added other carriers, including Austria's Vueling and Ireland's Aer Lingus.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 12:26:37 +0200 (METDST)
By Sam Reeves

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - Toxic haze from Indonesian forest fires closed schools and airports across the country and in neighbouring Malaysia Wednesday, while air quality worsened in Singapore just days before the city's Formula One motor race.   Illegal fires to clear land for agriculture are blazing out of control on Sumatra and Borneo islands, with Jakarta deploying thousands of security forces and water-bombing aircraft to tackle them.

Indonesian blazes belch smog across Southeast Asia annually, but this year's are the worst since 2015 and have added to concerns about wildfire outbreaks worldwide exacerbating global warming.   On Wednesday, air quality deteriorated to "very unhealthy" levels on an official index in many parts of peninsular Malaysia, to the east of Sumatra, with the Kuala Lumpur skyline shrouded by dense smog.    Nearly 1,500 schools were closed across Malaysia due to the air pollution, with over one million pupils affected, according to the education ministry.

A growing number of Malaysians were suffering health problems due to the haze, with authorities saying there had been a sharp increase in outpatients at government hospitals -- many suffering dry and itchy eyes.   Indonesian authorities said hundreds of schools in hard-hit Riau province on Sumatra were shut, without providing a precise number, while about 1,300 were closed in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo.    Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.   Poor visibility closed seven airports in the Indonesian part of Borneo, the transport ministry in Jakarta said. Scores of flights have already been diverted and cancelled in the region in recent days due to the smog.

- Singapore smog race? -
Air quality in Singapore worsened to unhealthy levels and a white smog obscured the striking waterfront skyline, featuring the Marina Bay Sands casino resort with its three towers and boat-shaped top level.    The worsening pollution increased fears that this weekend's Formula One race may be affected. Organisers say the possibility of haze is one of the issues in their contingency plan for Sunday's showpiece night race, but have not given further details.

The city-state's tourism board said spectators would be able to buy masks as protection from the haze if conditions did not improve and assistance would be provided for those who feel unwell, the Today news portal reported.   The fires have sparked tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia.    Indonesia's environment minister initially suggested the haze was from Malaysian fires despite satellite data showing hundreds of blazes in Indonesia and only a handful in its neighbour, prompting anger from her Malaysian counterpart.

Indonesia later sealed off dozens of plantations where it said fires were blazing, including some owned by Malaysia-based firms, deepening the row.   But Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has struck a diplomatic tone throughout the crisis, said Malaysia may pass legislation forcing its companies to tackle fires on plantations abroad.   Malaysia wants its firms with sites overseas to put out blazes contributing to the haze, he said, adding: "Of course, if we find they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law to make them responsible."

The Indonesian government has insisted it is doing all it can to fight the blazes. But this year's fires have been worsened by dry weather and experts believe there is little chance of them being extinguished until the onset of the rainy season in October.   Indonesia's meteorology, climate and geophysics agency said Wednesday that over 1,000 hotspots -- areas of intense heat detected by satellite that indicate a likely fire -- had been sighted, most of them on Sumatra.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 12:14:44 +0200 (METDST)
By Aishwarya KUMAR

New Delhi, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - India announced on Wednesday a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes, as a backlash gathers pace worldwide due to health concerns about a product promoted as less harmful than smoking tobacco.   The Indian announcement, also outlawing production, import and distribution, came a day after New York became the second US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes following a string of vaping-linked deaths.   "The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi.

E-cigarettes do not "burn" but instead heat up a liquid -- tasting of everything from bourbon to bubble gum and which usually contains nicotine -- that turns into vapour and is inhaled.   The vapour is missing the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.   They have been pushed by producers, and also by some governments including in Britain, as a safer alternative to traditional smoking -- and as a way to kick the habit.

However critics say that apart from being harmful in themselves, the flavours of e-cigarette liquids appeal particularly to children and risk getting them addicted to nicotine.   Some 3.6 million middle and high school students in the United States used vaping products in 2018, an increase of 1.5 million on the year before.   The New York emergency legislation followed an outbreak of severe pulmonary disease that has killed seven people and sickened hundreds.   President Donald Trump's administration announced last week that it would soon ban flavoured e-cigarette products to stem a rising tide of youth users.

- Big E-Tobacco -
Although few Indians vape at present, the Indian ban also cuts off a vast potential market of 1.3 billion consumers for makers of e-cigarettes.   Tobacco firms have been investing heavily in the technology to compensate for falling demand for cigarettes due to high taxes and public smoking bans, particularly in the West.

In 2018 Altria, the US maker of brands such as Marlboro and Chesterfield, splashed out almost $13 billion on a stake in one of the biggest e-cigarette makers, Juul.   A few Indian states have already banned e-cigarettes although the restrictions have been ineffective since online sale of vaping products continue.   The new ban does not cover traditional tobacco products in India.   According to the World Health Organization, India is the world's second-largest consumer of tobacco products, killing nearly 900,000 people every year.

Nearly 275 million people over 15, or 35 percent of adults, are users, although chewing tobacco -- which also causes cancer -- is more prevalent than smoking.   India is also the world's third--largest producer of tobacco, the WHO says, and tobacco farmers are an important vote bank for political parties.   According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an estimated 45.7 million people depend on the tobacco sector in India for their livelihood.   Tobacco is also a major Indian export, and the government holds substantial stakes, directly or indirectly, in tobacco firms including in ITC, one of India's biggest companies.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 03:56:31 +0200 (METDST)

Washington, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - Hurricane Humberto strengthened to a major Category 3 storm on Tuesday and was expected to pass near Bermuda, threatening it with dangerous waves and heavy rain, the US National Hurricane Center said.   "Hurricane conditions are expected to reach Bermuda by Wednesday night and continue into early Thursday morning," the Miami-based NHC said.   "Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or so, but Humberto should remain a powerful hurricane through Thursday," it said.   As of 8:00 pm (0000 GMT), the storm had maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour) and was moving east-northeast at 12 miles per hour.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 01:36:21 +0200 (METDST)

Dakar, Sept 17, 2019 (AFP) - Four people died after a boat carrying dozens of tourists capsized during heavy storms in Senegal, authorities and emergency services said Tuesday.   The death toll could rise as three passengers were said to be missing after the accident.  The boat was carrying several Senegalese nationals, six French people, two Germans, two Swedes and one person from Guinea-Bissau, when it turned over Monday in driving rain and a heavy swell, fire department chief Papa Angel Michel Diatta said.   All the dead were Senegalese, officials and emergency services said.

Two worked in a national park, one was a woman and the other victim was a child, Diatta said.   The boat was heading for the Madeleine islands, site of an offshore national park popular with tourists who travel from Dakar, coastal capital of the West African country.   Senegalese President Macky Sall appealed for "greater caution and respect for existing security norms duing the rainy season" in a tweet.

Emergency services continued to look for those missing on Tuesday. AFP journalists saw a dozen divers at the scene. Distressed families were waiting on the shore to get news of their loved ones.    "The gendarmerie called us at 5:00 am (GMT and local time). My brother was on the boat. The worst thing is not knowing," said Aminata Diop, who was among the relatives on the beach.   There are "four dead bodies and between three and four people are missing. Thirty-five people were on the boat. Search and rescue operations are continuing this morning," Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye told AFP by telephone.

The causes of the accident were unclear. The interior minister told Senegalese media overnight that several tourists were worried about the heavy rains and wanted to return to the pier but others wanted to stay on the boat.   The survivors spent the night on the island, Ndiaye told local radio on Tuesday. Blankets and food were sent to them and they were to be ferried back to the mainland in the morning, he added.   The rainy season arrived late this year and heavy storms have resulted in several casualties this month.    Two fishermen were killed on their canoe in the same area nearly two weeks ago.
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2019 15:38:37 +0200 (METDST)

Jakarta, Sept 17, 2019 (AFP) - Massive forest fires in Indonesia that have caused a toxic haze to spread as far as Singapore and peninsular Malaysia are also seriously affecting endangered orangutans and their habitat, a rescue foundation said Tuesday.   Jakarta has deployed thousands of troops as temporary fireman and deployed dozens of water-bombing aircraft to battle blazes that are turning pristine forest into charred landscape in Sumatra and Borneo islands.   The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed a choking haze across parts of southeast Asia.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation said Tuesday that the haze was affecting hundreds of great apes in its care at rescue centres and wildlife re-introduction shelters.   "The thick smoke does not only endanger the health of our staff... but also it affects the 355 orangutans we currently care for", the foundation said in a statement, referring to just once cetre in Kalimantan   "As many as 37 young orangutans are suspected to have contracted a mild respiratory infection," it added.   Conditions were so bad at their Samboja Lestari facility in East Kalimantan that outdoor activities for the animals had been restricted to a few hours a day.

Orangutans have been particularly vulnerable to commercial land clearances and have seen their natural habitat shrink dramatically in the last few decades.   The population of orangutan in Borneo has plummeted from about 288,500 in 1973 to about 100,000 today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.   The toxic smoke caused by the forest fires is an annual problem for Indonesia and its neighbours, but has been worsened this year by particularly dry weather.   On Borneo island, which Indonesia shares with Malaysia and Brunei, pollution levels were "hazardous", according to environment ministry data.   Hundreds of schools across Indonesia and Malaysia were shut.