Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2018 14:06:16 +0100

Tunis, Nov 22, 2018 (AFP) - Tunisian civil servants staged the biggest general strike in five years on Thursday after their powerful trade union failed to secure wage hikes in tense negotiations with the government.   More than 3,000 people gathered outside parliament, responding to calls from the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) for demonstrations.   "The wage increase is not a favour" and "Tunisia is not for sale", protesters chanted, also employing a popular slogan of the country's 2011 revolution -- "work, freedom, national dignity".    The UGTT is demanding 673,000 state employees receive salary bumps equal to those granted this year to public companies, which range from 15 to 30 euros ($17-34) a month.    Bouali Mbarki, UGTT deputy secretary, told AFP the wage increase "had not been taken into account in the 2019 state budget".

Thursday's strike, the biggest since 2013 and the first civil servant walkout over wages in decades, according to UGTT, included staff from ministries, hospitals and public schools.    The demands for wage hikes are tied to "an unprecedented rise in prices, a deterioration of citizen purchasing power.... and a degradation of daily life," Mbarki said.   Donors keeping Tunisia afloat have called on the government to control civil service salaries to avoid pushing up the public deficit.   But Mbarki said the government "must find a solution without being subjected to the instructions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-- even if it has made commitments with it -- and preserve social stability".    Mbarki said the union was "not negotiating with (head of the IMF) Christine Lagarde) but with the head of the Tunisian government", Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. 

The North African country is seen as having had a relatively smooth democratic transition since the January 14, 2011 toppling of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.   At the same time price hikes, fuelled in particular by the fall of the Tunisian dinar, combined with tax increases and stubborn unemployment have spurred social discontent that escalated into riots across several cities in January.   In 2016, the IMF granted the North African country a 2.4-billion-euro loan over the span of four years in exchange for a promise to carry out economic reforms.    In recent months, political life in Tunisia has been paralysed by power struggles ahead of presidential elections set for 2019.
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2018 14:30:30 +0100

Tunis, Oct 29, 2018 (AFP) - A strong explosion rattled the Tunisian capital on Monday, AFP journalists said.   Witnesses and a policeman at the scene said a woman had blown herself up close to police officers. Several ambulances and security personnel were at the scene.
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2018 20:07:01 +0200

Tunis, Oct 18, 2018 (AFP) - Flash flooding in Tunisia has killed at least five people while a further two are unaccounted for, the interior ministry said on Thursday.   Two died in the northwestern region of Kef and another in Grombalia in the north, ministry spokesperson Sofiene Zaag told AFP.   On Wednesday a six-year-old child drowned in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia and a 40-year-old man was swept away by a seasonal river in the neighbouring province of Kasserine, the ministry said.   One person has been missing since Wednesday in Kasserine and another in Zaghouan in northeastern Tunisia, Zaag added.

The drownings come less than a month after torrential rains killed at least five people in the northeastern region of Cap Bon.   Water levels rose Thursday in several cities, including Tunis and its outskirts, where most schools were closed.   Some commuters parked their cars and took off their shoes as they navigated flooded streets to reach workplaces in the capital.   In some areas, floodwaters rose to nearly two metres deep during the night, devastating homes and shops.

In Mhamdia, a township 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Tunis, families spent Wednesday night on the roofs of their homes to escape the floods.   "I slept with my three children on a floor under construction above my own home, exposed to the wind and the rain," one resident said. "I've lost everything".     In knee-deep mud, some residents tried to leave their homes in the crowded township with a few sodden possessions, an AFP photographer said.

People have lashed out at authorities for failing to maintain drainage systems or clear rubbish from seasonal riverbeds, despite frequent heavy rains in the autumn.   "This is the third time that this disaster has happened", said Abdelaziz Elkahbi, another Mhamdia resident.     "The authorities promise to do something, but nothing ever happens".   Schools remained closed in several areas including Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of Tunisia's revolution sparked by the December 2010 self-immolation of a fruit seller in protest at police harassment.   The interior ministry urged drivers to take care, as numerous roads across the country are impassable.
Date: Mon 1 Oct 2018
Source: Jawhara FM [in Arabic, trans. ProMED Mod.MM, edited]

As of 30 Sep 2018, one case of death from West Nile virus infection was recorded from a total of 11 cases, 8 suspected and 3 confirmed, registered in Sousse-Masakin, and Kairouan governorates according to the director general of the centre of re-emerging diseases, MOH-Tunisia.
[West Nile fever a mosquito-borne viral disease caused by the West Nile fever virus (WNV) which is a member of the genus _Flavivirus_ in the family Flaviviridae. The arbovirus is maintained in nature by cycling through birds and mosquitoes; numerous avian and mosquito species support virus replication.

The WNV has been reported across Tunisia especially in the coastal and Southern areas of the country. The 1st human West Nile disease (WND) epidemic in Tunisia was reported in 1997, but serological evidence of WNV circulation has been documented as early as 1968. A major WNV epidemic with cases of meningitis and meningoencephalitis was recorded in 2012, with 86 cases and 6 deaths.  (<>).

Currently, surveillance in Tunisia is based on 3 components:
1. monitoring of human meningitis and meningoencephalitis cases (ONMNE 2013);
2. monitoring of clinical equine encephalitis cases based on the passive reporting of any suspicion of encephalitis within the framework of the integrated network monitoring of rabies (not systematic);
3. passive surveillance of the circulation of WNV in birds based on the monitoring of avian mortality integrated into the avian influenza surveillance network.

For the entomological component, no continuous monitoring is performed in the risk areas, with the exception of some investigations carried out after human outbreaks (<>).

A multisectoral surveillance system for WNV is required, which should aim to provide early alerts to health authorities in order to adopt timely and effective measures to prevent the spread of the infection among animals and humans. - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Tunisia:
Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2018 13:42:52 +0200

Tunis, Oct 5, 2018 (AFP) - More than six million foreign travellers visited Tunisia in the first nine months of 2018, according to government data, as tourism rebounds from devastating jihadist attacks three years ago.   Arrivals rose 16.9 percent to 6.3 million in the nine months to the end of September, surpassing the number for the whole of 2014.   Jihadist attacks in 2015 included one at the National Bardo museum in Tunis and another targeting a beach resort in Sousse, which together killed 59 foreign tourists and a Tunisian guard.   Tourist arrivals bounced back in 2017 to above their pre-attack levels.   Tourism revenues in the first nine months of 2018 totalled just over 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), a rise of 27.6 percent year-on-year.   But receipts were only two thirds of the level recorded for 2014 as a whole.

Inflation and excessive reliance on beachside holiday packages have slowed the longer-term recovery of revenues, industry experts told AFP.   Arrivals from Europe and Russia rose nearly 45 percent, accounting for much of the surge, despite concerns that the hot European summer and the football World Cup could limit demand for Tunisian destinations.   Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi Rekik told AFP in May that she expected total arrivals to exceed eight million in 2018, higher than the seven million recorded in 2010, a benchmark year for Tunisian tourism.    Tour operator Thomas Cook, which suspended its Tunisia holidays in the wake of the June 2015 Sousse attack, resumed operations in February.
More ...