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Senegal

Senegal - US Consular Information Sheet
July 08, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Republic of Senegal is a developing West African country.
The capital is Dakar.
Facilities for tourists are widely available but vary in quality.
Read
the Department of State Background Notes on Senegal for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required.
For U.S. passport holders, a visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days.
Current yellow fever vaccination is mandatory to enter Senegal and meningitis vaccination is highly recommended if the traveler is arriving from or has recently traveled to an endemic area.
Travelers unable to provide proof of vaccinations may be required to pay for and receive vaccinations at the Dakar airport.
Travelers should obtain the latest information on entry requirements from the Embassy of Senegal, 2112 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 234-0540, and at the Senegal Tourism Authority's official web site, http://www.senegal-tourism.com.
Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Senegalese embassy or consulate.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Public demonstrations, political gatherings, and student protests are relatively common in Senegal, both in Dakar and in outlying regions, particularly on Friday afternoons. In the past, these events have sometimes turned violent.
Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations, and maintain security awareness at all times.
For guidelines on dealing safely with public demonstrations, please see the American Citizen Services page of the U.S. Embassy Dakar web site at http://dakar.usembassy.gov/service.html.
Lac Rose (Pink Lake) is a popular tourist destination in Senegal.
The Lac Rose area has a large number of tourists and isolated beach areas, but lacks multiple exit and entry points.
The U.S. Embassy recommends that all visitors to Lac Rose and its surrounding beaches be particularly vigilant and not travel alone.
Banditry occurs with some regularity on the main highways after dark, particularly in the central and eastern area of Senegal, including around Tambacounda and Matam. Bandits often target RN2 (National Road) between Ndioum and Kidira and occasionally target RN1 between Kidira and Tambacounda.
The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens avoid non-essential travel to the Casamance region west of the city of Kolda, except direct air travel to the Cap Skirring resort area or to the city of Ziguinchor.
If travel is deemed essential, the U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens carefully monitor the security situation before traveling.
There are currently instances of fighting in the Casamance region (composed of the Ziguinchor and Kolda regions) involving factions of the Casamance separatist MFDC (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance) in southern Senegal and the Senegalese military. Some military and political leaders in the Casamance region have been killed.
In May 2008, rebels kidnapped 16 local residents 5 kilometers from Ziguinchor and then cut off their left ears before releasing them.
That same month two soldiers and a peasant were killed in other clashes near the same area.
Reports of banditry in the area remain high.
In addition, vehicles have been attacked by armed bandits even during daylight hours on well-traveled roads.
On February 14, 2007, four people were killed when their bus was attacked after being stopped at a roadblock.
Landmine explosions continue to plague inhabitants of the Casamance, with fatalities and serious injury continuing into 2008.
One man was killed in Tounkara, approximately 70 kilometers north of Ziquinchor.
A Senegalese soldier was injured by a landmine near Boutoupa-Camaracounda, on the border with Guinea Bissau.
Since 1990, more than 1,000 people have been killed by land mines in the Casamance. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remain on well-traveled routes at all times.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair’s Internet site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:
Minor street crime is very common in Senegal, particularly in cities.
Most reported incidents involve pickpockets and purse-snatchers, who are especially active in large crowds and around tourists. Aggressive vendors, panhandlers and street children may attempt to divert the victim’s attention while an accomplice carries out the crime.
To avoid theft, U.S. citizens should avoid walking alone in isolated areas or on beaches, particularly at night, lock their doors and close their windows when driving, and avoid public transportation.
Americans should not walk on dark streets at night, even in groups.
To minimize inconvenience in the event of theft, U.S. citizens should carry copies, rather than originals, of their passports and other identification documents.
U.S. citizens should carry a credit card only if it will be used soon, rather than carrying it as a routine practice.
There is traditionally an increase in crime before major religious holidays.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to use common sense and situational awareness to ensure personal safety and to reduce the risk of becoming a crime victim.
Always be aware of the surroundings, especially in large cities and crowded places such as markets and taxi parks.
Keep a low profile, remain vigilant, and avoid potential conflict situations.
Do not wear flashy clothing or jewelry, and be cautious about displaying any amount of currency in public.
Use common sense when faced with something out of the ordinary or if someone is following you.
While violent crime is not common in Senegal, it does occur.
There have been incidents in the past year of Americans in groups of two or three being robbed at knife-point.
If confronted by criminals, remember that cash and valuables can be replaced, but life and health cannot.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to walk away from a criminal confrontation no matter the material cost.
Break-ins at residential houses occur frequently as in major cities everywhere.
Persons who plan to reside in Senegal on a long-term basis should take measures to protect their dwellings.
Long-term residents should consider installation of window grilles, solid core doors with well-functioning locks, and an alarm system.
In the past year, a number of American citizen residences have experienced burglaries.
No violence or personal injuries have been reported in these cases, in which the burglars appear to have been exclusively seeking financial gain.
Fraud is prevalent in Senegal and U.S. citizens are often the target of scams that may cause both financial loss and physical harm.
Typically, business scam operations begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of West Africa.
The perpetrators of these scams often claim to be victims of various western African conflicts (notably refugees from Sierra Leone) or relatives of present or former political leaders.
There are many variations of these business scams.
In some cases, a series of “advance fees” must be paid in order to conclude the transaction, such as fees to open a bank account, or to pay certain taxes.
In fact, the final payoff does not exist since the purpose of the scam is simply to collect the advance fees.
Another common variation consists of a request for the U.S. citizen's bank account information, purportedly to transfer money into the account.
Once the perpetrator obtains this information, however, he or she then simply transfers all money out of the victim's account.
Other variations include apparently legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts and offers to sell gold at a very low price.
In the last case, the seller may present real gold to be verified then substitute fake gold and disappear with the payment.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud or business scam is to use common sense:
If an offer seems too good to be true, it is probably a scam.
You should carefully research any unsolicited business proposal originating in Senegal before you commit funds, provide goods or services, or undertake travel.

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

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

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

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

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Senegal is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Senegal is very different from driving in the United States.
Many U.S. citizens find the traffic in Senegal chaotic, particularly in Dakar.
Drivers tend to exceed speed limits, follow other vehicles closely, ignore lane markings and attempt to pass even when facing oncoming traffic.
Many vehicles are not well-maintained; headlights may be either extremely dim or not used at all. Roadways are poorly lit and poorly marked and many sections have deteriorated surfaces.
Some roads have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic; others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway.
Due to limited street lighting, pedestrians are difficult to see at night.
Drivers in both rural and urban areas may expect to frequently encounter and share the road with motorcycles, bicyclists, pedestrians, livestock and animal carts.
Caution and defensive driving techniques are strongly recommended.
While most main roads in Senegal are in relatively good condition for daytime driving, smaller roads are poor by American standards.
During the rainy season, many roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles.
Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched.
Service stations are available along main roads.
Due to poor road conditions and the risk of crime, driving outside major cities at night is not recommended.
Due to language barriers (outside Dakar, relatively few Senegalese speak French) and the lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult in the event of distress.
For safety reasons, the Embassy recommends against the use of motorbikes, van taxis ("cars rapides"), and public transportation.
They can be dangerous due to overloading, careless driving, inadequate maintenance, and the lack of basic safety equipment such as seat belts.
Regulated orange-striped sedan auto taxis are safer, but make sure to agree on a fare before beginning the trip.
In Senegal, one drives on the right-hand side.
Vehicles give priority to traffic coming from the right, except at traffic circles, where vehicles already in the circle have the right of way.
Before January 2005, however, cars entering traffic circles had the right of way.
This change is not well known, so drivers should exercise extreme caution at traffic circles.
All drivers are expected to carry the following documents in their vehicles and present them at any time at the request of the police:
(1) valid driver's license; (2) valid insurance papers; (3) vehicle registration/immatriculation card ("carte grise"); (4) "vignette" tax disc for the current year; and (5) valid identification.
If Americans carry a copy of their U.S. passport, the copy must be clear enough to identify the driver of the vehicle.
Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages if you are involved in an accident resulting in injuries, and found not to have been at fault.
If you are found to have caused an accident, the penalty ranges from five months to two years in prison, with a possible fine.
If you cause an accident which results in a death, the penalty can be as high as five years in prison.
For guidance on what to do if you are in an automobile accident in Senegal, please see the American Citizen Services page of the U.S. Embassy Dakar web site at http://dakar.usembassy.gov/service/living-in-senegal-and-guinea-bissau/driving-in-senegal.html.
Senegalese law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving, unless the driver is using “hands-free” equipment.
Protective helmets are mandatory for all bicycle, moped, scooter and motorcycle drivers/riders and passengers.
When police officers stop a vehicle for a traffic violation, the police officer will generally confiscate the driver’s license or ID card until the fine is paid.
We encourage you to comply with the request. Sometimes, police officers try to solicit bribes instead of or in addition to the fine.
The U.S. Embassy does not encourage paying bribes. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Senegal, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Senegal’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Senegalese law requires that all persons carry personal identification at all times, and all Senegalese law enforcement officials have the authority to challenge suspicious activity and to request personal identification.
Be aware that they may request personal identification even without cause, which is generally not the case in the U.S.
If a U.S. citizen does not cooperate and provide identification, s/he may be detained for up to 48 hours without the filing of formal charges.
The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification by Senegalese authorities of the arrest of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. If arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy.
You may not bring several types of items into Senegal without clearance by Senegalese customs officials: these include computers and computer parts, video cameras and players, stereo equipment, tape players, auto parts, and various tools and spare parts.
Airport customs officials may hold such items if brought in as baggage or carry-on luggage.
Travelers should check with the Embassy of Senegal in Washington, DC, regarding these restrictions. (See Entry Requirements Section above for contact information.)
Senegalese customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes.
ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States.
For additional information, call (212) 354-4480, send an email to atacarnet@uscib.org or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
Travelers can obtain cash from some ATMs in Senegal.
Travelers can get cash and/or traveler's checks through international credit cards, such as Master Card, Visa, and American Express, by presenting their credit card at a local financial institution sponsoring their card. Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Senegalese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Senegal are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Travel News Headlines

Date: 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."