US issues warning about Haiti travel
WASHINGTON, United States, Wednesday August 10, 2011 – The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning to American citizens going to or living in Haiti, advising them to think twice before going to that Caribbean island because of the security situation there.
The warning, issued this week, replaces the one from January 20, 2011, “to consolidate and update information regarding the critical crime level, renewed cholera outbreak, lack of adequate infrastructure - particularly in medical facilities -, seasonal severe inclement weather, and limited police protection”, according to the State Department.
“The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consider carefully all travel to Haiti,” the warning states. “Travel fully supported by organizations with solid infrastructure, evacuation options, and medical support systems in place is recommended and preferable to travel in the country without such support structures in place. U.S. citizens travelling to Haiti without such support have found themselves in danger in the past.”
The warning notes that U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and some have been physically abused, sexually assaulted, shot, and even killed.
“In a number of cases this past year, travelers arriving in Port-au-Prince on flights from the United States were attacked and robbed shortly after departing the airport. At least two U.S. citizens were shot and killed in such incidents. Haitian authorities have limited capacity to deter or investigate such violent acts, or prosecute perpetrators,” it said.
The State Department said that while the Haitian National Police (HNP), with assistance from UN Police (UN Pol), are responsible for keeping peace in Haiti and providing assistance during times of civil unrest, their ability to come to the aid of U.S. citizens in distress during disturbances is very limited given the possibility and unpredictability of violent protests.
It also noted that travel within Haiti can be hazardous and said that even U.S. Embassy personnel are under an Embassy-imposed curfew and must remain home or in U.S. government facilities during curfew hours.
“Some areas are off-limits to Embassy staff after dark, including downtown Port-au-Prince. The Embassy restricts travel by its staff to some areas outside of Port-au-Prince because of the prevailing road, weather, or security conditions,” the State Department added to emphasize its point.
As for the cholera outbreak, it warned that while it is no longer at peak levels, the disease persists in many areas of Haiti and the risk of contracting it remains.
It further noted that Haiti’s infrastructure remains in very poor condition since the January 12, 2010 earthquake and is unable to support normal activity, much less crisis situations.
The current Atlantic Hurricane Season has also been used by the State Department to highlight other concerns about travelling to Haiti. It said the hurricane season increases the danger of travelling in the country as thunderstorms, torrential downpours, and heavy winds routinely cause flash flooding make travel on the poor road network even more hazardous.