May 12, 2008
The five islands of Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius (or “Statia”) and St. Maarten (Dutch side) comprise the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All Americans traveling by air outside the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009. Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other document compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S. Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.
Applications for the new U.S. Passport Card are now being accepted. Based on current projections, we expect to begin production of the passport card in June 2008 and be in full production in July 2008. The card may not be used to travel by air and is available only to U.S. citizens. Further information on the Passport Card is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html and upcoming changes to U.S. passport policy can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html. We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel. American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
The U.S. Consulate recommends traveling in the Netherlands Antilles with a valid U.S. passport to avoid delays or misunderstandings. A lost or stolen passport is also easier to replace when outside the United States than other evidence of citizenship. Visitors to the Netherlands Antilles may be asked to show onward/return tickets or proof of sufficient funds for their stay. Length of stay is granted for two weeks and may be extended for 90 days by the head office of immigration. For further information, travelers may contact the Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch Consulate in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston or Miami. Visit the web site for the Embassy of the Netherlands at http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/homepage.asp for the most current visa information.
We have more information pertaining to dual nationality and international child abduction. Please refer to our customs information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Drug-related organized crime exists within the Netherlands Antilles but has not directly affected tourists in the past.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings, including the 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., 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: In recent years, street crime has increased, especially in St. Maarten. Valuables, including passports, left unattended on beaches, in cars and hotel lobbies are easy targets for theft, and visitors should leave valuables and personal papers secured in their hotel. Burglary and break-ins are increasingly common at resorts, beach houses and hotels. Armed robbery occasionally occurs. The American boating community has reported a handful of incidents in the past, and visitors are urged to exercise reasonable caution in securing boats and belongings. Car theft, especially of rental vehicles for joy riding and stripping, can occur. Incidents of break-ins to rental cars to steal personal items have been reported by American tourists. Vehicle leases or rentals may not be fully covered by local insurance when a vehicle is stolen. Be sure you are sufficiently insured when renting vehicles and jet skis.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Please see our information for American Victims of Crime Overseas.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is generally good in Curaçao and St. Maarten, but may be limited on the other three islands. Hospitals have three classes of services i.e.: First Class: one patient to a room, air conditioning etc.; Second Class: two to six patients to a room, no air conditioning; Third Class: 15 to 30 people in one hall. Patients are accommodated according to their level of insurance.
Bonaire: The San Francisco hospital is a medical center (35 beds) with decompression facilities. The hospital has an air ambulance service to Curaçao and Aruba.
Curaçao: St. Elizabeth hospital is a public hospital that may be compared to midrange facilities in the United States. St. Elizabeth's hospital has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness. Several private clinics provide good to excellent medical service.
St. Maarten: St. Maarten Medical Center (79 beds) is a relatively small hospital where general surgery is performed. Complex cases are sent to Curaçao.
Statia: Queen Beatrix Medical Center (20 beds) is a medical facility well equipped for first aid. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten.
Saba: Saba Clinic (14 beds) is a well-equipped first aid facility. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten. The Saba Marine Park has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness.
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.
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 the Netherlands Antilles is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in the Netherlands Antilles is on the right hand side. Right turns on red are prohibited, and traffic conditions require somewhat defensive driving. Local laws require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets. Children under 4 years of age should be in child safety seats; children under 12 should ride in the back seat.
Nonexistent or hidden and poorly maintained street signs are the major road hazard in the Netherlands Antilles. Therefore, drivers should proceed through intersections with caution. Roads in the Netherlands Antilles are extremely slippery during rainfall. Night driving is reasonably safe in the Netherlands Antilles as long as drivers are familiar with the route and road conditions. Most streets are poorly lit or not lit at all. In Curacao, drivers should be aware of herds of goats that may cross the street unexpectedly. In Bonaire, wild donkeys may also cross the road.
Taxis are the easiest, yet most expensive form of transportation on the islands. As there are no meters, passengers should verify the price before entering the taxi. Fares quoted in U.S. dollars may be significantly higher than those quoted in the local currency. Vans are inexpensive and run non-stop during daytime with no fixed schedule. Each van has a specific route displayed in the front of the windshield. Buses, which run on the hour, have limited routes. The road conditions on the main thoroughfares are good to fair.
See road safety information at the following sites; http://www.curacao.com, http://www.statiatourism.com, http://www.sabatourism.com, http://www.infobonaire.com, http://www.st-maarten.com/.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Netherlands Antilles’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the Netherlands Antilles’ air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Dutch law in principle does not permit dual nationality. However, there are several exceptions. For example, American citizens who are married to Dutch citizens are exempt from the requirement to abandon their American nationality when they apply to become a Dutch citizen by naturalization. For detailed and specific information on this subject, contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington or one of the Dutch consulates in the U.S. In addition to being subject to all Dutch laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Dutch citizens.
Time-share buyers are cautioned about contracts that do not have a "non-disturbance or perpetuity protective clause" incorporated into the purchase agreement. Such a clause gives the time-share owner perpetuity of ownership should the facility be sold. Americans sometimes complain that the timeshare units are not adequately maintained, despite generally high annual maintenance fees. Because of the large number of complaints about misuse of maintenance fees, particularly in St. Maarten, prospective timeshare owners are advised to review the profit and loss statement for maintenance fees. Investors should note that a reputable accounting firm should audit profit and loss statements.
Potential investors should be aware that failed land development schemes involving time-share investments could result in financial losses. Interested investors may wish to seek professional advice regarding investments involving land development projects. Real estate investment problems that reach local courts are rarely settled in favor of foreign investors.
An unusually competitive fee to rent vehicles or equipment could indicate that the dealer is unlicensed or uninsured. The renter is often fully responsible for replacement costs and fees associated with any damages that occur during the rental period. Visitors may be required to pay these fees in full before leaving the Netherlands Antilles and may be subject to civil or criminal penalties if they cannot or will not make payment.
Netherlands Antilles customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Netherlands Antilles. For example, it is strictly prohibited to export pieces of coral and/or seashells. Please see our information on customs regulations.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating the laws of the Netherlands Antilles, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands Antilles are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The Netherlands Antilles has strict gun control laws; even a stray bullet in a suitcase can trigger a fine or time in jail. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues web site.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
American citizens residing or traveling in the Netherlands Antilles are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Netherlands Antilles. 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. Consulate General is located at J.B. Gorsiraweg #1, Willemstad, Curaçao, telephone (599-9) 461-3066; fax (599-9) 461-6489; e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information dated May 7, 2007, to update the Entry/Exit, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registry / Embassy Location sections.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Washington, May 16, 2019 (AFP) - The Church of Scientology said Thursday all the passengers from a cruise ship that was quarantined over a measles case had been cleared to leave. "All passengers and crew (100%) of the Freewinds have been fully cleared of any possible risk of being infected by the measles or infecting others," the organization said in a statement. "All passengers and crew are free to come and go as they wish," a spokesman added to AFP.
The infected individual was a member of the crew who, according to the Church, had fully recovered and was given a clean bill of health a week ago. She had been earlier confined on the ship. The ship, which is based in Willemstad on the island of Curacao in the Dutch West Indies, was quarantined after its arrival in Saint Lucia on April 30. It remained there for two days before returning to Willemstad on May 4 where local authorities ordered a fresh quarantine to give them time to confirm the passengers were either immunized or had no risk of contracting the virus.
By Sara MAGNIETTE
The Hague, May 4, 2019 (AFP) - The Dutch territory of Curacao said Saturday it would do what is needed to prevent measles spreading from a Scientology cruise ship, after a crew member came down with the disease. The Freewinds, which left the Caribbean island of St. Lucia on Friday, arrived back in its home port of Curacao at around 9:00 am (1300 GMT) Saturday, according to myshiptracking.com.
The Curacao government said in a statement that it would "take all necessary precautions to handle the case of measles on board of the Freewinds," including vaccinations. "An investigation will also be done to determine who will be allowed to leave the ship without (posing) a threat to the population of Curacao," it said. "It is imperative to make all efforts to prevent a spread of this disease internationally." Dutch broadcaster NOS reported that three health officials had boarded the boat to examine those on board. Only people able to prove that they have been vaccinated against measles or had already had the disease would be able to leave the boat, its correspondent there reported.
- Anti-vaccine movement -
The Church of Scientology says the 440-foot (134-meter) vessel is used for religious retreats and is normally based in Curacao. The vessel had arrived in St Lucia from Curacao on Tuesday, when it was placed under quarantine by health authorities there because of a measles patient, said to be a female crew member. According to NOS, the crew member concerned is a Danish national, who arrived in Curacao from Amsterdam on April 17. It was only when the boat was at sea, on route to St Lucia, that a doctor discovered she had measles, their correspondent said.
The resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly contagious disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as a major global health threat. The authorities in Curacao nevertheless urged local people not to panic, as the risk of the disease spreading in this case was fairly low. Several people did however visit the cruise ship between April 22 and April 28 before it set sail for St Lucia and the authorities asked them to make themselves known to health officials.
Officials said the Freewinds had travelled between Curacao, St Lucia and another Dutch-held island, Aruba, several times towards the end of April. There were about 300 people aboard the ship, according to Saint Lucia authorities, which placed the vessel in quarantine. They said they provided 100 doses of measles vaccine at no cost. The Scientology church, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1953, did not respond to requests for comment. Its teachings do not directly oppose vaccination, but followers consider illness a sign of personal failing and generally avoid medical interventions.
Miami, Aug 26, 2015 (AFP) - Tropical storm Erika took aim at the Lesser Antilles Wednesday as storm warnings went up there and in Puerto Rico in anticipation of heavy rains, US forecasters said. With winds of 75 kilometres (45 miles) per hour, Erika was 540 kilometres (335 miles) east of Antigua at 1200 GMT, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported.
Advancing at a speed of 28 kilometres (17 miles) per hour, it was expected to sweep over the Lesser Antilles Wednesday night and then head toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Tropical storm warnings were up in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Saba, St Eustacia and St Maarten.
A US Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft that flew into the storm found it was slightly increasing in strength. "Some slow strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," the hurricane centre said. According to the NHC's projections, Erika could become a hurricane by the end of the week, or early next, as it nears Florida. But "the intensity forecast remains very uncertain," it said.
Erika is arriving on the heels of Danny, the season's first hurricane which petered out before reaching the Caribbean. Experts said earlier this month that there was a 90 percent chance the 2015 hurricane season in the Atlantic would be less active than usual.
July 19, 2006
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bolivia is a constitutional democracy and one of the least-developed countries in South America. Tourist facilities are generally adequate, but vary greatly in qualit
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A U.S. passport valid for at least six months from the date of proposed entry into Bolivia is required to enter and depart Bolivia. U.S. citizen tourists do not need a visa for a stay of one month or less (that period can be extended up to 90 days upon application to the Bolivian immigration authorities). Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Bolivia must obtain a replacement passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to a Bolivian government immigration office in order to obtain permission to depart. For more information on replacement passport procedures, please consult the U.S. Embassy's Web site at
Bolivian consulates are located in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Bolivian Government has initiated procedures at entry/exit points. Minors (under 18) who are citizens or residents of Bolivia and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Bolivian Embassy or a Bolivian consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian notary is required. Using these documents, a t ravel permit may be obtained from the Juzgado del Menor. This requirement does not apply to children who enter the country with a U.S. passport as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Bolivian citizenship or have been in Bolivia for more than 90 consecutive days.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The countrywide emergency number for the police, including highway patrol, is 110. The corresponding number for the fire department is 119. The National Tourism Police has an office in La Paz, with plans to expand to Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, providing free assistance to tourists 24 hours a day. These services include English-speaking officials who may assist tourists in filing police reports of lost/stolen documents or other valuables. The La Paz office is located at Plaza del Stadium, Edificio Olympia, planta baja, Miraflores, telephone number 222-0516.
Protests, strikes, and other civic actions can occur at any time and disrupt transportation on a local and national level. This is particularly true before, during and after elections or other changes in government. While protest actions generally begin peacefully, they have the potential to become violent. The police have used tear gas to break up protests. In addition to rallies and street demonstrations, protesters sometimes block roads; they sometimes react with force when travelers attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks and occasionally have used the threat of explosives to press their point.
U.S. citizens should avoid roadblocks and demonstrations. Demonstrations protesting government or private company policies occur frequently, even in otherwise peaceful times. Roadblocks and demonstrations in June 2005 led to the closure of the El Alto airport in La Paz, resulting in cancellation and diversion of flights and other inconveniences to travelers. U.S. citizens planning travel to or from Bolivia should take into consideration the possibility of disruptions to air service in and out of La Paz and other airports. Americans should monitor Bolivian media reports for updates. The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas where roadblocks or public demonstrations are occurring or planned. Political rallies should similarly be avoided in light of press reports of violence at some rallies in various parts of Bolivia.
U.S. citizens who find themselves in a roadblock should not attempt to "run" a roadblock, as this may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm. Taking alternative, safe routes, or returning to where the travel started may be the safest courses of action under these circumstances. U.S. citizens embarking on road trips should monitor news reports and may contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz at (591)(2)(216-8297 or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba at (591)(4)425-6714 and/or Santa Cruz at (591) (3) 351-3477 for updates. Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travelers for several days, travelers should take extra food and water. The U.S. Embassy also advises its employees to maintain at least one week's supply of drinking water and canned food in case roadblocks affect supplies, as occurred in June 2005. For more information on emergency preparedness, please consult the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) Web site at
Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register and update their contact information at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and/or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Registration may be done online and in advance of travel. Information on registering
In February and October 2003, approximately one hundred people died during violent demonstrations and protests in downtown La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto. These demonstrations also affected Cochabamba and other towns and villages in the Altiplano. While the protests and demonstrations subsided, many of the underlying social, political, and economic causes remain, and in March 2005, several intercity roads, including Bolivia's major east-west highway, were closed by blockades for several weeks.
Since 2000 the resort town of Sorata, located seventy miles north of La Paz, has been cut off by blockades on three occasions, ranging from one week to one month. Visitors contemplating travel to Sorata should contact the Consular Section in La Paz prior to travel.
In the Chapare region between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and the Yungas region northeast of La Paz violence and civil unrest, primarily associated with anti-narcotics activities, periodically create a risk for travelers to those regions.
Confrontations between area residents and government authorities over coca eradication have resulted in the use of tear gas and stronger force by government authorities to quell disturbances. Pro-coca groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests. U.S. citizen visitors to the Chapare or Yungas regions are encouraged to check with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy prior to travel. Violence has also erupted recently between squatters unlawfully invading private land and security forces attempting to remove them.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., 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: The U.S. Department of State currently classifies Bolivia as a medium to high crime threat country. Street crime, such as pick pocketing and theft from parked vehicles, occurs with some frequency in Bolivia. Theft of cars and car parts, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is common. Hijacking of vehicles has occurred, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to avoid being victimized. In November 2003, an American citizen was murdered during an attempted carjacking in Santa Cruz.
Bolivian police state that there are currently eight organized criminal groups operating in the La Paz area. The techniques employed by these groups vary, but there are a few major patterns that can be identified.
There have been reports of "false police" -- persons using police uniforms, identification, and even buildings modified to resemble police stations -- intercepting and robbing foreign tourists. Under Bolivian law, police need a warrant from the "fiscal" or prosecutor to detain a suspect. Any searches or seizures must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the fiscal. The warrant requirement also applies to suspected drug trafficking cases, although such searches and seizures may occur without a fiscal present. If detained, U.S. citizens should request to see the warrant and demand immediate contact with the nearest U.S. Consular Office (in La Paz, Cochabamba or Santa Cruz).
According to press reports, criminals using the "false police" method focus on foreigners in areas frequented by tourists including bus terminals and tourist markets such as Sagarnaga Street in La Paz. The perpetrators will identify a potential victim and have an accomplice typically driving a white taxi offer taxi services to the potential victim. They focus on European/American tourists who are not wearing a traditional "trekker" backpack and are traveling without a large number of bags. A few blocks after the potential victim boards the taxi another accomplice, pretending to be a recently arrived tourist, boards the taxi with the potential victim. With all the accomplices then in place, the "false police" stop the taxi, "search" the passengers, and rob the victim. As part of this scam, the false police may take the victim to a "false police" station.
A similar variation also introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This introduction can take place on a bus, taxi, train, or just walking down the street. The "tourist" will befriend the victims and might seek assistance in some manner. After a period of time, the "police" intercept the victims and the "tourist." At this point, the "police" discover some sort of contraband (usually drugs) on the "tourist." The entire group is then taken to the "police station." At this point, the "police" seize the documents, credit cards, and ATM cards of the victims. The perpetrators obtain pin numbers, sometimes by threat of violence, and the scam is complete.
Another technique again introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This "tourist" can be any race or gender and will probably be able to speak the language of the victims. This meeting can happen anywhere and the goal of the "tourist" is to build the trust of the victims. Once a certain level of trust is obtained, the "tourist" suggests a particular mode of transportation to a location (usually a taxi). The "taxi" picks up the victims and the "tourist" and delivers the group to a safe house in the area. At this point the victims are informed that they are now kidnapped and are forced to give up their credit cards and ATM cards with pin numbers.
Bolivian police sources state that two Austrian citizens fell victim to this scam and had their bank accounts emptied through use of their ATM card. The perpetrators then suffocated the victims and buried them in clandestine graves, where police found their bodies on April 3, 2006. During that timeframe, a Spanish citizen also purportedly fell prey to this scam, and his body was found nearby.
In most instances, the victims are released, but the murder of the victims is still a possibility. The techniques and the perpetrators are convincing. Authentic uniforms, badges, and props help persuade the victims that the situation is real and valid. All tourists visiting Bolivia should exercise extreme caution. Visitors should be suspicious of all "coincidences" that can happen on a trip. If the tourist has doubts about a situation, the tourist should immediately remove him/herself from the scene.
Thefts of bags, wallets, and backpacks are a problem throughout Bolivia, but especially in the tourist areas of downtown La Paz and the Altiplano. Most thefts involve two or three people who spot a potential victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, Internet café, etc. In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim, and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance. While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice grabs the bag or backpack and flees. In such a situation, the visitor should decline assistance, secure the bag/backpack, and walk briskly from the area. To steal wallets and bags, thieves may spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted, an accomplice takes the wallet or bag. At times the thief poses as a policeman, and requests that the person accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi. The visitor should indicate a desire to contact the U.S. Embassy and not enter the taxi. Under no circumstances should you surrender ATM or credit cards, or release a PIN number. While most thefts do not involve violence, in some instances the victim has been physically harmed and forcibly searched for hidden valuables. Visitors should avoid being alone on the streets, especially at night and in isolated areas.
Five years ago female tourists reported being drugged and raped by a tourist guide in the city of Rurrenabaque in the Beni region. Visitors should be careful when choosing a tour operator and should not accept any type of medication or drugs from unreliable sources. The Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults against female hikers in the Yungas Valley, near the town of Coroico. Visitors to Coroico are advised to avoid hiking alone or in small groups.
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 may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in large cities is adequate for most purposes but of varying quality. Ambulance services are limited-to-non-existent. Medical facilities are generally not adequate to handle serious medical conditions. Pharmacies are located throughout Bolivia, and prescription and over the counter medications are widely available. Western Bolivia, dominated by the Andes and high plains (Altiplano), is largely insect-free. However, altitude sickness (see below) is a major problem. Eastern Bolivia is tropical, and visitors to that area are subject to related illnesses. In March 2005, several cases of yellow fever were reported in the Chapare region. News media periodically report outbreaks of rabies, particularly in the larger cities.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at
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. Most medical evacuation flights cannot land at the airport serving La Paz due to the altitude; instead flights may need to use the international airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas
HIGH-ALTITUDE HEALTH RISKS: Official U.S. Government travelers to La Paz are provided with the following information: The altitude of La Paz ranges from 10,600 feet to over 13,000 feet (3,400 to 4,000 meters) above sea level. Much of Western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the cities of Oruro and Potosi. The altitude alone poses a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, if you have a medical condition that affects blood circulation or breathing.
Prior to departing the U.S. for high-altitude locations (over 10,000 feet above sea level), travelers should discuss the trip with their personal physician and request information on specific recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudes. Coca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude sickness in Bolivia. Possession of this tea, which is sold in bags in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States.
The State Department's Office of Medical Services does not allow official U.S. Government travelers to visit La Paz if they have any of the following:
Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: 30 percent of persons with sickle cell trait are likely to have a crisis at elevations of more than 8,000 feet.
Heart disease: A man 45 years or older, or a woman 55 years or older, who has two of the following risk factors (hypertension, angina, diabetes, cigarette smoking, or elevated cholesterol) should have a stress EKG and a cardiological evaluation before the trip.
Lung disease: Anyone with asthma and on maximum dosage of medication for daily maintenance, or anyone who has been hospitalized for asthma within the last year should not come to La Paz and surrounding areas.
Given potential complications from altitude sickness, pregnant women should consult their doctor before travel to La Paz and other high-altitude areas of Bolivia.
All people, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at high altitude. Most people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate. Many people will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes. Many travelers limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival and avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival.
For additional information, travelers should visit the World Health Organization's website at
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 Bolivia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. U.S. citizens planning on driving in Bolivia, despite the hazards described below, should obtain an international driver's license through their local automobile club before coming to Bolivia.
Road conditions in Bolivia are hazardous. Although La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba are connected by improved highways, the vast majority of roads in Bolivia are unpaved. Few highways have shoulders, fencing or barriers, and highway markings are minimal. Yielding for pedestrians in the cities is not the norm. For trips outside the major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended. Travel during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as most routes are potholed, and some roads and bridges are washed out. Added dangers are the absence of formal training for most drivers, poor maintenance and overloaded vehicles, lack of lights on some vehicles at night, and intoxicated or overly tired drivers, including commercial bus and truck drivers.
The majority of intercity travel in Bolivia is by bus, with varying levels of safety and service. In recent years there have been major bus crashes on the highway between La Paz and Oruro, and on the Yungas road. The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world. Taxis, vans, and buses dominate intracity transportation. From a crime perspective, public transportation is relatively safe and violent assaults are rare. However, petty theft of unattended backpacks and other personal items does occur. For reasons of safety, visitors are advised to use radio taxis whenever possible.
Drivers of vehicles involved in traffic accidents are expected to remain at the scene until the arrival of local police authorities. Any attempt to leave the scene is in violation of Bolivian law. The Embassy believes any attempt to flee the scene of an accident would place the driver and passengers at greater risk of harm than remaining at the scene until the arrival of local police. Please refer to our Road Safety page
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bolivia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Bolivia's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In the run-up to the July 2006 Constituent Assembly elections, President Morales accused the United States military of infiltrating Bolivia with operatives disguised as "students and tourists." As an apparent result of these comments, some U.S. citizens have reported harassment by Bolivian officials and been subjected to unwanted media attention. In one case, a local Bolivian newspaper wrongly identified an American citizen as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Americans planning on traveling to Bolivia should be aware of the political atmosphere and the possibility of unwanted attention from pro-governmental groups and other Bolivian officials.
For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at
Please see our information on customs regulations
MARRIAGE: Please see our information on marriage in Bolivia
MOUNTAIN TREKKING AND CLIMBING SAFETY: U.S. citizens are advised to exercise extreme care when trekking or climbing in Bolivia. Since June 2002, four American citizens have died in falls while mountain climbing in Bolivia. Three of the deaths occurred on Illimani, a 6,402-meter peak located southeast of La Paz. Many popular trekking routes in the Bolivian Andes cross passes as high as 16,000 feet. Trekkers must have adequate clothing and equipment, not always available locally, and should be experienced mountain travelers. It is not prudent to trek alone. Solo trekking is the most significant factor contributing to injuries and robberies. The safest option is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm to provide an experienced guide and porter who can communicate in both Spanish and English. If you develop any of the following symptoms while climbing at altitude - severe headache, weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath at rest, cough, chest tightness, unsteadiness - descend to a lower altitude immediately. Trekkers and climbers are strongly encouraged to purchase adequate insurance to cover expenses in case of injury or death.
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 Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bolivia 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
It often takes years to reach a decision in Bolivian legal cases, whether involving property disputes, civil, or criminal matters. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court can order a defendant held in jail for the duration of the case. Prison conditions are primitive, and prisoners are expected to pay for food and lodging. For further information, please see the Annual Human Rights Report for Bolivia at
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consular Agency through the State Department's travel registration website,
The U.S. Embassy is located at 2780 Avenida Arce in La Paz, between calles Cordero and Campos; telephone (591-2) 216-8297 during business hours 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or (591-2) 216-8000 for after-hours emergencies; fax (591-2) 216-8808; Internet
There are two consular agencies in Bolivia, which provide limited services to American citizens, but are not authorized to issue passports. Anyone requesting service at one of the consular agencies should call ahead to verify that the service requested would be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.
Santa Cruz: The Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is located at 146 Avenida Roque Aguilera (Tercer Anillo); telephone (591-3) 351-3477, 351-3479, or 351-3480; fax (591-3) 351-3478. The U.S. Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is open to the public Mondays from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 2:00PM to 5:00PM and on Tuesday through Friday from 09:00 to 12:30, except U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
Cochabamba: The Consular Agency in Cochabamba is located at Avenida Oquendo 654, Torres Sofer, room 601; telephone (591-4) 411-6313; fax (591-4) 425 -6714. The U.S. Consular Agency in Cochabamba is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, excluding U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 4, 2006 to update Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Marriage, Special Circumstances and web links.
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- Laguna Negra virus (small vesper mouse, _Calomys laucha_ <http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomyslaucha.html> and large vesper mouse, _C. callosus_
An image of _C. musculinus_, the drylands vesper mouse, can be seen at
<http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomysmusculinus.html>. - ProMED Mod.TY]
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
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Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Climate: Malawi is in the southern hemisphere and experiences a fairly typical sub-tropical climate with a rainy season from around October to May each year.
Dress Code: Quite uniquely Malawi has always had quite a strong dress-code applied for travellers and many tourists have found it necessary to change into more modest garments on request from the authorities. It is probably wise not to be the one to act too differently and to at least start with this in mind when arriving into the country. This includes avoiding short dresses for women and long unkept hair for men.
Banking Facilities: There are some ATM's in the main cities but generally they may not accept an international bank card. Credit cards are not accepted outside the main urban areas.
Security and Safety: In many regions of the world the level of crime and personal risk rises after nightfall. Malawi is no different in this respect and so travelling throughout the country at night is not recommended. It is especially unwise to walk in main cities during the hours of darkness.
Medical Facilities: Generally medical facilities throughout Malawi are limited and anyone with a serious illness would be recommended to move to more adequate facilities in either Zambia, Zimbabwe or ideally to South Africa if at all possible. Travellers on any personal medication should ensure that they carry sufficient supplies for the duration of their time abroad.
East African Safari: Many travel through Malawi on their way between Nairobi in Kenya and Capetown in South Africa. The road infrastructure and other facilities along this route is frequently difficult and it is unwise to consider travelling alone. Being part of an organised respected safari group is a very much wiser option. Even then it is essential to 'assess' the professionalism of the specific group you are travelling with during the first few days before granting them total control of your safety. It is important to listen to the leaders advice on the safety of food & water and their opinion on the necessity for adequate malaria prophylaxis to see if they can be trusted. Generally the answer is that among the well known groups there are excellent and superbly professional guides so this is not often an issue.
Food & Water: Like any trip to the tropics, what you eat and drink will largely determine how well you remain. Eat hot recently cooked food and steer clear of any street vendors. Eat what you know your stomach likes as otherwise it will be quick enough to tell you - often in the most unpleasant ways! Water is essential for survival but, despite this, it is better to remain thirsty for a short while rather than drink anything potentially contaminated. A cup of tea is often safer (if taken from a clean cup) as the water will have been boiled. Even when brushing your teeth make sure you use boiled filtered water if safe bottled water is unavailable.
Lake Malawi: It is hot. Everyone else is swimming in the Lake and they say it is safe. The answer is no, as unfortunately this is without doubt not the case, no matter what you hear. Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) is a parasitic disease which abounds in Lake Malawi and can infect a person very easily - even from very minimal contact with the water. This can occur from paddling along the water edge or showering close to the lakeside where the same water is used. If you do partake make certain that you report to medical staff on your return home so this risk can be adequately checked through as appropriate.
Sun Exposure & Dehydration: Africa is a hot continent and regularly travellers become quite significantly dehydrated as their water intake may not be sufficiently high to cope with the loss through perspiration. Also, at this time, salt is removed from the body and this may lead to tiredness, headaches and muscular crampy pains etc. It is important to increase your fluid intake and (for most travellers quite safely) to increase the amount of salt you take with your meals. Avoid salt tablets as these are unnecessary and can be quite harmful.
Malaria: There is a considerable risk of contracting Malaria in this region throughout the year - even in the dry season. Adequate insect repellents, good mosquito nets for night time, covering your arms and legs and appropriate malaria tablets are all essential. Don't take any chance as you protect yourself again malaria. It is a killing disease and yet with care you can significantly help to protect yourself. The tablets do not however provide 100% cover.
Vaccines: There are no essential vaccines required for entry into Malawi - unless you are coming from a Yellow Fever country. However, it is always recommended that you ensure you are covered against a number of different diseases before your trip and this all needs to be talked through well before leaving home. The doctor at that time can also discuss some of the other extremely important health issues relating to Malawi to try to ensure that you remain safe and healthy.
Summary: Malawi is a beautiful country with a lot to offer for the wise traveller. However staying healthy and well is essential and taking unnecessary risks with your long term health is foolhardy.
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By Jack MCBRAMS
Lilongwe, Malawi, April 23, 2019 (AFP) - Malawi on Tuesday rolled out the world's first licensed malaria vaccine in a landmark campaign against a disease that each year kills hundreds of thousands of people, especially African children. After more than three decades in development and almost $1 billion (890 million euros) in investment, the new vaccine began to be distributed in Malawi's capital Lilongwe. It will be extended to Kenya and Ghana in coming weeks. "We have seen tremendous gains from bed nets and other measures to control malaria in the last 15 years but progress has stalled and even reversed in some areas," World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "We need new solutions to get the malaria response back on track, and this vaccine gives us a promising tool to get there."
Known by its lab initials as RTS,S but branded Mosquirix, the vaccine has passed lengthy scientific trials, which found it to be safe and reduced the risk of malaria by nearly 40 percent -- the best-ever recorded. It was approved by European regulators in 2015. But Mosquirix provides only a partial protection, which means it has to be supplemented by traditional anti-malaria tools such as insecticide-treated bed nets. In addition, four successive doses must be administered on a strict timetable for it to work -- a relatively onerous schedule in rural Africa. The three-country programme aims to immunise 360,000 children aged two years and under, partly to get a wider view on the vaccine's effectiveness but also to see whether the delivery process is feasible.
- Promising weapon -
The first vaccinations were administered at Mitundu Health Centre, 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of Lilongwe. "This new vaccination is a new tool for the control and elimination of malaria in this country," Michael Kayange, deputy director in Malawi's health ministry, told AFP. Kayange said that the vaccine had the capacity to prevent one million of the six million malaria cases recorded annually in Malawi, helping to prevent 4,000 deaths. "So, this vaccine is a huge plus to Malawi," he said. Mosquirix has been developed by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. Its scientific testing including five years of clinical trials on 15,000 people in seven countries. Scientists say if it was rolled out on a large scale it could save hundreds of thousands of lives.
The WHO believes that the new vaccine brings a key new tool in addition to mosquito nets, insecticides and drugs in the battle against a disease which kills a child every two minutes. Malaria is spread to people through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitoes who transfer the malarial parasite when they take a blood meal. The WHO says malaria killed 435,000 people in 2017. The number of cases climbed to 219 million in 2017, two million more than in 2016. More than 90 percent of cases occurred in Africa. The fight against the disease has been complicated by mosquitoes building up resistance to commonly-used drugs, according to the WHO. "Despite gains over the last decade, we have seen a stagnation in malaria control efforts in recent years," said researcher Jonathan Juliano from the University of North Carolina. "In certain areas of Africa, we have actually seen rates of malaria infection get worse.
- 'Milestone' -
CEO of PATH Steve Davis described the vaccine's launch as a "historic milestone". "A vaccine for malaria is among many innovations needed to bring an end to this disease," said Davis. GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines' chief medical officer, Thomas Breuer said "delivering the world's first malaria vaccine will help reduce the burden of one of the most pressing health challenges globally". Malawi, Ghana and Kenya were selected for the rollout because their malaria rates are high and they have a long history of use of bed nets and other preventative measures. Despite concerns over the recent rise in malaria cases, the numbers dying from the disease has fallen nearly two-thirds since the turn of the century.
Lilongwe, Malawi, April 21, 2019 (AFP) - Three people died after a landslide hit a village in the Rumphi district in northern Malawi, with at least five still missing Sunday and many others injured and hospitalised. Rumphi police spokesperson Tupeliwe Kabwilo told AFP that incessant rains in the area led to the landslide early Saturday which washed away an entire village nestled between Mphompha Hills and Lake Malawi. Among the dead are two boys aged 12 and 15 and a 35-year-old woman, according to police. The missing persons, who are feared dead, include a one-year-old boy, two other boys aged six and 10 as well as two women aged 35 and 46.
A Rumphi district council official who was at the scene of the disaster told AFP that the affected area was inaccessible by road and it would be impossible to mount a rescue operation. "Huge boulders rolled from the mountain and these are the ones that cause the biggest damage and if the missing victims are buried under these rocks, then we will need an excavator to move them." said council official Wakisa Mtete. "But there is no access by road to the area so this is an impossible task. The boulders are so big that moving them by hand is not possible," Mtete said. He added that it was also possible for some of the missing bodies to have been washed into the lake, in which case the bodies would resurface within the next two days.
Disaster management officer Alufeyo Mhango told AFP that government ministries were preparing to step in to transport heavy duty excavation equipment over the lake as soon as the weather cleared. "We have been informed by government ministries that we should get ready to transport the equipment. But this will depend on whether we get a large boat for that and on whether the hailstorm stops because there could be a recurrence of the landslide," he said. According to Mhango, Police officers, soldiers and emergency personnel are on site attending to the disaster.
The Middle East is a favourite destination for many Irish holiday makers. The combination of a beautiful climate linked with such historical richness is hard to beat. Unfortunately the
Security throughout the Middle East is generally tight. Carry some means of identification at all times in case you are requested to produce it by police or army personnel. In Jerusalem the city has been divided and it is sensible to remember which quarter you are in at all times.
Generally the health facilities throughout the region are excellent. However, when visiting certain rural regions you may find it difficult to obtain hospital care similar to that at home. In Israel, travellers can find information in English about emergency medical facilities and after-hours pharmacies in the "Jerusalem Post" and English language "Ha'aretz" newspapers.
Food & Water Facilities:
Again, this depends on your location and the facilities which are there at the time of the year you visit. Bottled water is easily available and food hygiene is usually excellent throughout all the main tourist destinations. However, it is generally wiser not to drink hotel tap water and only to use it for brushing your teeth if there is a clear smell of chlorine. When on organised trips tourists are sometimes offered local tea or other drinks. Generally this will be safe as the water is boiled but take care that the cup hygiene is acceptable.
The climatic conditions in the Middle East vary considerably throughout the year. Many tourists visit in late autumn or early spring. At these times the climate is much cooler and the evenings can be distinctly chilly. However, during the main tourist season (May to September) the temperatures rise high into the 80’s or 90’s and dehydration can easily occur. Increasing fluid and salt intake is important under these circumstances. It is essential that travellers are aware of the climatic conditions which should be present for their trip and that sensible clothing is used at all times.
Tourists should avoid all animals as this viral disease is transmitted through the bite, lick or scratch of any infected warm blooded animal. In Israel the most common animals involved are foxes and jackals and in Jordan, dogs tend to be the main culprits.
Exploring the Region:
Leaving the main tourist routes is unwise. There are a number of security risks which have to be considered and there are also significant health concerns which may be encountered. In July 2000 an 18 year old American tourist died of sunstroke when she became separated from her group in the Dead Sea region of Israel. Those exploring caves and parts of the desert areas also run the risk of diseases like Borreliosis and Rabies.
Walking & Trekking:
For many going to these countries their trip will involve visiting some of the major ruins and archeological sites. This will involve a good deal of walking and trekking. Good supporting foot wear is essential and it would be wise to carry a crepe bandage in case of a sprained ankle. Having a suitable painkiller or anti-inflammatory medication would also be advantageous. Check your health will be up to the journey.
Pools are usually very well maintained and the risk of disease is small. Those swimming in the sea should remember that the Mediterranean is home to many jelly fish. Swim with others and never alone and especially after alcohol or a heavy meal.
This bacterial disease is rare in the Middle east though travellers should be aware that it can be transmitted through unprepared leather goods usually bought in the local market places. Typically the disease may then present with a black ulcerated skin lesion.
Fortunately this disease does not occur in Israel or Jordan. However other mosquito and sandfly diseases do occur and so protection against their bites should be used when necessary.
There are many forms of this disease but the most common is Hepatitis A, often known as Infectious Jaundice. This disease can keep an infected individual off work for many weeks and it is wise to consider vaccination cover before exposure. In Israel approx 65% of the population will have been infected before 18 years of age.
There are no essential vaccines for entry/exit however most Irish tourists are recommended to receive cover against; Poliomyelitis, Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A. Those living in these countries or planning an extended trip should also consider cover against Hepatitis B and Rabies.
Due to the unrest within Israel there are concerns regarding the safety of tourists at this time. If you are travelling to this region it is wise to ensure that your insurance policy is sufficient if your circumstances or travel plans change.
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Jerusalem, Aug 14, 2019 (AFP) - An Israeli flight attendant has died months after contracting measles on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv, Israel's health ministry and local media said Wednesday. Rotem Amitai, 43 and a mother of three, was hospitalised in March following the flight with Israeli airline El Al, Israeli media reported.
She died on Tuesday at a hospital near the coastal city of Tel Aviv, a hospital spokeswoman said. The health ministry confirmed her death and said her condition had been complicated by encephalitis, inflammation of the brain. "The immediate cause of death was not defined as measles," it said in a statement. "However, the disability (caused by) the disease was a secondary cause."
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that measles cases had nearly tripled globally during the first seven months of the year compared to the same period in 2018. The global body warned against "misinformation about vaccines". The so-called anti-vax movement -- driven by fraudulent claims linking the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella to a risk of autism in children -- has gained traction.
So far this year, 364,808 measles cases have been reported around the world, compared to 129,239 cases during the first seven months a year earlier -- the highest registered since 2006. Amitai's death was the first related to measles in Israel this year, following two last year, according to the ministry. The highly contagious disease can be entirely prevented through a two-dose vaccine. Amitai had only received one dose, Israeli media reported.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Ukraine registered the highest number of cases, WHO said. The United States has registered 1,164 cases so far this year, up from 372 for the whole of 2018 and the highest number on record in a quarter-century. Nearly 90,000 cases have been registered in Europe this year -- well above the 84,462 cases registered last year. The airborne infection, which causes fever, coughing and rashes that can be deadly in rare cases -- had been officially eliminated in many countries with advanced healthcare systems.
Jerusalem, July 26, 2019 (AFP) - A forest fire in northern Israel's Galilee region is threatening a church where Christians believe the transfiguration of Jesus took place, the fire service said Friday. It said in a statement that the blaze broke out on Thursday and monks were evacuated from the Basilica of the Transfiguration overnight.
Fanned by strong winds the flames still menaced the church on Friday afternoon, fire service spokesman Dudi Peretz told AFP. "An additional front of the fire is at the moment advancing toward the church," he said in Hebrew. "The fire's centre is far from main roads and the topography of the area and difficulty of access are hindering the work of the firefighting teams." He said that the church itself had so far not been damaged. Police said that arson was not suspected. Israel has been gripped by record high temperatures accompanied by drought and strong winds over the past week, with wildfires reported across the country.
The basilica, built in 1924, by the Roman Catholic Franciscan order, sits atop the wooded Mount Tabor at a site where the Christian gospels say that Jesus -- accompanied by disciples Peter, John and James -- glowed with light and spoke with the prophets Moses and Elijah. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit the church every year, according to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees Roman Catholic properties in the area. In a statement Friday it accused Israeli authorities of neglecting essential infrastructure at the site, failing to provide a proper water supply. The fire, it said,"is a direct consequence of state negligence".
Kenya is situated on the east coast of Tropical Africa and is one of the most popular tourist resorts in the continent. The country is bounded by Ethiopia and Somalia in the north, Ugan
Nairobi is situated at approx. 6000' and has a mild climate throughout the year. Malaria prophylaxis is not usually recommended for those visiting Nairobi city alone. The main rains tend to fall in April and May or October and November. The annual rainfall tends to be about 39 inches but significant variations can occur. Mombasa, on the coast, has a much more tropical climate and travellers will need to take more care with regard to personal hygiene and also serious protection against mosquito bites.
Health Care Facilities:
In general, travellers to Nairobi find that the level of health care facilities are good. All doctors in Kenya speak English and the level of care they provide is usually excellent for the holiday maker. As in many other countries in central Africa, the screening of blood against various viral agents cannot be assured and so travellers should avoid all but essential of blood transfusions. Sterile needles and syringes are in good supply in the major towns and so a syringe kit is not usually necessary. All of the larger hotels will have their own English speaking medical officer, though travellers are usually asked to pay cash. There are many hotels and restaurants providing excellent menu facilities and food borne disease can usually be traced to eating salads or undercooked bivalve shellfish.
Swimming in Kenya:
In all the major tourist resorts throughout Kenya there are swimming pools and these are usually the best places to indulge. On the coast the sand is exceptionally fine and it feels as if you are walking on flour. Just be careful of local strong currents and don't swim out to the coral. Watch out for the sea urchins. Their spines are very uncomfortable and may need to be extracted by medical staff. Keep your children in view at all times and warn them to take care. If you are trekking around Kenya or on Safari don't go swimming in any fresh water rivers or lakes. There is a disease called Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) which will penetrate through your skin and may cause serious problems in the future.
Rabies in Kenya:
This viral disease occurs throughout Kenya and is a significant risk for travellers who are going away from the major tourist areas. Keep clear of all warm blooded animals and if you are bitten (even licked or scratched) wash out the area immediately, apply an antiseptic and get medical attention. Even though the risk of Rabies for the traveller is very small don't ever disregard a contact of this type. The beach hotels near Mombasa are favourite haunts for monkeys. Don’t feed them and stay clear. Report any bite (lick or scratch) immediately. Watch your children at all times.
Trekking through Kenya:
Some travellers to Kenya will have no particular itinerary planned and so start their holiday from either Nairobi of Mombasa. Those planning to go off the beaten track should register with the Irish Counsel. Great care should always be exercised as each year too many tourists have significant problems while trekking off the usual routes. The major risks revolve around food and water borne disease, the risk of rabies, altitude sickness on Mount Kenya, being robbed or simply getting lost!
Tips for Trekkers
Always plan your trip well in advance
Make sure that you know about personal health and general food & water hygiene.
Check in frequently
Never travel alone
Make sure you have plenty of clean water
Stick to your itinerary
If you are in trouble, admit it!
The Risk of Malaria:
In Kenya, malaria poses a very real risk outside Nairobi. One of the highest risk areas is Mombasa which is where many travellers will find themselves at some time. Malaria is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito and so the first line of defence is to protect yourself against mosquito bites. (see leaflet on Protection against Insect Bites - Tropical Medical Bureau). Also it is essential to take your prescribed malaria tablets on a regular basis. Only stop your tablets under exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless, the traveller must remember that there is no perfect protection against malaria and the disease can still occur even after all the precautions have been taken. So be aware that any peculiar symptoms (especially 'flu) for at least a year after your trip will need to be checked out.
After your Journey:
Just remember that some tropical diseases may not become evident for weeks or even months after your trip. If you are ill within a year of your journey always seek medical help.
General travel health information may be obtained from the Tropical Medical Bureau at any of our centres. Please remember, every traveller will require a specialised consultation and this leaflet only contains general guideline information.
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Nairobi, Sept 13, 2019 (AFP) - Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world's first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day. The vaccine -- lab name RTS,S -- targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-born illness.
Kenya joins Malawi and Ghana, which commenced their own pilot programs for the vaccine supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this year. The vaccine will be introduced in phases across malaria-endemic parts of western Kenya near Lake Victoria, starting with Homa Bay, the country's health ministry said. "It's an exciting time for Kenya as we roll out this vaccine in parts of the country where the burden of malaria is the highest," Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said in a statement. RTS,S will be added to the national immunisation schedule in these areas, given alongside other routine shots for children under two.
The health ministry said 120,000 Kenyan children were expected to be vaccinated under the pilot programme. The country has distributed insecticide-treated mosquito nets, fumigated homes and improved diagnostics in its fight against malaria. But the disease remains stubborn. The health ministry says malaria claimed more than 10,000 lives in 2016, and infected millions more. As in the rest of the world, children in Kenya bear the brunt of the disease. Up to 27 percent of Kenyan children under five have been infected with the disease, the health ministry said. "This vaccine represents an additional tool that will boost Kenya's efforts in reducing malaria infections and deaths among children," Kariuki said. WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world.
- 30 years in making -
Known under its commercial name as Mosquirix, the vaccine was developed over 30 years by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with nonprofit PATH and African research institutes. It is the only vaccine to date to show a protective effect against malaria in young children, WHO says. It acts against Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest malarial parasite and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remain high despite some gains. The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children. The vaccine prevented about four in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.
Evidence gained from the vaccine pilot schemes could guide decisions about whether RTS,S is rolled out more widely in future, WHO says. "This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades," Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO's co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told AFP before the Kenyan launch. "Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria." The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 are under five. Most are in Africa, where more than 90 percent of the world's malaria cases -- and fatalities -- occur.
Nairobi, Sept 2, 2019 (AFP) - Kenyan authorities said Monday they have recovered the bodies of six of seven members of a tour group who were killed in a flash flood at the Hell's Gate national park. "Six bodies of the flash flood victims have been recovered, leaving one tourist missing," the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on Twitter. The KWS manages the park, the location of the 2003 film "Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life". It said the search and rescue operation was continuing and the authorities have sought to contact the next of kin. Six tourists - five Kenyans and a foreigner -- and their local guide were swept away in the flash flood as they were visiting the park on Sunday, part of a group of 13. Two survivors from the group alerted park rangers who sent out a search party.
The deep gorges of the Hell's Gate park are often lashed by heavy rains. In 2012, seven young Kenyans drowned at the same spot in the Ol Jorowa gorge in the south of the park. The tour guides have "been trained to detect storm water flowing downstream towards the gorge," the KWS said. "Every group is usually accompanied by experienced guides who are able to alert tourists of impending emergencies and direct them to exit points. "Since the last similar tragedy in 2012, we have created clearly marked emergency exists along the whole gorge as escape routes in case of danger like the flash floods." It said on Sunday that the gorges were closed to the public as the rains are continuing. Hell's Gate, named by 19th-century explorers, is around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of the Kenyan capital Nairobi and just south of Lake Naivasha. Its spectacular scenery inspired the Disney animation "The Lion King". The park, established in 1984, is also home to three geothermal stations.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
World Travel News Headlines
KHARTOUM, 11 October 2019 - "Sudan has launched an oral cholera vaccination campaign in response to the ongoing outbreak of cholera. More than 1.6 million people aged one year and above in the Blue Nile and Sinnar states will be vaccinated over the coming five days. “The announcement of the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan on the cholera outbreak last month allowed national and state authorities, and health partners, to act quickly and respond to the outbreak.
“Since the announcement on 8 September, 262 cases of suspected cholera and eight related deaths have been reported as of 9 October in the Blue Nile and Sinnar states. No cholera-related deaths have been reported since mid-September. “The vaccines were procured and successfully shipped using funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. In addition, Gavi is providing nearly US$ 2 million to cover operational costs for the campaign.
“We joined efforts to respond as quickly as possible to contain the current outbreak of cholera and prevent it from spreading further in Sudan. The vaccination campaign kicking off today in combination with other measures including scaling up water, sanitation and hygiene activities, enhancing surveillance, prepositioning supplies and case management, will help protect people who are at highest risk.
“The first round of the campaign will conclude on 16 October and will be followed by a second round in four to six weeks to provide an additional dose to ensure people are protected for at least the next three years. “As part of the campaign, over 3,560 vaccinators, more than 2,240 social mobilizers, and almost 70 independent monitors have been trained and deployed to the two affected states.”
Paris, Oct 20, 2019 (AFP) - French rail services ground to a halt in parts of the country Sunday as workers walked off the job for a third day in a dispute over train staffing levels, stranding holiday travellers. Services in the Paris suburbs, the northeastern Champagne-Ardenne region and the southern Occitanie region, which includes Toulouse and Montpellier, were particularly affected. The state railway company SNCF said most services would return to normal on Monday.
The industrial action began on Friday after a train in north-eastern France slammed into a truck at a level crossing, injuring 11 people. The train driver was himself among those hurt but being the sole employee of state railway company SNCF on board had to help take care of passengers. Unions said the incident highlighted understaffing on trains, notably the absence of ticket inspectors on some lines.
Since Friday, staff have been exercising their "right to withdraw" their labour -- a clause that allows workers to walk off the job in case of "clear and present danger to their life or health". SNCF's management has accused the workers of abusing that right on a busy weekend for train travel, at the start of the mid-autumn school holidays. It argues that some train lines have not had ticket inspectors for decades.
Frankfurt am Main, Oct 20, 2019 (AFP) - Cabin crew at four Lufthansa subsidiary airlines staged a day-long strike Sunday, causing dozens of cancellations at German airports in a battle for better pay and conditions. The walkout, called by the UFO cabin crew union, was initially set to last from 5:00 am until 11:00 am (0300-0900 GMT) but a worsening spat with Lufthansa bosses prompted the union to extend the strike until midnight.
The industrial action at Eurowings, Germanwings, SunExpress and Lufthansa CityLine led to over 100 flight cancellations, mainly hitting short-haul journeys at Hamburg airport, Munich, Berlin-Tegel, Cologne and Stuttgart, according to DPA news agency. Frankfurt airport, the country's busiest, reported "only a few" cancellations, affecting CityLine flights.
In a statement, UFO said it had ramped up the strike after the Lufthansa group told employees the walkouts were "illegal" and "endanger your jobs". "This is not only wrong, it also signals the next level in the threats against cabin crew colleagues," UFO said. "This behaviour must be stopped." But the Lufthansa group downplayed the impact of the strike, with a spokesman telling DPA that "more than 90 percent of the crew members showed up on time for their shift".
The union had previously called off plans for Lufthansa workers to join Sunday's warning strike after the company offered a surprise two-percent pay hike to flight attendants at the flagship airline. But other demands for better conditions have yet to be met and UFO has not ruled out further action, with fresh talks at all five airlines scheduled for Monday. Bosses at the Lufthansa group believe UFO may no longer have the legal right to speak for workers and have challenged its status in court. Internal disputes at the union have cost it members and support among cabin crew, some of whom have now turned to other representative organisations.
Niamey, Oct 20, 2019 (AFP) - Floods in southeast Niger have forced 23,000 people to flee their homes since early October, officials said Saturday, threatening a new humanitarian crisis in a region already wracked by Boko Haram Islamist violence. Heavy rains have caused the Komadougou Yobe river that flows through the semi-desert Diffa region into Lake Chad to burst its banks, inundating villages, flooding fields and damaging crops. Two villages near the city of Diffa were "completely submerged" and 2,500 households have been forced to move, according to national radio the Voice of the Sahel.
Some 400 families were sheltering in a gym in the city, it added. "We have been fighting for days to stop the water rising, but it's not working," Amadou Issa, a rice farmer, told AFP. "The sandbags we've been using to keep the water out are completely under water." Extreme weather events are common in Niger, one of the world's poorest countries. Between June and September 57 people were killed and more than 130,000 affected by flooding according to government figures.
The capital Niamey was hit badly in September, with the waters of the Niger river -- the third biggest in Africa -- rising to a level not seen in more than 50 years and swamping parts of the city. Last year, drought and flooding led to food shortages in a crisis which, exacerbated by jihadist violence, left more than 10 percent of the population needing humanitarian aid. Niger, along with neighbouring Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania is also struggling against escalating attacks by armed Islamists. According to the UN's human rights agency UNHCR, the Diffa region is home to almost 120,000 refugees and 109,000 internally displaced people.
Washington, Oct 18, 2019 (AFP) - The US moved to further hurt Cuba's vital tourism industry by tightening the ability of the country's airlines to lease aircraft. The US Department of Commerce said it was revoking existing licenses for US companies leasing aircraft to Cuban carriers, and will deny future applications for aircraft leases. The move could make it harder for Cuba to service its rapidly growing tourism sector, a key source of foreign revenue for the poor country.
Washington has stepped up pressure on Havana due to its support for the embattled regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. "This action by the Commerce Department sends another clear message to the Cuban regime -- that they must immediately cease their destructive behaviour at home and abroad," Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear how many aircraft the move would impact. Cuba's cash-poor carriers depend on aircraft rented from leasing companies or other airlines, which are often very old. In May 2018, 112 people died in the crash of a 39-year-old Boeing 737 leased by national carrier Cubana de Aviacion from a small Mexican firm, Global Air.
In June of this year, US President Donald Trump announced a US ban on cruise ship stopovers by Americans on the island, forcing Havana to cut its 2019 tourism target by 15 percent to 4.3 million visitors. Nearly 900,000 tourists visited the island on cruise ships last year, and almost 40 percent were American, according to official figures. The announcement Friday also expanded restrictions on imports from Cuba and on products with US content that can be sold to the country.
Accra, Oct 18, 2019 (AFP) - Floods caused by eight days of torrential downpours in north-eastern Ghana have left 28 people dead and displaced hundreds, officials said Friday. "At the moment the death toll is 28. About 640 people in some six communities have been displaced and we are providing shelters for them," George Ayisi, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Organisation, told AFP. "We've counted about 286 collapsed houses during this disaster and that is making life difficult for the people."
Relief items were being transported 800 kilometres (500 miles) by road from the capital Accra to the affected region on the border with Burkina Faso as meteorologists warned the rains could last into November. "We have to just prepare for anything," Ayisi said. So far this year 46 people have been killed in floods in the West African nation, the disaster relief agency said. Flooding in northern and other parts of Ghana happens each year during the rainy season. Last year, 34 people died in northern Ghana during flooding caused by heavy rains and waters spilling from a dam in Burkina Faso.
By Patrick FORT
Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, Oct 18, 2019 (AFP) - "They've placed us in the red zone, which means the tourists aren't coming like before. Even the aid workers don't come," said Antoine Atiou, governor of Burkina Faso's Hauts-Bassins region. The "red zone" refers to the risk of jihadist attacks -- a top-end warning by Western embassies to travellers wanting to visit southwest Burkina and the economic capital, Bobo-Dioulasso, once a popular tourist destination. The impact has been brutal for local businesses. The city's hotels have emptied, its heritage sites are quiet and the souvenir shops shuttered. "It's hard, hard, hard!... We haven't seen a tourist for a fortnight," said Sanou Moumouni, a guide at the city's mosque and in the historic Kibidwe district for 22 years. In the past he could sometimes earn 100,000 CFA francs ($167, 150 euros) in two days, he said, but he has not made 5,000 francs in the last three months. "I'm living on loans," he said. "We no longer have work because of the murderers. We're sick of it." The north and the east of the landlocked country in West Africa endure frequent Islamist attacks, which have claimed some 600 lives in the past four years. There have also been some raids in the west.
In December 2018, an Italian man and his Canadian companion were kidnapped on the road from Bobo to the capital Ouagadougou. Last April, the Burkinabe government said it had information that the couple was still alive, but might have been taken to another country. Bobo-Dioulassou itself has been relatively spared as the jihadist threat expands across poor nations of Africa's Sahel region. Ministry of tourism statistics from 2017 show that of about half a million annual visitors to Burkina Faso, fewer than 150,000 came from abroad -- down 5.6 percent from 2015. The number of nights stayed in the country by Westerners fell from 30,000 in 2012 to fewer than 15,000 in 2017. "This trend has probably sped up in 2018 and 2019," a local tour operator said.
- Crafts and wonders -
Renowned for its traditional masks, its batik print textiles and the balafon -- a West African instrument like a xylophone -- Bobo attracted thousands of Western tourists. The Lonely Planet guide, which notes the security situation currently prohibits travel, says the city's "tree-lined streets exude a languid, semitropical atmosphere that makes it a favourite rest stop for travellers", adding that highlights include a "thriving live-music scene and excellent restaurants".
The city itself has an array of charms, with its grand railway station, bustling market and striking Great Mosque -- an undulating white-plastered mud structure studded with wooden poles that dominates the historic centre. Bobo-Dioulasso is a jumping-off point to visit regional highlights like the ruined fortress of Loropeni, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was also a base for exploring the Dogon country in Mali, Ivory Coast and Ghana. "Everyone came through Bobo. We really were a tourist region. Now it's over," said Benjamin Ouedraogo, owner of the Watinoma hotel and president of the professional association of hotel and restaurant owners in High Basins. He said hotels in the region only do a third of the business they did before the attacks To avoid closing his hotel, Ouedraogo took on a second job in the building trade. "We asked for help, but state aid is a disaster," he said, explaining that the authorities rejected applications for tax rebates and preferential tariffs on water and electricity.
- 'We subsist' -
In Kibidwe, an old neighbourhood of the city near the mosque, children play in alleys and women wash clothes in the open air, but most of the shops that catered for tourists are now shut. Sanon Bissiri, an artist, was quick to bring out his batik prints on spotting Western journalists. "I don't hang them every day any more, that's pointless. Since July, I haven't even sold two. All this because of those jihadists. Now I have to do masonry whenever I'm wanted." Bissiri used to sell his textiles to an Italian association that made regular visits. "That's over. We just get by. It's my wife who meets our needs," he said. "I come in to work each day on foot, six kilometres (nearly four miles). I can't afford medicine for my son with his cough." Bobo's nightlife is not what it was, though the locally-brewed beer is the same. "There's still a little activity with Burkinabe visitors," said musician Gaoussou Ben Sanou. But "there's less money, fewer dates, fewer gigs. We can't sell records". Governor Atiou said people were reluctant to go out. "All that weighs on economic activity. Unfortunately, this is the aim of the terrorists."
Manila, Oct 17, 2019 (AFP) - Five people were killed and dozens were injured after a powerful earthquake hit the southern Philippines, authorities said Thursday. The 6.4-magnitude quake struck the Mindanao region on Wednesday night, reducing dozens of houses to rubble on the southern third of the Philippines. On Thursday afternoon, authorities said five people were killed and 53 injured, mainly in a cluster of small farming towns. Three people were killed in landslides while another was crushed by the collapsed wall of a house. The fifth suffered a fatal heart attack, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. No fatalities were reported in Mindanao's major cities. Local authorities had earlier told AFP three children were among the dead. The Philippine seismology office has recorded more than 300 weaker aftershocks in the area since the big quake, but authorities said they do not expect the toll to rise significantly.
The disaster council's spokesman Mark Timbal told local television it had not received any reports of missing people from any of the quake-hit areas. "People have returned home... They are OK now, unlike last night when they were terrified and slept on roads beside their homes," Zaldy Ortiz, civil defence officer of Magsaysay town, told AFP. Local school and government holidays were announced in Magsaysay, where the landslides struck, to allow building inspectors to check structures for damage, Ortiz added. Power was being restored in the bigger cities, but there was substantial damage to some hospitals, government buildings, schools, churches and houses in the small towns, the council said in a report. In General Santos City, firefighters on Thursday finally put out a blaze that started at a shopping mall shortly after the quake. The Philippines is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
By Tom LITTLE
Kulusuk, Denmark, Oct 17, 2019 (AFP) - Kayaking past blue-white icebergs drifting along near a pristine harbour, wandering around colourful houses or trekking in the snow-capped wilderness: July and August are high season for tourists in eastern Greenland. Many of the 85,000 tourists who visit each year head to the west coast, but eastern Greenland, with its glaciers, wilderness and wildlife starring whales and polar bears, is also drawing visitors.
Sarah Bovet, a 29-year-old Swiss artist, said it's hard to know what to expect. "Thinking you're going to be surprised, you are even more so in reality," she said standing outside a hostel in the tiny village of Kulusuk. Bovet was on an artistic residency in Greenland when she visited Kulusuk and its 250 souls. Although she had imagined a small village before arriving, its stunning views and bright colours still came as a surprise. With just one supermarket, an airport built in the 1950s by the US military to serve a Cold War radar base, and a harbour surrounded by brightly painted wooden houses, most of the villagers appreciate the extra revenue from tourism.
Justus Atuaq, a young hunter in Kulusuk, takes tourists out on sled tours in March and April -- the spring high season -- earning money that helps him feed and care for the dogs he uses for racing and hunting. "Now I can take dogsleds for hunting, and sometimes tourists coming from other countries also want to dogsled," he said outside his wooden house. Tourists also take boat trips during the summer high season from July to August. Arrivals to the island grew 10 percent year-on-year from 2014 to 2017, and three percent in 2018, according to the tourist board, Visit Greenland. Many adventure seekers and nature lovers arrive by plane, but cruise ships also bring admirers, hugging the picture perfect coastline.
- Growing strategic importance -
But they are not alone in taking an interest in the world's largest island. The Danish territory's rich natural resources and growing strategic importance as the Arctic ice sheet melts have attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump. The Arctic region has untapped reserves of oil, gas and minerals, as well as abundant stocks of fish and shrimp. In August, Trump offered to buy Greenland, then called off a visit to Copenhagen over its refusal to sell.
Denmark colonised Greenland in the 1700s, granting it autonomy in 1979. Today, many Greenlandic political parties advocate full independence. The territory still receives an annual subsidy from Copenhagen, which was 4.3 billion Danish kroner (576 million euros) in 2017, and tourism could help it to become economically self-reliant. Like many parts of Greenland, Kulusuk has no tarmac roads and visitors must travel by plane or boat. The growth in tourism could put a strain on the village's infrastructure, and the sector faces unique challenges given Greenland's location, weather and the cost of travelling there.
Day tours of Kulusuk with flights from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik are 97,000 Icelandic kronur ($780, 700 euros). Jakob Ipsen, a 48-year-old who grew up between Denmark and Greenland's west coast, runs Kulusuk's sole hotel. The 32-room hotel stands beside a fjord, and from its dining room, guests can watch icebergs drift by during the summer. But the region's isolation can be problematic, Ipsen admits. "We have to get all our supplies in with the first ship for the whole summer season, and for the winter season when everything is frozen over, we have to get all our supplies in with the last ship for the whole winter," he said.
- 'They go back as different people' -
Greenland must tackle its infrastructure challenges if it wants to develop tourism, Visit Greenland says. Government-funded work is under way to extend runways at the capital Nuuk and Ilulissat, both on the west coast, and a new airport is planned in the south. The tourist body said it would weigh the environmental impact of boosting infrastructure, both on the environment and on local communities. Ipsen worries about the effects of uncontrolled tourism to the region. "We want to try to maintain it as it is, so it's not exploding," he said.
Already, said Johanna Bjork Sveinbjornsdottir, who runs tours in Kulusuk for an Iceland-based company, the rise in visitor numbers is making itself felt. "In the campsites here out in nature where you used to be alone, there's two, three groups at a time," she said. Like Ipsen, she is also concerned about the effect that rising visitor numbers could have on the wilderness around the village. "If you want nature to survive that, you have to build up the infrastructure," she said, pointing to the lack of officially designated campsites around Kulusuk, with no rubbish bins or toilets for travellers outdoors and no one supervising the sites. Despite the concerns, Sveinbjornsdottir hopes visitors will keep coming. "They go back as different people," she said. "Everything is beyond what you ever imagined."
Beirut, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Lebanon has turned to its neighbours for help battling forest fires that have ravaged homes and killed a volunteer firefighter in the Mediterranean country, its premier said on Tuesday. Heavy rain fell on parts of the country including Beirut in the evening, after Cyprus dispatched help and as Greece and Jordan vowed to follow suit. "We have contacted the Europeans who will send means of help," Prime Minister Saad Hariri said earlier in comments carried by national news agency NNA.
Dozens of blazes have hit Lebanon in recent days, fire chief Raymond Khattar told NNA, amid unusually high temperatures and strong winds. Thick smoke had been seen drifting over the outskirts of Beirut, the mountainous Chouf region to its southeast, and the southern city of Saida. In the Chouf, an area famed for its forests, a volunteer firefighter lost his life trying to put out the flames, his family said. In an area south of Beirut, firefighters have for two days been unable to stop the blaze, which has burnt four homes to the ground and caused dozens to suffer breathing difficulties, NNA said.
Interior Minister Raya El-Hassan said nearby Cyprus and Greece had responded to Lebanon's call for help. "Two Cypriot planes have been working to put out the fires since yesterday," she said on Twitter. "Greece has responded to our request and will send two planes to help us," she added. Jordan's army said the king had ordered two firefighting planes to be dispatched. NNA said the army was working together with helicopters and the Cypriot planes to fight the blaze, with access sometimes impeded by thick smoke and high-voltage power lines. Personnel from UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL, who usually patrol the country's southern border with Israel, have also joined in the efforts, the agency said. Lebanese on social media criticised the government's apparent inability to respond fast enough on its own.
In neighbouring war-torn Syria, fires also killed two people, Syrian state media said. Flames have ripped through parts of the coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus, as well as the central province of Homs but most have been brought under control, state news agency SANA said. Two members of the Latakia forestry department were killed while fighting the blaze, it added. In Tartus, the fires -- mostly stamped out -- coincided with the olive harvest, the governor told SANA. In Homs, trees were burnt and electricity networks disrupted in mountainous areas, the agency reported.