Published On: Mon, Dec 31st, 2012

US issues new travel warning for Haiti

WASHINGTON, USA – The US Department of State has issued a new travel warning to inform US citizens traveling to or living in Haiti about the current security situation.

This replaces the travel warning dated June 18, 2012, and updates information regarding the level of crime, the presence of cholera, lack of adequate infrastructure - particularly in medical facilities - seasonal severe inclement weather, and limited police protection.

The State Department urges US citizens to exercise caution when visiting Haiti. Thousands of US citizens safely visit Haiti each year, but the poor state of Haiti’s emergency response network should be carefully considered when planning travel. Travelers to Haiti are encouraged to use organizations that have solid infrastructure, evacuation, and medical support options in place.

US citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age. In recent months, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport. At least two US citizens were shot and killed in robbery and kidnapping incidents in 2012. Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts, or prosecute perpetrators.

The ability of local authorities to respond to emergencies is limited and in some areas nonexistent. Local health, police, judicial, and physical infrastructure limitations mean there are few local resources available to help resolve the problem in an emergency. For this reason, the US Embassy limits staff travel in areas outside of Port-au-Prince. This in turn constrains its ability to provide emergency services to US citizens outside of Port-au-Prince.

US Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew of 1:00 am to 5:00 am and must remain at home or at another safe facility during curfew hours. Additionally, there are restrictions on travel by Embassy staff in other areas or times. This, too, may constrain the Embassy’s ability to provide emergency services to US citizens outside Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian National Police (HNP), with assistance from the United Nations’ Stabilization Force for Haiti (MINUSTAH), are responsible for keeping the peace and rendering assistance. However, given the possibility and unpredictability of protests, including the potential (as with any protest) to become violent, its ability to assist US citizens during disturbances is very limited.

Haiti's infrastructure remains in poor condition and unable to fully support even normal activity, much less crisis situations. US government-facilitated evacuations, such as the evacuation that took place after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist. Medical facilities, including ambulance services, are particularly weak. Some US citizens injured in accidents and others with serious health concerns have been unable to find necessary medical care in Haiti and have had to arrange and pay for medical evacuation to the United States. Given these conditions and the cost of private evacuations, visitors to Haiti are strongly encouraged to obtain evacuation insurance, including for medical issues that may arise.

While incidents of cholera have declined significantly, cholera persists in many areas of Haiti. Prior to travel, US citizens should obtain information about cholera and other health-related issues by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov

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