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Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso US Consular Information Sheet
May 07, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Burkina Faso, previously known as Upper Volta, is a landlocked, developing country in the Sahel region of West Africa.
Its capital is Ouagadougou.
Burki
a Faso is a former French colony; the official language is French.
It is one of the world’s poorest countries, and tourism infrastructure is limited.
Please read the Department of State Background Notes on Burkina Faso for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A valid passport, visa, evidence of yellow-fever vaccination are required for entry into the country. Visas valid for seven days are available at land borders and for 21 days at the airport; however, both can be converted into visas of up to five years validity at the Direction du Controle des Migrations, a government office in central Ouagadougou.
U.S. travelers should obtain longer-validity visas from the Embassy of Burkina Faso, 2340 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC
20008, telephone (202) 332-5577. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Burkinabe embassy or consulate.
Visit the Embassy of Burkina Faso web site at http://www.burkinaembassy-usa.org/ for the most current visa information.
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:
Ouagadougou occasionally experiences demonstrations and civil unrest.
U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Burkina Faso are urged to exercise caution and maintain a high level of security awareness at all times.
Although most demonstrations are generally peaceful, there have been several incidents of violence and destruction within recent years.
U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political gatherings, and street demonstrations, even if they appear to be peaceful.
There have been no known terrorist incidents (bombings, hijackings or kidnappings) directed against foreigners in Burkina Faso.
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:
Street crime in Burkina Faso poses high risks for visitors. Most reported incidents involve purse-snatchers and street scam artists, who target wallets, jewelry, cell phones and other valuables. Thieves are especially active during international meetings or events, which draw large crowds to the capital. The areas near and around the U.N. Circle, Avenue Kwame N’Krumah, and the former Central Market in Ouagadougou experience the highest incidence of purse snatchings and muggings. Travelers should stay alert, remain in groups, and avoid poorly lit areas. Be especially cautious at night, when most reported incidents have taken place.
There continue to be frequent armed robberies and attacks on intercity roads throughout the country. Although these armed individuals and groups operate mostly at night, there have been daytime attacks. They have injured and/or killed individuals who refused their demands or attempted to drive through their roadblocks. Several attacks have been directed at intercity public buses. U.S. travelers should avoid all intercity travel at night. Check with the U.S. Embassy for the latest security information before setting out on your journey.

Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners.
Recent scams that have victimized U.S. citizens have taken many forms, including fraudulent transactions for gold and antiquities.
Typically these scams begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown person who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often involving the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country. A series of "advance fees" must be paid to conclude the transaction, such as fees to provide legal documents or to pay certain taxes. In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees. One common variation involves individuals claiming to be refugees or other victims of western African conflicts who contact U.S. citizens to request help in transferring large sums of money out of Burkina Faso. Another typical ploy involves persons claiming to be related to present or former political leaders who need assistance to transfer large sums of cash.

While such fraud schemes in the past have been associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa. The scams pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm.
You should carefully check and research any business proposal originating in Burkina Faso or elsewhere before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. For additional information on scams, see the Department of State’s publication, International Financial Scams.

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

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities and emergency hospital care are very limited, particularly in areas outside the capital, Ouagadougou.
Some medicines are, however, available through local pharmacies.
Travelers requiring medicines should bring an adequate supply for the duration of their stay in Burkina Faso.
Malaria is a serious risk to travelers in Burkina Faso.
Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what anti-malarial drugs they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC travelers’ health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/faq.htm.

Meningitis is endemic in Burkina Faso, and cases are most frequent during the drier, dustier months of January through June. Travelers should confirm that their meningitis A, C, Y, W, 135 inoculations are up to date.

There have been several confirmed cases of avian influenza (H5N1) in Burkina Faso over the last year, although in each case the disease was confined to birds, and was contained. A new outbreak could occur at any time. Travelers should avoid poultry farms and markets, avoid contact with visibly sick or dead birds and any raw poultry, and ensure poultry products are thoroughly cooked prior to consumption. For further information on avian influenza, consult the U.S. Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet , and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm. World Health Organization (WHO) guidance related to avian influenza is available at http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
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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 Burkina Faso is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Public transportation is not safe.
While urban road conditions are fair, rural roads are in poor condition and roadside assistance is not available.
Travelers should exercise great caution when traveling by land in Burkina Faso.
All but a few roads are unpaved, narrow, and full of potholes.
Livestock and children often dart onto the road without warning.
Road travel at night is especially dangerous and, if at all possible, should be avoided.
At night, there is a high volume of truck traffic passing through the country and pedestrians, bicycles, and carts pose a major hazard on unlit, unmarked roads.
Vehicles are often dangerously overloaded and poorly maintained.
Drivers, including motorcyclists and bicyclists, are often careless.
The police rarely enforce traffic laws and are virtually absent on non-urban roads.
Emergency services are unreliable and overtaxed.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Burkina Faso, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burkina Faso’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Burkina Faso’s customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from Burkina Faso of items such as masks, religious materials, and antiquities. The Director of the National Museum has stated that all exportation of objects of art (old or traditional artists’ works, and all old material of the national cultural patrimony) is subject to the prior approval of the Ministry of Culture. Contact the Embassy of Burkina Faso in Washington (see contact information in the Entry Requirements section) for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Foreigners should always carry an identity document, such as a passport or U.S. driver’s license.
Credit cards are accepted at only a few high-end establishments in Ouagadougou. Travelers' checks may be cashed at local banks, but euro-denominated traveler’s checks are much more widely accepted than dollar-denominated ones. There are a few ATMs in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, but they do not always accept cards from foreign banks.
ATMs generally accept Visa credit cards with a personal identification number.

Burkina Faso’s laws concerning photography have recently changed.
Photo permits from the Tourist Office are no longer required for tourists.
Film crews still do require permits.
Note that the Tourist Office publishes a list of buildings, installations, and areas that may not be photographed at all.
Contact the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou for more details regarding taking photographs in Burkina Faso.

Local telephone service is adequate but expensive.
Cell phone networks are available in most urban areas.
However, telephone coverage in rural areas is limited. International calls cannot always be made from hotels; it is often necessary to make international calls from a Post and Telecommunications Office, where only local currency is accepted.
Collect calls are not possible.
Cyber-cafes for Internet access are common in both Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso.

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 Burkina Faso laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burkina Faso are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Burkina Faso are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Burkina Faso.
Americans withoutInternet 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 on Avenue Raoul Follereau.
The Consular entrance is located on Avenue John F. Kennedy; consular telephone 50-30-67-23; consular fax: 50-30-77-75.
The Embassy hours of operation are Monday to Thursday from 07:30 to 12:00 and 12:45 to 17:00; Friday 07:30 to 12:30.
The Embassy’s website address is: http://burkinafaso.usembassy.gov/.
The Embassy is closed on both U.S. and Burkinabe holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated March 30, 2007 with some changes to the crime section, as well as changes under Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 11 Sep 2019
Source: BBC Afrique [In French, trans. Mod.LXL, edited]

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

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

The remains of food have been secured, announced Professor Lougue, who calls on citizens to observe strict hygiene measures in the use of plant leaves for consumption. Pesticides are used for the needs of field work, especially in the countryside during this period of wintering.
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2019 20:27:21 +0200

Ouagadougou, June 24, 2019 (AFP) - Hundreds of doctors and nurses demonstrated Monday in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou to protest against declining health facilities and to demand better working conditions.   The main doctors' union also warned it would stage a general strike from June 30 to July 7 to demand "concrete responses" to their grievances.

Health professionals staged a series of strikes at the end of May, seriously disrupting work at health centres in the poor West African country.   "We are... asking health authorities not to underestimate the health crisis," said Alfred Ouedraogo, general secretary of the Union of Burkina Doctors.   "For several months, there have been recurring breakdowns in laboratories," he said. "In most health centres, there are no X-ray films."    The protesters marched to the health ministry and submitted their demands.

Health worker Idrissa Compaore said that ever since the introduction of free medical care for children under five and pregnant women, "basic goods were regularly lacking" at health facilities.   "The situation is the same in health centres," he said.   The doctors also want the implementation of an accord signed with the government in 2017 promising better working conditions which they say remains only on paper.   If their demands are not met, the health workers could launch an open-ended strike which would affect consultations and surgeries, Ouedraogo said.
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2018 16:17:59 +0100

Ouagadougou, Nov 29, 2018 (AFP) - Several thousand people took the streets of Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou on Thursday as workers downed tools in a nationwide strike over higher fuel prices.   Petrol and diesel prices have shot up 12 percent over the past three weeks, sparking a wave of protest.   A grassroots group, the National Coalition Against Costly Living (CCVC), called the strike and protest, with a march from the chamber of commerce to the trade ministry in the heart of the capital of this West African country.   "No to the impoverishment of the citizens" read one of the slogans alongside others reading: "Bread and freedom for the people".   "Enough is enough," said civil servant Charles Coulibaly, 42.    "We can't get by on what we make, and now they're raising fuel prices, which will have the knock-on effect of making all products and services more expensive."

Another marcher, 36-year-old bookseller Prosper Zebango, expressed exasperation.   "Raising the price of petrol and diesel just when the price of a barrel was decreasing and justifying it with a so-called international increase?" he asked rhetorically.   "I think the government is showing incompetence."   Since reaching four-year highs in October, world oil prices have plunged around 30 percent as worries about falling demand in a slowing world economy have taken their toll.   In Burkina Faso, petrol and diesel prices have risen 12 percent since November 9, with a litre now costing 75 CFA francs (0.11 euros/$0.12), the equivalent of 47 US cents a gallon.   The protesters handed a list of demands to Trade Minister Harouna Kabore, who promised to relay them to the prime minister.

In addition to the revocation of the fuel price hike, they are also demanding the scrapping of a bill that would curtail the right to strike, according to CCVC vice president Chrisogone Zougmore.   "We are all fighting for improved living conditions for workers and people in general," Zougmore said.   The government cited rising fuel prices on international markets to justify the increase, as well as a need for increased revenue to fight jihadists operating in the restive north and east of the country.    The former French colony, among the world's poorest countries, has suffered jihadist attacks since 2015 that have claimed 229 lives, according to the last official toll published in late September.
Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2018 13:31:53 +0100

Maputo, Nov 19, 2018 (AFP) - The World Health Organisation on Monday said global efforts to fight malaria have hit a plateau as it reported there were more cases of the killer disease in 2017 than the previous year.   The latest WHO report showed that the number of malaria cases climbed to 219 million last year, two million higher than 2016, while international funding has declined.

"The world faces a new reality," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned as the UN agency launched the new report.   "As progress stagnates, we are at risk of squandering years of toil, investment and success in reducing the number of people suffering from the disease," the WHO chief said.   Malaria, which is spread to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes, occurs in 91 countries but about 90 percent of the cases and deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Foreign funding to some of the most affected countries has declined, in certain instances by more than 20 percent for every individual at risk of contracting the disease.    "A considerable proportion of people at risk of infection are not being protected, including pregnant women and children in Africa," the WHO chief said.   The disease killed 435,000 people last year, the majority of them children under five in Africa.

Another constraint in fighting malaria has been mosquitoes building up resistance to some commonly used insecticides, according to the report.   WHO said it was embarking on new ways to scale up the battle against one of the world's deadliest diseases.   The plan includes country-led projects to "jumpstart aggressive" control efforts, said Kesete Admasu, who heads Roll Back Malaria, a global partnership initiative to curb the parasitic disease.   Mozambique is one of the target countries.   "Business as usual is no longer an option," said Admasu.

Most malaria cases reported last year were in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, India, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.   Five countries accounted for nearly half of the cases: Nigeria (25 percent), DR Congo (11 percent), Mozambique (five percent), and India and Uganda with four percent each.    However countries such as Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda recorded "substantial" declines in malaria cases.
Date: Tue, 6 Nov 2018 11:47:13 +0100

Ouagadougou, Nov 6, 2018 (AFP) - Two soldiers were killed and three were injured, two of them seriously, in a blast in northern Burkina Faso, the theatre of a jihadist insurgency, security sources said Tuesday.   Their vehicle triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) late Monday on a road near Nassoumbou, near the Malian border, they said.   The landlocked Sahel country has seen regular Islamist attacks since the start of 2015.    The north and the east are the worst-hit areas, while the capital Ouagadougou has been attacked three times.   In the last month, around two dozen members of the security forces have been killed, mainly by IEDs, according to an unofficial tally.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:08:10 +0200 (METDST)

Manila, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Parents lined up from sunrise holding sleeping infants as the Philippines launched a campaign on Monday to vaccinate millions of children against polio, which has re-emerged nearly two decades after the nation's last cases.   Years of falling vaccination rates, made worse by the botched rollout of a dengue vaccine, culminated in an outbreak of the preventable disease in September.   "This is for the welfare of my child," Ruth Miranda told AFP after the vaccine was squirted into her child's mouth at the Manila slum they call home.

Miranda's child is among scores who are unprotected in the capital of about 13 million people, where vaccination rates of young children plunged from 77 percent in 2016 to a mere 24 percent in June.   The atmosphere at the event in Manila was festive -- with ice cream vendors and music -- but the stakes for the campaign are high.

Polio, which can cause paralysis and can be fatal in rare cases, has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines.   Two cases were detected in September, the first polio infections in the Philippines since 2001, adding to the woes of a country already hit by deadly measles and dengue epidemic.   The risk of the disease spreading within the Philippines is high, according to World Health Organization, due to low immunisation coverage partly blamed to a dengue vaccine scandal.

The Philippines was the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass programme in 2016, but a botched rollout led to claims that children had died after being vaccinated.   A dramatic drop in vaccine confidence followed, with trust plunging from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.   The Philippines polio outbreak has been traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it.   According to the WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 10:25:38 +0200 (METDST)
By Shingo ITO, Sara HUSSEIN

Tokyo, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue workers in Japan battled on Monday to find survivors of a powerful typhoon that killed at least 43 people, as fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts.   Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures, and triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding.   "Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday.   "Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night," Abe said.

But even as rescuers, including troops, combed through debris, the country's weather agency forecast rain in central and eastern Japan that it warned could cause further flooding and new landslides.   "I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.   In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, rain was already falling and was expect to intensify.   "We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts," local official Hiroki Yamaguchi told AFP.   "We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain."

- 43 dead, 16 missing: NHK -
By late Monday afternoon, national broadcaster NHK said the toll had risen to 43 dead, with 16 others missing and over 200 people injured. The government gave lower figures but was continuing to update its information.   The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said.   Four others, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the boat sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member.   While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, it was the heavy rains that caused most damage.

A total of 142 rivers flooded, mainly in eastern and northern Japan, with river banks collapsing in two dozen places, local media said.   In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor.   As water slowly receded Monday, television footage showed patients being transferred by ambulance from a Nagano hospital where some 200 people had been cut off by flooding.   Elsewhere, rescuers used helicopters to winch survivors from roofs and balconies, or steered boats through muddy waters to reach those trapped.

- Japan dedicates rugby win to victims -
By Monday afternoon, some 75,900 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages.   The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.   "Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagano told NHK.   "I feel lucky I'm still alive."   The storm brought travel chaos over the holiday weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.

By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.   The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches.   But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their stunning 28-21 win to the victims of the disaster.   "To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2019 23:31:57 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, Oct 13, 2019 (AFP) - Doctors will use a second Ebola vaccine from November in three eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly virus, medical officials said Sunday.   "It's time to use the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson's Belgian subsidiary," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who leads the national anti-Ebola operation in the DRC.    It will arrive in the eastern city of Goma, in North Kivu province, on October 18 and be used from the beginning of next month, he added.   DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

Muyembe said the communes of Majingo and Kahembe had been selected to receive the vaccine as they were considered the epicentres of the epidemic.   "We will extend this vaccination to our small traders who often go to Rwanda to protect our neighbours," he added.   "If it works well, we will expand vaccination in South Kivu and Ituri."   DR Congo's eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu sit on the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.   The Belgian laboratory will send a batch of 200,000 doses to neighbouring Rwanda and 500,000 doses in the DRC, Muyembe said.   More than 237,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma company Merck Sharpe and Dohme since August 8, 2018. 

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC's former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.   But Ilunga's resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled funds intended for the fight against Ebola.   In his letter of resignation Ilunga said "actors who have demonstrated a lack of ethics" want to introduce a second vaccine, but did not elaborate.    Muyembe, who took over the Ebola fight in the DRC in July, said "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the most science-based data."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 20:02:59 +0200 (METDST)
By Robbie COREY-BOULET

Addis Ababa, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - A palace that once housed Ethiopia's emperors and also served as a torture site under the communist Derg regime is to open to the public in a controversial government tourism project.    The palace compound in Addis Ababa, which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government has rebranded "Unity Park", was formally launched Thursday and will be open from Friday.    Abiy's office said on Twitter Thursday that the project "symbolises our ability to come together".

But critics have dismissed it as vanity project for Abiy that could prove divisive.   Backed by the United Arab Emirates, the project cost more than $160 million (145 million euros), Ethiopian officials told reporters at a briefing earlier this week.    Built in the late 1800s by Emperor Menelik II, who founded Addis Ababa, the palace was the residence of Ethiopia's rulers for more than a century.   Abiy himself does not live there, and it has seen little activity in recent years.    Abiy's advisers say he has taken a keen interest in transforming the palace into a tourist attraction since coming to power in April 2018 -- visiting the site every day in recent weeks to monitor progress.

The government's "Home-Grown Economic Reform" agenda, unveiled last month, describes tourism as a primary engine of potential job creation.    On Thursday, government officials and the diplomatic corps toured the expansive site before attending a banquet that was expected to draw five regional heads of state and other dignitaries.    The restored rooms feature items like Menelik's sword and a life-size wax replica of former Emperor Haile Selassie, who lived at the palace and was then etained there after the Derg overthrew him in 1974.

The site also includes a sculpture garden with installations representing Ethiopia's nine regions, and a zoo is expected to open by the end of the year.    Aklilu Fikresilassie, an Ethiopian employee of the United Nations who attended the launch Thursday, said he was "really fascinated" to set foot inside a place that had been closed to the public his entire life.    "For us it's like a government house, so now when you enter that palace it tells you that we are getting somehow closer to our leaders," he said.

But not everyone is convinced the palace will succeed in bringing Ethiopians together.   In a country grappling with ethnic divisions, some worry that the palace could alienate ethnic Oromos who contend that their ancestors were forced off their land when Addis Ababa was built.    Journalist and former political prisoner Eskinder Nega said the renovations were undertaken "without consultation from the public", which he called "a huge mistake."    "This is all about heritage, about preserving heritage. The people should have had a say in it," he said.    "Like everything else this was decided from the top and implemented only by the decision of the prime minister."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 13:13:57 +0200 (METDST)

Hanoi, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Selfie-snapping tourists railed against the closure of Hanoi's 'train street' on Thursday after police blocked off the Instragram-famous tracks for safety reasons.   The narrow railway corridor in central Hanoi has become a hotspot among visitors seeking the perfect holiday snap on the tracks -- often dodging trains that rumble through daily.    But Hanoi authorities said this week they would block people from the tracks to avoid accidents, and police on Thursday erected barricades to keep out disappointed visitors.    "I'm very frustrated because today I can't go in and take a picture," Malaysian tourist Mustaza bin Mustapha told AFP, vowing to come back later.

Dozens of other tourists were turned away, though some managed to get onto still-open sections of the railway, moving out of the way as an afternoon train chugged past.    Built by former colonial rulers, the railway once shipped goods and people across France's former Indochina colony and remains in use today by communist Vietnam's state-run railway company.    The stretch of the tracks was once known as a rough part of town, occupied by drug users and squatters until their recent discovery by camera-wielding holidaymakers who have splashed images of the area across social media.

Cafe owners complained that business would be hurt thanks to the new regulations, and that tourists always moved out of the way for oncoming trains.   "There has never been any regretful accidents here," said Le Tuan Anh, who runs a cafe from his home along the tracks.   "Compared to traffic density elsewhere in the city, this is much safer," he said, referring to Hanoi's chaotic, motorbike-clogged streets.   New signs were installed in the area Thursday, warning passersby not to take photos or videos in the "dangerous area", much to the chagrin of British tourist Harriet Hayes.   "People come from all over the world to Hanoi just to see the train go past," she told AFP.   "It's such a shame that we come and have been told that we have to leave."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 06:51:42 +0200 (METDST)
By Holly ROBERTSON

Sydney, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Large numbers of tourists are rushing to scale Uluru -- also known as Ayers Rock -- ahead of a looming ban on climbing a site sacred to indigenous Australians.   Photographs of hundreds of people clambering up the giant red monolith have provoked a social media backlash, with critics lashing as "ignorant" those going against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu.   "A mass of morally and ethically bankrupt people," indigenous woman Laura McBride tweeted alongside an image showing a queue of people snaking up the side of Uluru.    "One even hiking a toddler up, teaching the next generation how to be ignorant."   "Imagine rushing to climb Uluru before it closes just so you could brag about disrespecting the oldest living culture in the world," tweeted National Indigenous Television journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber, who called the scenes "embarrassing".

Officials say the ban, which comes into effect on October 26, is intended to show respect for cultural practices, protect the site from further environmental damage and to ensure visitors' safety.    More than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park in the 12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year. Around 13 percent of those who visited during that period made the climb, park authorities said.    More recent figures are not available but Tourism Central Australia CEO Stephen Schwer said there had been a "significant jump" in the number of people visiting in recent weeks, with the period leading up to the ban coinciding in part with school holidays.   "Its been very busy, particularly down in the national park precinct itself," he told AFP.   "We've had quite an issue with accommodation availability, because there's a lot of people want to climb Uluru before it closes. It's been a busier than normal holiday period."   Japanese visitors and Australians on driving holidays were most likely to want to scale Uluru, Schwer said, though he urged them not to do so.

Australian tourist Belinda Moore, 33, drove to Uluru from her home in central Queensland state to ascend the rock, an experience she said she "absolutely loved".   "It's always been something to tick off the bucket list and when we heard it was closing, we knew it was now or never," she told AFP.   Moore said she did not think her climb was disrespectful to traditional owners as she was not Aboriginal.    "It may be for their own people, because it's their sacred site," she said.   "I'm pretty sad that they're closing it, but it's still amazing just to see it. I would still recommend it."   The climb will be permanently closed as of October 26, the anniversary of ownership being handed back to the Anangu people.

Uluru has great spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous Australians, with their connection to the site dating back tens of thousands of years.   Though visitor numbers were expected to decline once the ban was in place, Schwer said local tourism operators were "not particularly concerned" as it would return the area to normality.   "People need to remember that in central Australia we're a very interconnected community," he said. "The people who are requesting the climb closure are our friends and colleagues.   "We're just looking forward to being able to have the climb consigned to the annals of history."
Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2019 22:01:17 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, Oct 9, 2019 (AFP) - Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rains hit the capital Kinshasa, flooding several neighbourhoods. a local official said.    The bodies were found between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.    Five people were killed in the capital's Selembao municipality where around 30 houses collapsed, local mayor Augustin Mankesi told Top Congo radio station.   One woman died in the Pelende district after she was electrocuted, he added.    "Our community is stricken," Mankesi added, calling on the Congolese authorities for help.   Fatal floods and rains are frequent in Kinshasa. In January last year 48 people were killed in landslides, floods and after houses collapsed, according to authorities.    Residents told AFP the road from the sea port district of Matadi to the Kinshasa turnoff has been closed due to erosion caused by the rain.    The passage is Kinshasa's main supply route for imported goods and also serves as an exit point for exports.
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2019 04:13:25 +0200 (METDST)
By Margioni BERMÚDEZ

Caracas, Oct 8, 2019 (AFP) - The small waiting room at the home of self-styled healer "Brother Guayanes" in Caracas' rundown Petare district fills up quickly with patients -- business has never been better.   With Venezuela's chronic medicine shortages and hyperinflation, more and more people are turning to alternative medicine to treat common ailments in the crisis-wracked South American country.   "We go to the hospital and there's nothing there. They don't have medicines, or they're too expensive, what are we to do?" said Rosa Saez, 77, who has come to get treatment for a painful arm.   Carlos Rosales -- he uses the more ceremonious "Brother Guayanes" for his business -- is finishing up a "spiritual intervention" on a patient in what passes for his surgery.   The patient lies, eyes closed, on a cot as, in a series of swishes and clicks, the healer waves five pairs of scissors one after another over his prone body.    The healer says he performs 200 such interventions a week in a dim, candle-lit room that features two camp beds and an array of plaster statues that Rosales says represent "spiritual entities".   A regular visitor to the spiritual center, Saez says she has faith in Rosales' methods: "He healed my kidneys."

- Natural healing -
All across Venezuela, but particularly in poor areas like Petare, patients cannot hope to afford the price of medicines that due to the economic crisis, have become exceedingly rare.  Venezuela's pharmacists' federation say pharmacies and hospitals have on average only about 20 percent of the medicine stock needed.   Rosales' clinic is muggy with the smell of tobacco. A crucifix suspended from a chain around his neck, he practices a seeming mixture of smoke-blowing shamanism, plant-based medicine and mainstream religion.    Posters hung near the entrance remind clients to arrive with a candle and tobacco and "Don't forget that payment is in cash".   Much like a general practitioner, Rosales spends time consulting with his patients, examining them with a stethoscope, before offering a diagnosis. Often he prescribes potions based on plants and fruit, such as pineapple and a type of local squash known as chayote.   "We know medicines are necessary," he says. "I'm not against medicine, but my medicine is botany."

- Plants replace drugs -
At her stall in a downtown Caracas market, 72-year-old Lilia Reyes says she has seen her trade in medicinal plants flourish.   "I can't keep up with the demand," she said at her stall, bathed in the aroma of camomile, one of the 150 plants she sells.   Careless consumption of some herbs can be deadly, warns Grismery Morillo. A doctor at a Caracas public hospital, she says she has seen many cases of acute liver failure in people who have eaten certain roots.   According to Venezuela's opposition parties, some 300,000 chronically ill people are in danger of dying from the shortages of medicines.

But despite the risks, people like Carmen Teresa say they have no alternative.    In the kitchen of her restaurant which closed down three years ago as the economic crisis took hold, the 58-year-old Colombian prepares an infusion of fig leaves to treat "diabetic neuropathy".   The painkillers needed for the condition are "too expensive" and prices are going up due to hyperinflation, so she is cutting back on the pills and supplementing her treatment with herbal infusions.   She needs at least four tablets a day to keep her diabetes at bay. Her mother, bedridden since breaking a leg a year ago, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and needs five pills a day for hypertension.   "I'm still taking my pills, but I reduced the dose," says Teresa, who is also replacing cholesterol pills with lemon juice.
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 2019 12:04:37 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, Oct 6, 2019 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together as the ultraconservative kingdom begins offering up tourist visas for the first time.   The tourism authority said in a statement published on Twitter that Saudi women travelling alone would also be able to check into a hotel by presenting valid ID.

In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel had to prove they were married.    "This is no longer required for tourists," the statement said.   Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it was opening its doors to holidaymakers with the goal of diversifying its oil-dependent economy.   The kingdom had previously only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers, and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.   Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.   On September 28, Saudi authorities warned that tourists who violated "public decency", including with immodest clothing and public displays of affection, would be subject to fines.
Date: Sat, 5 Oct 2019 03:30:17 +0200 (METDST)
By Giovanna FLEITAS

Petorca, Chile, Oct 5, 2019 (AFP) - For Erick Hurtado, the worst thing about the drought that has devastated his family farm in Chile is the dead animals.   "Going out and seeing the animals dead on the ground is so horrible," Hurtado says as he gazes across the dusty paddocks of his farm in Petorca, near the coastal city of Valparaiso.

Farmers are counting the cost of one of the driest austral winters in six decades, which has destroyed crops and left tens of thousands of farm animals dead in the fields of central Chile.   Hurtado's farm, owned by his grandfather, has lost half its 60 head of cattle.   So far, 106,000 animals have died due to lack of water and fodder, mostly goats, cattle and sheep, according to the agriculture ministry.   President Sebastian Pinera, who last month announced a $5 billion plan to improve water distribution, this week set up a crisis group of government agencies to tackle the water crisis, which he said had become "more extensive and more intense."

In Colina, north of the capital Santiago, the drought has been hard on small farmers. Scrawny cattle pick at sprigs of strawy grass on pastures that have turned to dust. Cows, goats and horses roam hungry on hills have turned to a dry muddy brown.   "The drought has been disastrous for us," said Sandra Aguilar. Her family owned about a hundred head of cattle. Today, only half survive thanks to a trickle of water provided by a neighbor who still has some reserves.   "The situation is complicated," said Javier Maldonado, governor of the province of Chacabuco, where several agricultural areas have been hit particularly hard by the drought.    "We have to be realistic, climate change is here to stay," he said.

- Water shortages -
Dominga Mondaca points out the deep fissures that run through the garden behind her house in the village of La Ligua near Valparaiso. The garden used to be full of strawberries and citrus trees; now it's cracked earth.    "We have had many years with little water. But the last year, it didn't rain at all," said the 73-year-old, one of more than 600,000 people the government is supplying by tanker trucks as part of emergency measures.   She says she has had to give up raising chickens, in order to keep what little water she and her husband receive for their own consumption, washing and cleaning. Whatever is left, she uses to sprinkle on herbs in a small kitchen garden.   The agriculture ministry says 37,000 family farms need assistance in the central Chile.

- Thirsty avocados? -
In Petorca, some rivers have run dry, and the landscape has been left parched, but lush avocado and citrus plantations are nevertheless thriving.   Locals in Petorca say the real, long-term problem is the mismanagement of water resources.    "There is an excess of monoculture plantations that consume all the water," said Diego Soto of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA) told AFP.   Avocados need a lot of water to grow, said Soto.   "An avocado tree needs 600 liters of water per week, whereas humans consume 50 liters a day, or 350 liters a week," he said.   Producers refute these figures and say the real problem is a lack of infrastructure to store water, both above and below ground.    "The avocado is not a crop that needs more water," insisted Francisco Contardo, chairman of the local producers' committee.   Avocados are a key export for Chile, mostly to the US and China, but drought has reduced exports by 25 percent.

- Less snow -
For many though, the changes being wrought by climate change are overwhelmingly obvious. Snow in the highlands of central Chile was relatively scarce this year.    Scientists predict an average decrease of between five and 10 percent snowfall every 10 years in almost the entire Andes mountains, one of the country's main sources of water.   "The central zone of Chile is highly dependent on the summer melt season, its snow and glaciers, which means that if the snow cover is reduced, there is also a reduction in the availability of water resources," said Paul Cordero, climate change expert at the University of Santiago.   Weak snowfall forced the country's main ski resorts to use artificial snow machines much earlier and more often this season than in previous years.    "Chile has been living as if it were a country with an abundance of water," said Pinera.   "Climate change and global warming have changed this situation probably forever."