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Brunei

Brunei US Consular Information Sheet
October 09, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Brunei Darussalam is a small Islamic Sultanate on the northwest coast of the Island of Borneo.
It is divided into four districts: Brunei/Muara, Tutong, Belait
nd Temburong.
The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is its only major city.
Brunei’s official language is Malay, but English is widely understood and used in business.
Tourist facilities and services are generally available throughout the country.
For more information concerning Brunei, please see the Government of Brunei web site at http://www.brunei.gov.bn.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Brunei for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
U.S. passport-holders must have at least six months’ validity remaining on their passport before entering Brunei for business or pleasure and are required to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Brunei for visits of 90 days or longer.
Diplomatic and official passport-holders are also required to apply for a visa to enter Brunei Darussalam.
There is an airport departure tax.
For further information about entry or exit requirements, travelers may consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Brunei, 3520 International Court NW, Washington, DC
20008, tel. (202) 237-1838, or visit the Embassy of Brunei web site at http://www.bruneiembassy.org for the most current visa information.
As of June 12, 2004, immigration offenses are punishable by caning.
Workers who overstay their visas can face jail sentences and three strokes of the cane.
Those associated with violators, such as contractors or employers, are subject to the same penalties if the violator is found guilty.

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:
Following the October 2002, August 2003, September 2004 and October 2005 terrorist bombings in Indonesia, the Department of State continues to be concerned that terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) that have transnational capability to carry out terrorist attacks may do so in various Southeast Asian nations, including Brunei.
JI is known to have cells operating in Southeast Asia and to have connections with Al-Qaeda and other regional terrorist groups.
JI also has been tied to previous regional terrorist attacks.
As security is increased at official U.S. facilities, terrorists will seek softer targets.
These may include, but are not limited to, facilities where Americans and other Westerners are known to live, congregate, shop or visit, including, but not limited to, hotels, clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, housing compounds, transportation systems, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events.
Americans in Brunei should continue to be vigilant with regard to their personal security, maintain a low profile, vary times and routes during their daily routines and report any suspicious activity to the local police or to the U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Officer, who can be reached at the phone number listed at the end of this information sheet.

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 other callers, 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:
Though there is some crime, violent crime is rare.
Burglaries and theft are on the rise. Americans are reminded to be prudent in their own personal security practices.

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 provide a list of attorneys if needed.

In Brunei, the local equivalents to the “911” emergency line are:
993 for Brunei Police, 955 for
Fire
& Rescue and 998 for Search & Rescue.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
There is adequate care for basic medical conditions in Brunei; however, due to unpredictable shortages of materials and uncertain support staff, elective surgery or complicated care is best obtained in Singapore or elsewhere.

Brunei has imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions as part of a ban on communicable diseases.
In October 2003, Ministry of Health (MOH) of Brunei Darussalam required all travelers entering Brunei to fill out a Health Declaration Card and submit it to the Officer-In-Charge (MOH) upon disembarkation.
Under Section 7, Infectious Diseases Order 2003 of MOH, travelers may be subjected to a medical examination upon arrival in Brunei Darussalam.
Travelers also may be quarantined if infected or suspected to be infected with infectious disease or in if travelers have had contacted with such a person, under Section 15, Infectious Diseases Order 2003 of Ministry of Health Brunei.
Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Brunei at http://www.bruneiembassy.org before you travel.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Brunei is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Brunei has an extensive network of roads throughout the country of generally good, though varying quality.
Holders of foreign driving license are permitted to drive in Brunei Darussalam for 90 days only.
For longer stays, a foreign driving license must be endorsed to a Brunei driving license, available at any Land Transport Department office.
Drivers must obey traffic rules at all times and should take extra caution when approaching traffic signals.
In urban areas, some local drivers have run through red lights, resulting in several deadly accidents in recent years.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the Brunei National Tourism at http://www.tourismbrunei.com/ and the web site of Brunei Land Transport Department at http://www.land-transport.gov.bn/ for more details on road safety information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Brunei’s Department of Civil Aviation as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Brunei’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Immigration Violations:
Americans in Brunei are subject to the laws of the country and may be arrested for violation of immigration regulations, or any other law.
In such cases, the U.S. Embassy will provide consular services to American citizens arrested in Brunei, in accordance with international law and U.S. regulations.
However, the Embassy may not intervene in local judicial matters.
Americans should be aware that the immigration law is stringent and less flexible than the previous one, with harsher penalties.

The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens on contract in Brunei be fully aware of their immigration status, as well the status of employees and staff and of crucial dates regarding contract extensions and renewals and have employment documents in order.

Dual Nationality:
Brunei does not recognize or permit dual nationality.
Brunei nationals are expected to enter and exit on their Brunei passports.
Should Brunei authorities learn that a person is a dual national, they may require immediate renunciation of either the citizenship of the other nation or Brunei citizenship.

Customs Regulations:
Brunei customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, ivory and alcohol.
For non-Muslims, limited amounts of alcohol for personal consumption are permitted.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Brunei in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. 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 Brunei laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Brunei 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 Brunei 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 Brunei.
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 on the 3rd floor, Teck Guan Plaza, at the corner of Jalan Sultan and Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan BS 8811, Brunei Darussalam.
Mail sent from the United States can be addressed to the Embassy's address:
American Embassy, P.O. Box 2991, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8675, Negara Brunei Darussalam.
The telephone number is 673-222-0384, fax number (673) (2) 225-293 and e-mail address amEmbassy_BSB@state.gov.
The Consular section's e-mail address is: ConsularBrunei@state.gov.
The Embassy's after-hours number for emergency calls is (673) (8) 730-691.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Brunei dated February 19, 2008, to update section on Entry/Exit Requirements, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Brunei

- National. 9 May 2018. Brunei has recorded 37 dengue cases in the 1st 4 months of 2018, with half of them detected in Kampong Ayer, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said on [Tue 8 May 2018]. MoH expects the number of dengue cases to rise and is urging residents to maintain good hygiene.

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map
Date: Sat 5 Dec 2015
From: Steve Berger <steve@gideononline.com> [edited]

Recently, ProMED reported that 2 tourists from Singapore acquired _Plasmodium knowlesi_ malaria in Brunei.

Malaria rates reported by both Brunei and Singapore have been strikingly similar since the 1990's, and Singapore has reported both autochthonous and imported cases of _P. knowlesi_ infection since 2007. See graph at <http://www.gideononline.com/wp/wp  content/uploads/BruneiMalaria.png>.

During the 1950's, Brunei reported low levels of malaria from the interior regions and coast adjacent to mountainous areas. The predominant infecting species and vector were _P. falciparum_ and _Anopheles leucosphyrus_, respectively [1]. Brunei was officially declared "malaria-free" by WHO in 1987. A single publication reported a case of _P. knowlesi_ malaria in this country in 2013.

Although official sources do not routinely recommend malaria prophylaxis for travelers, the recent report in ProMED suggests careful review of the current status of the disease in Brunei.

Reference:
[1] Berger SA. Infectious Diseases of Brunei, 2015. 374 pages, 60 graphs, 1448 references. Gideon e-books,
--------------------------------------------
Professor Steve Berger
Geographic Medicine
Tel Aviv Medical Center
Tel Aviv Israel
=========================
[ProMED thanks Steve Berger for this background information. The recent reports from northern Borneo indicate that _P. knowlesi_ may be emerging there. The ProMED report from 18 Nov 2015 "Malaria, P. knowlesi - Malaysia (03): (SA)" reports that _P. knowlesi_ is now the most common malaria species in humans in Sabah province, Malaysia.

_P. knowlesi_ is different from the other 4 plasmodia species infecting humans in that it is primarily a zoonosis, with the reservoir being Macaque monkeys. An increase in the Macaque reservoir, closer proximity to human habitats, or increases in the anopheles vectors are all possible explanations.

The importance of _P. knowlesi_ infections in humans was highlighted by a study published in 2004 (Singh B, et al. A large focus of naturally acquired _Plasmodium knowlesi_ infections in human beings. Lancet. 2004;363:1017-24), and data from before 2004 classified P. knowlesi and _P. malariae_.

Human to human transmission of _P. knowlesi_ has still not been demonstrated. - ProMed Mod.EP]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Wed 2 Dec 2015
From: Hsu Li Yang <hsuliyang@gmail.com> [edited]

_Plasmodium knowlesi_ malaria, human, Temburong National Park, Brunei
---------------------------------------------------------------------
We report 2 cases of _Plasmodium knowlesi_ malaria that occurred after a camping trip involving 24 teenagers and 3 adults in Temburong National Park, Brunei. The trip occurred between 2-9 Nov 2015, and the onset of illness was on 20 Nov 2015 for both individuals. Diagnosis of _P. knowlesi_ was made via PCR speciation. None of the participants of the trip received malaria prophylaxis.
------------------------------
Hsu Li Yang
Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health,
National University of Singapore,
Singapore
======================
[ProMED-mail would like to thank Dr. Hsu Li Yang for submitting this first hand report. - ProMed Mod.MPP]

[The report is in line with previous ProMED reports, especially the last report from 18 Nov 2015 (archive no http://promedmail.org/post/20151118.3801294), that _P. knowlesi_ is the most common malaria parasite found in humans with malaria in Northern Borneo (Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak and Brunei). - ProMed Mod.EP]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Sun 27 Oct 2013
Source: Bru Direct [edited]

The Ministry of Health (MoH) issued a press release to inform the public about cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE) infections that have been recently detected in Brunei Darussalam.

According to the press release, JE is a viral infection that is transmitted by mosquitoes, similar to other infections such as dengue, malaria, chikungunya and filariasis. The JE [virus] infection is endemic in many countries in Asia.

Medical research has shown that most cases of JE [virus] infection do not present with any symptoms. However, in a small number of cases, infected persons may show signs and symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. After a few days, the infection may cause mental abnormalities, neurological symptoms, weakness and motor disturbances. Convulsions may also occur, especially among children.

JE [virus] infection has never been previously detected and reported in the Sultanate. However, since 17 Oct this year [2013], a total of 12 patients with symptoms of encephalitis have been reported. Of these, 9 cases are from the Belait District, 2 from Tutong and one from Brunei-Muara.

To date, 6 patients have recovered and were discharged home, and 2 patients who also have other pre-existing medical conditions are currently receiving intensive care in hospital. They are, however, in a stable condition.

Following detailed investigations on all patients, only 3 patients from the Belait District have been confirmed by laboratory tests to have been infected by the JE virus.

There are no specific treatments for JE infection. There is only supportive treatment to relieve symptoms, and there is close monitoring in hospital if required. Patients should take their medications as instructed by the doctors and have adequate rest and fluids.

The MoH will continue to monitor the situation and take necessary measures including informing the public of any developments.
=======================
[Brunei (Brunei Darussalam in the Malay language) is a sovereign state on the north coast of Borneo Island. It is geographically within the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) endemic area of Asia, so it is not surprising that the virus is there and causing cases of human disease. Rice cultivation was intensified as a governmental agricultural initiative beginning in 2009. An increase in rice paddies would doubtless be accompanied by an increase of the _Culex_ mosquito JEV vectors. Additional cases in the future can be expected.

A map showing the location of Brunei can be accessed at
<http://healthmap.org/r/8UJm>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Date: Thu 29 Apr 2010
Source: Asia One Health [edited]
<http://health.asiaone.com/Health/News/Story/A1Story20100429-213104.html>

From January to the 1st week of April this year [2010], 77 people contracted dengue fever in the country. The number surpasses the 37 cases recorded for all of 2009, according to the Ministry of Health.

Senior Public Health Officer Kamaludin Mohamad Yassin from the Entomology and Parasitology Unit under the ministry's Environment Health Services, said the increase in the number of cases is alarming. This marks a rise of 24 cases during the 1st week of April alone this year [2010], as it was stated in an earlier report that there were only 53 cases from January to the beginning of April 2010. The report also stated that for the 1st time, Brunei has reported 2 cases of dengue haemorrhagic fever, which is a more virulent form of dengue [disease] whereby a patient bleeds through his skin, nose or eyes.

"Even though this figure is small compared with some of our neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, this is still a worrying figure when taking into context the size of our population," said the senior public health officer on the sidelines of the Ministry of Health's briefing on dengue fever and environmental hygiene yesterday [28 Apr 2010] at the Muhibah Hall, Brunei-Muara District Office. He told the media that a majority of these cases were from Kampong Ayer, where pools of stagnant water can be found due to poor sewage management. "There are areas in Kampong Ayer with a lot of rubbish floating in the water. This rubbish is not being cleared or taken care of appropriately, which results in a breeding place for the _Aedes_ mosquitoes," he said, explaining that the _Aedes_ mosquito is a known vector for carrying the dengue virus. [Rubbish can collect fresh water, the breeding sites for _Aedes_ mosquitoes. However, sewage is not a breeding site. - ProMed Mod.TY]

Kamaludin added that other possible causes for the increase of the disease, seen not only in Brunei but throughout the whole world, included the unusually high rainfall experienced in the Sultanate during the 1st 3 months of the year [2010] and also the storage of water in homes. "We have to keep the water covered to prevent the mosquitoes from breeding," the senior public health officer said. With this in mind, Kamaludin added that the public cannot be complacent in trying to prevent dengue fever.

During his presentation, the senior public health officer told participants of the briefing that of the total 77 cases recorded this year [2010], 67 were from the Brunei-Muara District. Kuala Belait had 5 cases followed by Tutong with 4 and Temburong, one case. As much as 86 percent of this year's infection was recorded from Kampong Ayer, a change in trend compared to the previous 5 years when only an average of 13 percent of the Sultanate's cases were from the water village.

Asked if there were any "serious" cases recorded recently, Kamaludin recalled only one, which occurred in 2009. "But this person had underlying chronic illnesses. ... The virus lowered his immunity, which made him more susceptible to other illnesses," said the senior public health officer.
==================
[The location of Brunei on the north coast of Borneo Island can be accessed on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at <http://healthmap.org/promed/en?v=4.5,114.8,5>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
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."