Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008
Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Eu
A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not require a visa prior to entering Albania, but those traveling without a visa will be charged a fee for an entry stamp at the point of entry, which is valid for a stay of up to 90 days. This fee is currently 10 Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Travelers without a visa who intend to stay in Albania for more than 90 days should be aware that Albanian law allows a traveler without a visa to remain in Albania for 90 days only within a specific 180-day period. That 180-day period is defined from the first day of entry. For example, a traveler entering without a visa on January 1 may remain in Albania for 90 days total during the period of time between January 1 and June 28. Departing Albania during this time period does not "restart the clock." Travelers attempting to reenter Albania without a visa and within 180 days of a previous entry and after an aggregate stay of 90 days may be denied entry. For stays exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/consular.html#visa for the most current visa information. Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. US Government employees need permission to travel to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Photographing anything that authorities regard as being of military or security interest may cause travelers problems. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
In the latest State Department assessment, Albania’s crime rating is “medium.” Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last years there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pick-pockets. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 129, though coverage is inconsistent at best. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION
Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Water in Albania is not potable. Visitors should plan to purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania. 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 (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
The 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 Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor condition. Traveling by road throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. Vehicle accidents are the major cause of death, according to police statistics. Electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and icy conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at www.albaniantourism.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. See our information pertaining to dual nationality. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in most cities. Please see our Customs Information CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania 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. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION
Americans living or traveling in Albania 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 Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 2247285; fax (355)(4) 2232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/ * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Tirana, March 9, 2018 (AFP) - The military has been deployed in northern Albania to help hundreds of people trapped by floods following heavy rainfall, authorities said on Friday. More than 9,230 hectares (22,800 acres) of agricultural land is underwater in the Shkodra region, including villages where the only means of transport is by boat, the defence ministry said.
Army personnel are evacuating residents and securing food supplies in the affected areas, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. The torrential rain in recent days has caused landslides damaging dozens of homes and flooding roads, said the transport ministry. The rain has also forced the Albanian authorities to release excess water from a hydroelectric plant, which has added to the flooding in northern areas of the country. Weather forecasters say the rain is likely to ease from Saturday.
Tirana, Dec 3, 2017 (AFP) - Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed in Albania to rescue stranded residents after heavy rainfall triggered major flooding, and caused the death of a utility worker, officials and the power company said Sunday. The victim, Sabri Vlinga, died while he was working on a electricity pole at Roskovec in the flooded south of the country, the power company said in statement. Two other people were injured in similar accidents. it added. Some 6,400 police and soldiers have been sent to help rescue people stranded by the floods, Prime MInister Edi Rama said Saturday, calling the situation "very critical".
Around 1,500 people in the affected areas have been rescued, while several thousand homes were without electricity as many utility poles have been swept away by mudslides, said Shemsi Prenci, head of civil protection. More than 7,874 hectares (19,450 acres) of farm land as well as 3,193 homes are under water and several roads in the south remained impassable.
Army forces have built a temporary bridge at Darezeze, about 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the capital Tirana, to come to the aid of 2,000 residents stranded by the floods, the defence ministry said. In neighbouring Macedonia, the heavy rains have also caused flooding as several rivers include the main Vardar river have burst their banks, the MIA news agency reported.
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Feb 6, 2017 (AFP) - Emira Sela covers her face with her hand to hide a disfiguring abscess, the traumatic result of unregulated cosmetic treatments now rampant across Albania. The 31-year-old began to worry when wrinkles appeared on her face. Sela's hairdresser told her that a simple injection, costing around 60 euros ($65), would banish the signs of ageing. "She assured me that I would not risk anything. She even listed well-known names" of women who had undergone such treatment, said Sela. "I did not think twice, I trusted her without asking questions," said the blonde woman with green eyes, her voice trembling.
Albanian hair and beauty salons lacking expertise and medical supervision are offering such cosmetic treatments, unregulated in a legal vacuum, much to the alarm of qualified doctors. A single injection of a product whose content and dosage Sela knew nothing about was enough to ruin her life in late August. Despite antibiotics she has permanent pain, fever and nausea, while the abscess on her right cheek forces her eye to half-close and her face is nearly paralysed. "I am so disfigured that I tried to commit suicide," said Sela, who lost her job in a bank. Her only hope now is corrective surgery at an Italian hospital, scheduled for this month.
- Desiring Kardashian look -
"There are more and more impostors with syringes," said Panajot Papa, a plastic surgeon at a private clinic in Tirana. "The problem is also the products... Forbidden in Europe, they enter illegally from Turkey or China." Eriona Shehu, a dermatologist at Tirana's university hospital, said these unregulated synthetic products, such as injected liquid silicone and acrylamide, were being offered at temptingly low prices.
"Cosmetic interventions have become a lucrative industry. The patient is only a customer, exposed to a number of risks." Shehu said the desire to look like voluptuous US reality television star Kim Kardashian was "destroying the lives of young Albanian girls looking for beauty". Albanian doctors say the typical age of clients for such procedures is between 16 and 28. In the country of about three million people, the demand for cosmetic interventions rose more than 50 percent in 2015, according to a study published by Albania's economic magazine Monitor.
Promotional offers can be seen everywhere, such as a beauty salon advertising 20 percent reductions for three people coming together for treatment during the holiday season. Papa says he has treated a dozen young women aged between 20 and 27 who suffered complications after having their lips and cheekbones swollen with injected liquid silicone for 40 to 50 euros. The product has been banned for cosmetic use in countries such as Italy and France for more than 15 years. Papa said such botched interventions left these women prone to particularly bad swellings during their menstrual period, requiring further treatment -- and he warned they may suffer such symptoms for life.
- Closing legal gap -
Albanian doctors are worried about foreign practitioners who come from Italy, Turkey and Greece to work just for a weekend. "They may not have a diploma, qualification or licence for these kind of interventions or for assuming the responsibility of a patient's medical follow-up," said Besim Boci, head of the otolaryngology department at Tirana's university hospital. Due to legal loopholes, the judiciary cannot step in. A spokesman at Tirana's tribunal, Alba Nikolla, admits that it is currently impossible to "open investigations and prosecute based only on complaints" against practitioners.
But authorities are set to tackle this with a draft law to control cosmetic products and beauty salons, which is due to be introduced in parliament in the next few months. The law complies with the requirements of the European Union, which Albania aspires to join, and will enable authorities to shut down rogue establishments using synthetic products. When health is adversely affected, practitioners could be imprisoned for three to 10 years. Such regulations could go some way to easing the trauma of women like Elisa Lura, a 22-year-old economics student. She underwent a laser treatment to restore her natural look after paying 50 euros to a neighbourhood salon for permanent eyebrow tattoos, which went wrong. But the laser made things much worse. "Everything is spoiled!" she said of her face now covered with painful scars.
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Albania, Jan 13, 2016 (AFP) - With her sick daughter in the arms, Mira Lela pushes her way through the hallway of the doctor's clinic, crowded with patients ailing from heavy pollution in Albania's capital. "This is an emergency, she has difficulty breathing," said the tearful woman, forcing open the door to the office of Bardhyl Vaqari, who has worked in the specialist Tirana clinic for more than 20 years. "An acute asthma attack," said the doctor on seeing the child. "The number of people with respiratory allergies and cardiovascular problems has greatly increased," he told AFP, adding that the number of patients on the clinic's books has more than doubled to 8,000 in the last four years.
On the noisy and congested streets outside, clapped-out bangers and Hummer trucks cross paths with Mercedes, BMWs and overloaded buses that leave a trail of black smoke and heavy odour. Having been cut off from the world under a strict communist regime until 1991, the Western Balkan city had just a few hundred cars on its roads in the 1990s.
But today, through a mixture of pride, luxury-seeking and necessity, given the lack of public transport, there are more than 190,000 cars circulating in a city of about one million people. "Albanians take the car even when going to buy bread in a nearby store. That's why the traffic is overloaded all day and this increases pollution levels," said Altin Duka, a despairing 65-year-old shopkeeper.
The average age of vehicles on Tirana's roads is around 16 years, twice the European average, according to Gani Cupi, deputy manager of Albania's Road Transport Services. Many of the vehicles do not meet the standards of the European Union, which Albania hopes to join. "The traffic load, the age of vehicles, their technical condition but also the poor quality of fuel are all factors contributing to the capital's pollution," said Cupi.
- Taxing dilemmas -
In a bid to clean up the air, Albanian authorities considered doubling taxes on ageing vehicles but then dropped such plans. Analysts suggested the cost would weigh too heavily on citizens in one of the poorest countries in Europe. New cars are already exempt from paying annual tax for the first three years, but authorities in 2012 lifted a levy on the import of old vehicles as the EU considered it a "fiscal discrimination".
Tirana's Mayor Erion Veliaj has pledged to battle against the fumes by increasing the number of green spaces, introducing hybrid buses and improving infrastructure in the city, which is crammed with mostly illegal constructions. "The number of vehicles does not stop growing," he told AFP, pointing out that about 500 people die in the city each year "because of respiratory or cardiovascular problems related to pollution".
A report this year from the European Environment Agency noted a 20 to 30 percent decrease in Tirana's concentration levels of PM10 and PM2.5 -- damaging particulate matter -- according to data assessment from 2011 to 2013. But Laureta Dibra, head of the air and climate change department at Albania's Environment Ministry, told AFP that PM10 levels had actually been rising in areas of heavy traffic in recent years. Tirana remains "among the most polluted cities in Europe", added the director of the National Environment Agency, Julian Beqiri. "The level of the population's exposure to pollutants is still a problem," he said.
- On your bikes -
In an effort to improve air quality in the capital and educate residents, Tirana organised two car-free days in 2015, when the air was said to be at least four times less polluted than usual. Worried activists are campaigning to promote the bicycle as a means of transport and a way of life. Ecovolis, a bike sharing system, rents out at least 200 bicycles from different tations around Tirana, at 60 leke (44 euro cents, $0.47) per bike per hour -- but many people still prefer getting behind the wheel.
Although Albania's energy minister claims that 95 percent of fuel meets the required standards, even Prime Minister Edi Rama attacked its quality in May last year. "It is so bad that even a strong car like a Mercedes ends up being bad for Albanians' lungs," he said, calling for urgent measures to improve fuel controls. The government says restrictions have since been tightened, but those at the frontline of the fumes remain unhappy. "I come home in the evening with a completely dry throat and a bitter taste my mouth," said Bequir Veseli, 37, a traffic policeman who spends eight hours a day at the centre of a chaotic roundabout. "I have trouble breathing but what can I do? The next day I have to go back to my post".
World Travel News Headlines
By Julie Pacorel
Marseille, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - France's second city and key tourist hub Marseille has enforced temporary swimming bans on several beaches amid pollution concerns, disappointing locals and tourists hoping to take a dip as temperatures soar. Seven of the city's 21 beaches have raised a purple flag -- which means no bathing -- since the start of the month, on days when hygiene inspections revealed high levels of faecal matter. Marseille is a tourist hotspot, attracting five million visitors per year thanks to its Mediterranean coastline and sun-kissed climate.
But the city, France's largest port, struggles with pollution from industry and shipping. "It's mostly caused by sanitation problems, but there are also increasing numbers of boats spewing out their grey and black waste before they enter the port," said Sarah Hatimi, head of the water quality programme at Surfrider Foundation Europe environmental group. Swimming bans are nothing new in Marseille. Last year, authorities enforced 153 bans amid fears of a pollution spike after heavy rainfall. "This year, we can't say it's because of the rain," Monique Daubet, local councillor responsible for public health, said, adding that spillages from swimming pools and "lots of animal faeces" are part of the problem. But the city is "proactive", she said, going "even further" than weekly water inspections imposed by a European law to "pay for our own analysis to protect swimmers".
Every morning, inspectors take water samples from each of the city's beaches to test for E. coli and enterococci bacteria, which indicate human or animal defecation. A laboratory can reveal test results the same morning, whereas the previous weekly tests "arrived far too late, two or three days later," Daubet said. Despite efforts, Marseille authorities aren't hopeful they can secure a "blue flag" stamp of approval for beach hygiene. "Our water quality doesn't meet the criteria, which includes, for example, keeping bins at least 100 metres away from the beach". "Nobody is forcing us to do this," she said. "Rather than complaining, people should be grateful we're closing the beaches!"
By Elizabeth Vuvu
Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Papua New Guinea's volatile Ulawun volcano -- designated one of the world's most hazardous -- erupted Wednesday, spewing lava high in the air and sending residents fleeing. A pilot for Niugini Helicopters flying near the crater witnessed a column of lava spurting vertically into the equatorial sky, along with ash that has been belching since early morning. Ulawun, on the remote Bismarck Archipelago chain, is listed as one of 16 "Decade Volcanoes" targeted for research because they pose a significant risk of large, violent eruptions. Witnesses said lava had cut off the main highway in north of the island. "The volcanic activity at Mt Ulawun began at 7:00 am this morning after slight rumbling and light emission," Leo Porikura, an official with the West New Britain Disaster Office, told AFP earlier. "The Rabaul Volcano Observatory has declared a stage one alert warning of a possible eruption."
Witnesses had reported ash spewing out of the 2,334 metre (7,657 foot) summit, sending trails spanning high overhead. "The sky has turned black," said Kingsly Quou, manager of the nearby Mavo Estates palm plantation. Quou said that villagers living at the base of the volcano had already been evacuated and he and his colleagues were gathering their belongings. Japanese satellite imagery and sources on the ground had shown sulphur dioxide and now volcanic ash drifting from the crater. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said the ash reached more than 13 kilometres (44,000 feet) into the air. The bureau's Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a "red" warning to airlines, indicating the eruption was imminent, although there is not believed to be an immediate threat for flight routes. Thousands of people live in the shadow of Ulawun, despite it being one of the most active volcanoes in the country.
Porikura said people living in the vicinity of the volcano had been instructed to move away to safer areas and a disaster team had been dispatched. "The disaster team will liaise with the local community, local businesses and local level government authorities to prepare for a possible eruption," he said. "Three crucial priority areas being addressed include transport plan, care centre preparations and getting the communities in the high-risk areas to prepare for an evacuation," Porikura said. The nearby Rabaul Volcano Observatory said emissions from the volcano were getting darker, indicating a higher ash content -- which can cause breathing problems, eye irritation and skin irritation because of the high acid content. A team of experts had visited earlier this month and reported the volcano was "quiet" adding "there is no indication of any change in its state of unrest." The ash emissions had been proceeded by an increase in seismic activity, Porikura said.
San José, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - A 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Panama-Costa Rica border around midnight on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, revising earlier warnings of "significant damage", as the tremor cut power supplies near the epicentre. The quake struck at a depth of 26 kilometres (16 miles), about two kilometres from the nearest town of Progreso in Panama, USGS said, updating a previous alert that estimated the depth at 10 kilometres.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, and USGS said "the impact should be relatively localized", reversing an earlier advisory that "past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response." "Estimated economic losses are less than 1 percent of GDP of Panama," the website said. According to the National Seismological Network (RSN) in Costa Rica, the quake struck at 0523 GMT Wednesday (11.23 pm Tuesday) with its epicentre located 11 kilometres east of the Panamanian border town of Puerto Armuelles.
The tremor was felt in Costa Rica's capital San Jose and in many parts of the Central American country, according to initial reports, but the national tsunami warning system said there was no risk of a tsunami. Villagers in the south of Costa Rica fled their homes, fearing aftershocks. Two houses in the region were damaged by the quake, said Alexander Solis, president of the country's National Emergency Commission.
Costa Rica's President Carlos Alvarado said there were power cuts in several communities in the southwest of the country, near the epicentre. In November 2017 a 6.5-magnitude quake on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica caused buildings to sway in San Jose and contributed to the deaths of two people who had heart attacks. Further north, two months earlier a 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people in Mexico.
By Béatrice DEBUT
eMalahleni, South Africa, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Tumelo has again lost several days at school because of sickness. "My eyes are burning. Sometimes I can't breathe," she coughs. "The doc said there is nothing we can do," says her mother Nono Ledwaba. "We need to take her out of eMalahleni. When she goes to her grandma in Mafikeng, the symptoms disappear."
The 14-year-old lives in house number 3094 of eMpumelelweni township in eMalahleni, part of the Highveld region turned over to mines and power plants that, according to activists, are killing local people. Her neighbour in 3095, Lifa Pelican, has similar symptoms, which badly set back his schooling. At 25, he never moves without his inhaler, even inside his chilly home with rough-hewn walls. "If I don't have it with me, sometimes I can't breathe. Sometimes I feel I am going to die," he says. "These mines get a lot of money and we suffer. There's solar power. We don't need to use these coal plants." Green energy such as solar and wind power account for less than two percent of electricity production in South Africa, while coal still provides 86 percent.
Lifa's breathing troubles began after he moved to eMalahleni, at the mercy of gritty coal dust and thick whitish smoke of electricity power stations burning fuel day and night. Relief comes when he visits his father in Nelspruit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, trips that feel like a new lease on life. "I don't use the inhaler." Tumelo's own troubles began when the family moved to eMalahleni in 2007, when she was a toddler. The trips to Mafikeng are literally a breath of fresh air -- her grandmother's home is 400 kms from the mines. "The only solution is to close down the plants, but will this happen?" Ledwaba asks. eMalahleni, which means "the place of coal", is among the worst places in the world for pollution by nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, according to Greenpeace.
- 'Deadly pollution levels' -
South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development -- a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced. But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high. Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits. They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery. Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016, say the two NGOs. They have initiated a suit against the government for "violation of the constitutional right to clean air" -- a legal first in South Africa, the leading industrial power on the continent.
The NGOs contend that the government has failed to reduce deadly pollution levels in the area, just an hour and a half's drive from Johannesburg. "It has evolved into a public health crisis," says Tim Lloyd, lawyer for groundWork and Vukani. "The cost of the air pollution to our economy each year is around 35 billion rand (1.8 billion euros, $2 billion)." In response to the accusations, an environment ministry spokesman told AFP that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions have "shown improvements across all the five monitoring stations" in the worst-affected region of the Highveld. Criticism by environmental groups "fails to recognise these improvements', the ministry stated, declining to give further details about the data. "The reality is that the desired improvements will not happen over a short period of time," it said. Eskom admitted the area's pollution problem "requires urgent attention", adding that domestic coal burning, traffic and mining dust were also to blame.
- 'The life of my kids' -
"When people from other provinces come, they start getting sick with respiratory issues," says Alexis Mashifane, a doctor with a busy practice in Middelberg, 30 kms from eMalahleni. "When they leave this area, some of them get better." But many have no choice, saying they are stuck in the toxic region for economic reasons. "I wish to move away because this place is not right," says Mbali Mathebula, a single mother who is raising a small daughter and a baby girl, both suffering from asthma. "I don't have money to buy a house".
In Mathebula's home at the foot of the Schonland coal mine, five-year-old Princess plays with the useless mask given to her mother at hospital. Mathebula, a supermarket employee, could not afford a 70-euro ($80) oxygen machine to attach to the mask. If a child has an asthma attack in the night, Mathebula says she has to wait until the morning and then go to hospital. "Sometimes I don't have money to go there. I must borrow." Her neighbour Cebile Faith Mkhwanazi has to cope with her three-year-old daughter's asthma attacks. "I'm thinking of taking them to my mother," she adds, broken-hearted. "So that they stay there forever for their health."
By Clare BYRNE
Paris, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - As Europe sizzled Tuesday at the start of a heatwave tipped to break records, drivers on Germany's famously speedy motorways were ordered to slow down and fans at the women's World Cup were showered in health warnings.
Meteorologists blamed a blast of torrid air from the Sahara for the unusually early summer heatwave, which could send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some places on Thursday and Friday. Experts say such heatwaves early in the summer are likely to be more frequent as the planet heats up -- a phenomenon that scientists have shown to be driven by human use of fossil fuels.
In Germany, where forecasters have warned a June record of 38.5 degrees could be smashed, speed restrictions were placed on some stretches of "autobahns" as the unusually warm weather raised the risks of "blow-ups" -- the hot tarmac breaking up and shredding tyres. A forest fire was raging north of Cottbus, the second-largest city in Brandenburg state, in an area that was just recovering from a fire in 2018. It was deemed especially dangerous due to the risk of unexploded ammunition left in the area, which is home to a military training facility.
- 'Hell is coming' -
In Spain, TV weather presenter Silvia Laplana riffed on the doom-filled catchphrase "Winter is coming" from the blockbuster series Game of Thrones to describe what lay in store for the country. "El infierno (hell) is coming," she tweeted alongside a weather map which showed most of the country coloured scarlet later in the week. "Of course it's hot in summer but when you have a heatwave that is so extensive and intense, during which records are forecast to be beaten, it's NOT normal," she tweeted. Temperatures are expected to be particularly sweltering in the northeast of Spain, with a stifling 45 degrees expected Friday in the city of Girona, and 44 degrees in Zaragoza at the weekend. Five northern provinces were placed on an orange high alert for a heatwave on Wednesday, with another five to be added by the weekend.
- 'Overdoing' the warnings? -
Authorities were also taking no chances in France, where a heatwave in August 2003 was blamed for 15,000 deaths, many of them elderly people who were left to fend for themselves. In a highly unusual move, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer on Monday postponed national school exams to next week. Paris authorities have banned older models of diesel and petrol cars from Paris on Wednesday, fearing a build-up of pollution. Health Minister Agnes Buzyn denied the government was being excessively vigilant. "For all those who know (the risks), obviously it's too much, but if I can avoid unnecessary deaths, I will continue to communicate about prevention," Buzyn told LCI television, referring to the warnings on radio, TV and public transport.
The Red Cross meanwhile urged people to check on vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends, saying the "coming days will be challenging for a lot of people, but especially older people, young children, and people with underlying illnesses or limited mobility." Players and spectators at the women's football World Cup taking place in cities around France were also being inundated with messages about keeping hydrated. In a rare gesture by FIFA on Monday evening, fans were allowed to bring their own bottles of water into the Paris stadium where Sweden took on Canada. Phil Neville, the England coach, was sanguine about the impact of the weather on the tournament, however. "There's no excuse, the players are ready for it."
Meanwhile, French beekeepers and farming groups said they were bracing for a "catastrophic" honey harvest this year after frost damage in winter, an unusually rainy spring, and, now, unusually high temperatures. "In the hives, there is nothing to eat, beekeepers are having to feed them with syrup because they risk dying from hunger," added the union, which represents many small farms in honey-producing regions. In the Baltic region of northeast Europe, crowds have flocked to lakes and rivers to cool down, leading to a spike in drownings. Twenty-seven people were reporte to have drowned so far in Lithuania where the temperature soared to an unusual high of 35.7 degrees Celsius.
The Hague, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - Dutch health authorities said Tuesday they are dealing with a measles outbreak in a devout Protestant fishing village where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country. Nine children and one adult have been diagnosed with the disease in the village of Urk, part of the so-called "Bible Belt" in the northern Netherlands, the Flevoland province health service said.
The health service said it was "actively monitoring the situation" and examining whether it was necessary to vaccinate or administer antibodies to people who have been in contact with the infected patients. "In 2013 and previously, the disease occurred more often on Urk. Many people on Urk have experienced this disease and that means that a natural defence has built up," it said. Only 61.1 percent of people are vaccinated against measles in Urk, one of the lowest rates in the Netherlands, where the national average is 92.9 percent, according to the National Public Health and Environment Institute.
Urk is regarded as one of the most devout of the villages in the "Bible Belt" of conservative Protestant communities running from Zeeland in the south of the Netherlands across the country to the north west. Ninety-four percent of people in Urk regularly go to church, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, compared to one in six of all Dutch people.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf said that in this devout community of Urk people believe that life and death are in God's hands, and so vaccinations are not permitted. Urk is considered a "closed' community because of its fisheries culture and Protestant orthodox religion," a European Commission report from 2010 said.
The UN warned in April of a global resurgence of measles -- a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal -- amid a growing "anti-vax" movement worldwide. The WHO says cases of the once all-but-eradicated disease surged 300 percent in 2018 across the globe. The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the United States, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of claims that the jab could cause autism, which medical officials have found are baseless.
Source: I Am Expat [edited]
Normally, the tropical tick species _Hyalomma [marginatum_] only arrives in Germany with the 1st wave of migratory birds. However, experts believe that this year  the disease-carrying giant ticks have spent the winter here for the 1st time ever. The tropical tick species _Hyalomma_ is not native to Germany and was detected in the federal republic for the 1st time in 2017. The ticks only began to appear in large numbers last year , when a total of 19 specimens were found in 8 of Germany's federal states.
This year , however, discoveries of the ticks were reported unusually early, leading researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and the Munich Institute for Microbiology to conclude that the newly-arrived tropical tick species overwintered in Germany for the 1st time this year . Over the past few days, 6 of the spidery ticks have been discovered in Germany: 5 on a horse farm in the Lower Rhine and one on a horse in Lower Saxony. "After the 1st evidence of this year , we must assume that these animals can winter in Germany," said Ute Mackenstedt, a parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim.
Accordingly, the ticks are "a significant step further towards establishing themselves here." The _Hyalomma_ tick is native to the dry and semi-arid areas of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. It is distinctive for its long, spidery, striped legs and large body, and can grow up to 2 centimetres [about 0.8 in] in length, 2-3 times larger than their closest European relatives. Usually, the adult _Hyalomma_ ticks stick to sucking the blood of large animals, but they have been known to transfer themselves to human hosts too.
The major factor that distinguishes them from Germany's native tick population is the fact that they are able to actively sense, track, and hunt their warm-blooded hosts over dozens of meters. _Hyalomma_ ticks are also considered a major carrier of a dangerous virus that can cause Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever -- the most widespread viral disease carried by ticks. Currently, there is no vaccine for this, and 10 to 40 percent of cases are fatal.
However, at the moment there is no cause for alarm: none of the tick specimens that were discovered last year  were found to be carrying infectious agents. The size of the ticks means that they are also easier for humans to detect and remove. Moreover, the early appearance of the ticks does not necessarily mean that they have already become native to [established in] Germany. For a significant population to develop, males and females would have to find each other. That can be a tall order when the population is still relatively small. Even if they did find each other, the unhatched larvae would have to rely on an animal host, such as a bird or hare, to develop. [Byline: Aby Carter]
[Although there may not be immediate concern about _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks posing a human or animal health danger in Germany, if they have truly become established there and their numbers increase, there is a risk of transmission of pathogens such as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, as occurred in Spain, or spotted fever rickettsia such as _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ that has been found in these ticks in Germany.
The only documented _Hyalomma_ spp. tick in Germany was found on a human in the southern part of the country (Lake Constance area) in May 2006, but the possibility of tick transportation from Spain was not ruled out (1,2). The authors state that it is reasonable to suggest that the _Hyalomma_ spp. ticks that were examined had been transported by the birds from Africa.
The fact that a randomly caught bird was infested with _R. aeschlimannii_Â-infected ticks is suggestive of the intensive stream of new pathogens transported through Europe by migrating birds
1. Rumer L, Graser E, Hillebrand T, et al. _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ in _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks, Germany [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011; 17(2): 325-6; <https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1702.100308>.
2. Kampen H, Poltz W, Hartelt K, et al. Detection of a questing _Hyalomma marginatum marginatum_ adult female (Acari, Ixodidae) in southern Germany. Exp Appl Acarol. 2007; 43(3): 227-31 <https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-007-9113-y>.
A map of the known distribution of _Hyalomma marginatum_ as of 2018 can be accessed at
An image of _Hyalomma marginatum_ can be accessed at the source URL above. - ProMED Mod.TY]
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Germany:
Mogadishu, 25 June 2019 - Health authorities rolled out a polio campaign yesterday in Puntland and Somaliland to vaccinate more than 940 000 children under 5 years of age to stop an ongoing outbreak of a strain of poliovirus.
The campaign runs from 24 to 27 June 2019, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It targets all children in 12 districts in Somaliland and 9 districts in Puntland.
By the numbers:
- 945,480 children to be vaccinated
- 3160 vaccinators knocking on doors
- 677 team supervisors taking part
- 1558 social mobilizers sharing messages on vaccination and children’s health
- 15 children have been infected with the polioviruses so far, since outbreaks began
“It’s vital that parents ensure their children receive this vaccine because it builds immunity against a specific strain of poliovirus circulating in the country. I call upon all caregivers in the areas being covered in this campaign to please ensure children are at home and accept the oral polio vaccine when it is offered. Oral polio vaccines are stored and administered safely, and can save children from paralysis and permanent disability,” said Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia.
“The only way to protect children from all polioviruses is to ensure they receive multiple doses of polio vaccine, through campaigns and health facilities where possible,” said Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “Caregivers need to ensure children receive this vaccine when it is available.”
Somalia’s polio programme has conducted 14 immunization campaigns, including 5 nationwide campaigns, since December 2017 to stop further spread of the outbreaks. Despite these efforts, not all Somalia’s children are being vaccinated, which has resulted in the polioviruses spreading across the country and spilling over to Ethiopia. To address this, polio teams from Somalia and Ethiopia conducted a joint planning workshop in Hargeisa last week, and are coordinating immunization activities along their shared border and in high-risk areas in each country during this round in order to prevent cross-border transmission and spill over.
Concurrent to the polio campaign, polio health workers have also been working to vaccinate more than 650 000 people aged one year and above against cholera in high-risk districts of Somalia.
Kinshasa, June 24, 2019 (AFP) - More than 1,500 people have died in a nearly 10-month-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry said Monday. As of Sunday, 1,506 people have died out of 2,239 recorded cases, it said. Earlier this month, the virus claimed two lives in neighbouring Uganda among a family who had travelled to the DRC. Nearly 141,000 people have been vaccinated in the affected eastern DRC provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids. The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people. Chronic violence and militia activity in Ituri and North Kivu as well as hostility to medical teams among locals have hampered the response.
On Monday, a crowd of people opposed to the burial of two Ebola victims in the Beni area burnt the vehicle of a health team, local police chief Colonel Safari Kazingufu told AFP. He said a member of the medical team had been injured in the attack and taken to hospital. The United Nations in May nominated an emergency coordinator to deal with the crisis. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this month the outbreak currently did not represent a global threat.