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Turkey

Geographical Information:
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Turkey is officially known as the Republic of Turkey and is bordered on the northwest by Bulgaria and Greece, on the north by the Black Sea and on the south by Syria, Iraq and t
e Mediterranean Sea. The capital is Ankara with a population of about 2.5 million though Istanbul is a much larger city (6.6 million). The population of the country is estimated at 62 million with the majority in the cities and along the costal regions.
Climate:
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The Mediterranean and Aegean shores of Turkey have long and hot summers with a milder winter. In Istanbul the average July temperature reaches 230C while in January it can drop to 00C. Throughout the country the annual rainfall is about 29". This is mainly during the months of December and January.

Health Care Facilities:
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The level of adequate health facilities vary considerably within the country. Most of the better hotels will have access to English speaking doctors but care may be required if hospital admission is required.
Disease Profile:
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Cholera and other water borne diseases are frequently reported from Istanbul. In the southeastern city of Diyarbakir there are regular reports of dysentery, typhoid, meningitis and other contagious diseases.

General Food & Water Hygiene:
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There can be little doubt that travellers to Turkey who disregard basic hygiene precautions will run a risk of developing significant illness and a ruined holiday. With simple general care most tourists will remain healthy.

Food Rules:
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Always eat in clean restaurants and hotels. Eat freshly cooked hot food. Stay away from cold salads, especially lettuce. Don’t eat any of the bivalve shellfish dishes such as oysters and mussels. Never eat food prepared by street vendors. Always peel your own fruit if at all possible.
Water Rules:
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Never use the hotel tap water for drinking or brushing your teeth unless you can easily smell chlorine. Don’t allow ice in your drinks and be wary of the hotel water jug which may be in your room each day. Any of the canned drinks or bottles are usually quite safe. Just check the seal first!
Rabies in Turkey:
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This disease is only a particularly risk for travellers who plan to have extended trekking holidays throughout Turkey. Most tourists travelling for a ‘sun’ holiday would be very unfortunate to be exposed but nevertheless care should be taken at all times to ensure that there is no contact with warm blooded animals. This is mainly true for dogs and cats but any infected
warm blooded animal can transmit the disease through its saliva. Any bite, lick or scratch should be treated seriously.
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Wash out the area
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Apply an antiseptic
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Attend for urgent medical attention
Sun Stroke:
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The immense strength of the sun in the Middle East can often be underestimated by the Irish traveller. This is especially true for small children and the elderly. Try and stay out of the direct sunlight between 11am to 4pm. Use a wide brimmed hat if possible to protect yourself. Drink plenty of fluid (about 2 or 3 times as much as in Ireland) and remember to increase your salt intake unless this is contraindicated because of high blood pressure or heart disease etc. Any signs of dehydration should be recognised and treated early (dry lips, headache etc.).
Anthrax:
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This bacterial disease is sometimes contracted by travellers who purchase untreated leather goods while abroad.
Drug Trafficking:
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Remember that Turkey is regarded as a gateway to Europe. Never agree to carry belongings for others unless you are certain of the contents.
Malaria in Turkey:
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The risk of malaria in Turkey is very limited and transmission usually only occurs between the months of March to November in the Çukurova / Amikova areas and from mid-March to mid-October in southeast Anatolia. These are mainly away from the standard tourist routes and so prophylaxis will usually not be required. Nevertheless there may be an abundant supply of mosquitoes and other insects around. Travellers should carry insect repellents and wear longer sleeved clothing when at risk.
Vaccinations for Turkey:
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There are no compulsory vaccines for entry to Turkey from Ireland. However, travellers are advised to ensure that they are adequately covered against Poliomyelitis, Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A. Those spending longer in the country or undertaking a trekking holiday may also need to consider vaccination cover against Rabies and Hepatitis B .
Further Information:
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Travellers can obtain further health information for overseas travel by contacting either of our offices. Useful web sites for information on Turkey include;

www.WHO.int
www.CDC.gov
www.FCO.gov.uk

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2019 15:59:36 +0200 (METDST)

Istanbul, Sept 26, 2019 (AFP) - A 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Turkey's largest city on Thursday, driving residents to evacuate buildings, AFP journalists witnessed.   Eight people were "lightly injured", President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference in Istanbul.   "Some buildings have been lightly damaged," he added.

Istanbul's Bogazici University Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute said the quake's centre was in the town of Silivri, around 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of the city.    It said the quake measured magnitude 5.7 and struck at 1:59pm (1059 GMT). Several smaller after-shocks were also recorded.   Turkish broadcasters showed images of a minaret tower that had been snapped in two.    Schools in Istanbul and nearby provinces of Bursa and Yalova were closed for the day, NTV broadcaster reported.

Istanbul lies near a major fault line and experts have forecast that a severe earthquake is due there in the coming years.  On August 17, 1999, a huge earthquake measuring 7.4 magnitude centred on the city of Izmit devastated vast areas in the country's densely-populated north-western zone, notably around Istanbul.    At least 17,400 people were killed including 1,000 within Turkey's economic capital.   A large quake could devastate the city of 15 million, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.
Date: Mon 5 Aug 2019 20:42 TRT
Source: Daily Sabah [edited]

A group of Turkish scientists has identified 4 rare viruses in Turkey that cause haemorrhagic fever and lead to death due to renal failure, a scientist said [Mon 5 Aug 2019].

A team from the Biology Department of Bulent Ecevit University, led by Professor Mehmet Ali Oktem of Dokuz Eylul University's Medical Virology Department, conducted research on hantavirus types that develop in rodents and small mammals in Turkey and 4 particular subspecies that can cause human disease.

Oktem said he has been doing fieldwork on the hantavirus since 2000, adding that the presence of the virus in rodents was discovered in Turkey for the 1st time in 2004 in the Black Sea region. Meanwhile, the 1st cases in which the viruses developed in humans were reported in 2004 in the Aegean region, and subsequently in Zonguldak and Bartin provinces in the western Black Sea region in 2009.

The newly-identified rare viruses which can be transmitted to humans from rodents, have been named after the provinces or towns they were found in, namely the "Dobrava Hantavirus Igneada", "Dobrava Hantavirus Giresun", "Puumala Hantavirus Bartin", and "Tuula Hantavirus Palandoken."
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[Cases of hantavirus haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome have been reported in Turkey previously. In January-March 2009 there were 12 laboratory confirmed cases that were serologically positive for Puumala virus subtype.

Reference
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Ertek M, Buzgan T; Refik Saydam National Public Health Agency; Ministry of Health, Ankara, Turkey: An outbreak caused by hantavirus in the Black Sea region of Turkey, January-May 2009. Euro Surveill. 2009; 14(20). pii: 19214;  <https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/ese.14.20.19214-en>

Finding Puumala virus in rodents in Turkey is not surprising, since it has caused human cases there in the past. Dobrava-Belgrade orthohantavirus (DOBV) was first isolated from yellow-necked mice (_Apodemus flavicollis_) found in Dobrava village, Republic of Slovenia. It was subsequently isolated in striped field mice in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe and this rodent occurs in Turkey. The report above indicates that it harbors DOBV in Turkey. It will be interesting to see a genomic comparison of these viruses from Turkey with sequences of these same viruses from other geographic areas. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Turkey:
Date: Tue 30 Jul 2019
Source: Time Turk [in Turkish, machine trans., edited]
<https://www.timeturk.com/mus-ta-15-kisi-brucella-hastaligina-yakalandi/haber-1150899>

A total of 15 people engaged in animal fattening in the town and highlands of Kirkoy have been infected with brucellosis. A resident of the town said that many small ruminants in the town had suffered a miscarriage during the birth season and that 4 people in one family are now being treated for brucellosis. The patients had been seen at the Elazig Ataturk Research Hospital and "the doctors made the examinations and tests and as a result a brucellosis diagnosis was made. The patients were constantly sluggish and sleepy.

Currently, 15 people are receiving treatment for the same disease, "he said. Mus Provincial Health Director Serdal Turkoglu stated that 119 cases were encountered in Muay in 2019 and that the patients were treated in the hospitals in the province and that they made the necessary studies and tests on the subjects in the field. He reminded that the source of animal products should not be consumed in order to prevent the disease: "cheese, cream, butter, cream, ice cream made from pasteurized or well boiled milk should be preferred. Pickled cheeses should be consumed after waiting for at least 3 months. Frequent abortions and stillbirths should be examined by a veterinarian immediately.

The animals' wastes and the feeds that these wastes come into contact with, should be buried in sealed bags. Animals should be vaccinated against brucella," he said. -- Communicated by: ProMED-mail <promed@promedmail.org> [This infection, a bacterial zoonosis, is classified among the category B biowarfare agents. Natural transmission to humans occurs after occupational exposure or through ingestion of contaminated food products. Although brucellosis has become a rare entity in the United States and many industrialized nations because of animal vaccination programs, this condition remains a significant health problem in many developing countries.

Each species of _Brucella_ has a specific animal reservoir in which chronic disease is present. The bacilli tend to localize in the reproductive organs of the animals, causing sterility and abortions, and are shed in large numbers in the animal's urine, milk, and placental fluid. This localization allows for efficient spread to farmers, veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers, and consumers.

Among the 4 species known to cause disease in humans, _Brucella melitensis_ (from goats, sheep, or camels) may be the most virulent, producing the most severe and acute cases of brucellosis with disabling complications. A prolonged course of illness, which may be associated with suppurative destructive lesions, is associated with _B. suis_ (from feral or commercially raised pigs) infection. _B. abortus_ (from cattle, buffalo, and camels) is associated with mild-to-moderate sporadic disease that is rarely associated with complications. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Turkey:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/87>]
19th June 2019
https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2019/06/18/heavy-rainfall-floods-parts-of-northeastern-turkeys-trabzon-killing-7

emAA Photo/em

At least seven people were killed in north-eastern Turkey's Trabzon province after heavy rainfall triggered flash floods on Tuesday. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had previously announced that four people were killed in the province's Araklı district, while three others were injured and six people were missing. Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said three bodies were found in the area later on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to seven with three others unaccounted for.  Trabzon Governor Ismail Ustaoğlu said search and rescue efforts had been launched by Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) units to locate the missing.

The floods hit Araklı's Çamlıktepe and Yeşilyurt neighbourhoods after a nearby stream overflowed following sudden and heavy rainfall.  Firefighters were immediately dispatched to the scene but had difficulty reaching the affected areas as debris brought by the floods blocked the roads.  AFAD and gendarmerie units were also called in to help with the rescue efforts. The governor said the floods also destroyed four houses and offices in the district.  Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak offered condolences for those that perished in the disaster and said all available resources were being made available to assist the rescue operation.

Date: Sat 23 Feb 2019
Source: Xinhua [abridged, edited]

Turkey's experts recently warned that epidemic diseases such as measles that have been off the grid for years might come back amid decreasing vaccination rates in the country in the past few years under the influence of anti-vaccine discourse. The anti-vaccination trend started with 183 people in 2011, reaching 980 in 2013 and 5091 in 2015. In 2017, a total of 23 600 families declined compulsory vaccine, professor Mehmet Ceylan, head of paediatric infectious diseases at Ankara's Hacettepe Medical Faculty, said.

The expert warned of an epidemic outbreak if vaccination rates falls under 95 per cent, or some 50 000 people in Turkey. Ceylan said that diseases such as diphtheria and tetanus, which have been off the grid in Turkey for years, might show up again.
 
WHO also voiced concern about the increasing anti-vaccination movement in Turkey. An increasing number of groups were "misleading" the public about the effects of vaccines, harming their trust in getting vaccinated, WHO said.
Turkish health ministry has set up a special website to inform the public about vaccines and to fight false facts. But the anti-vaccination movement is increasingly active on social media, with slogans such as "I have no obligation to vaccinate". A great majority is concerned with the content of the vaccines such as use of mercury or aluminum.

It's obligatory in Turkey that a baby be given a total of 16 different types of vaccination in the 1st 24 months. Parents have to sign an official document holding them responsible, if they reject vaccination. Professor Ata Nevzat Yalcin from Akdeniz University's Faculty of Medicine, Infection Diseases and Clinical Microbiology, warned against the latest trend of increasing measles in Turkey. "The worldwide increase in the disease in 2017 was also observed in our country," he said. There were 572 measles cases in 2014, 342 in 2015, 9 cases in 2016, 69 cases in 2017. In the 1st 9 months of 2018, the number of the cases exceeded 500, he added. Measles arises especially in the spring and winter months, and can cause recurrent epidemics every 2 to 3 years, Yalcin said.

According to the Health Ministry's figures, the measles vaccination rate was 97 per cent in 2015, 98 per cent in 2016, and 96 per cent in 2017. Turkey faced a measles outbreak, which was off the grid for many years, compounded by the arrival of millions of refugees after civil war erupted in neighbouring Syria.

Some 7415 people were diagnosed with measles in Turkey in 2013, but the epidemic was prevented after an intense vaccination program. The number of people diagnosed with measles disease reached 510 in the 1st 9 months of 2018 in Turkey, a recent report of WHO said. According to WHO, the number of global measles cases doubled to 229 068 in 2018, and 82 596 of them were in Europe, mostly caused by stalled vaccination levels.
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."