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US Urges Citizens to be Cautious in Haiti

US State Department Logo & Haiti Map and FlagAs of Monday, the US Department of State issued a travel warning for Haiti to inform citizens travelling to or living in the country about security situations. This warning replaces the one issued on January 20, consolidating and updating information in regard to the critical crime level, lack of adequate infrastructure, severe inclement weather, limited police protection, and renewed cholera outbreak.

The department strongly encourages nationals to carefully consider visiting Haiti. It’s recommended that they travel with organisations who offer medical support systems, evacuation options and solid infrastructure. Those who have travelled in the country without support like this have previously been in danger, it noted. These victims have been subject to kidnapping, murder and other violent crimes in Port-au-Prince. Gender, age, race, occupation and nationality won’t stop offenders from kidnapping visitors. In the past year, at least two citizens were killed in incidents where they were attacked and robbed shortly after stepping out of the city’s airport following their arrival in the country.

The US Embassy doesn’t have the infrastructure or capacity to evacuate citizens, so it relies on the Haitian National Police (HNP) to assist them. This is why visitors need to have well-prepared security plans and a private evacuation strategy, in case there is a violent disruption, like in the past. The earthquake that hit Haiti in January significantly damaged key infrastructure and reduced medical facilities’ capacity. Its infrastructure is still in very poor condition and unable to support normal activity.

The State Department warns that travel throughout Haiti can be a hazard. Even personnel at the embassy are under a curfew and have to stay home or in government facilities during the curfew hours. Transportation isn’t reliable and poses a risk to safety. Travellers should avoid crowded vans and ‘tap taps,’ as they are often driven unsafely and mechanically unsound. Additionally, it is hurricane season in Haiti from May to November, which poses more danger to those visiting the nation.

Citizens who travel to Haiti for relief efforts despite this warning are encouraged to confirm that the organisation they are working with can provide food, medical care, shelter, water and transportation to its volunteers and employees. All relief agencies should have a security plan to protect and evacuate personnel. All nationals should be very vigilant in regard to personal security, as well as avoid areas of demonstrations, keep a low profile, and stay up-to-date on local events and media coverage. They should also register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to get the most-recent security information.

This travel warning update eases the State Department’s call for all travel to Haiti to be avoided. However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Britain hasn’t changed its travel warning, which advises against all but essential travel to the country. The agency also advises against all travel to the slum districts in Port-au-Prince.



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