BY INSI

TRAVEL ADVISORY: Central African Republic as at 16/12/13

The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is deteriorating despite the arrival of 1600 French troops and African Union peacekeeping forces earlier this month.

Thousands are taking refuge in Bangui M'poko International Airport in a bid to shelter from the violence. Aid workers are struggling to cope.

The situation remains extremely volatile, with news crews reporting on fighting across the country. Last week a television crew was threatened by machete-wielding residents of the PK-5 district in Bangui, the capital. 

Flights

Commercial flights to Bangui were suspended last week. Reports suggest some flights are resuming.

On December 8 the European Commission deployed its humanitarian air service, ECHO Flight, between Douala in Cameroon and Bangui. The flights are daily.

Priority is given to aid workers but these flights are also open to a limited number of journalists.

For more information, contact the ECHO team in Nairobi:

Malini Morzaria ([email protected]) / +254 0722 791 604

Martin Karimi ([email protected])

Journalists are able to get transit visas at Douala International Airport.

Logistics

Fuel is still reportedly still available in urban centres but is in short supply. Many patrol stations are closed and those that are open have long queues. Fuel is available on the black market but is reportedly double the normal cost of regular fuel and is of dubious quality, so is risky to use in your vehicle.

If you are going to rural areas, ensure that you have enough fuel for your trip as there are no fuel stations outside urban centres.

Internet is reportedly available in urban centres. Journalists are using the 3G network to file.

Electricity is still running in urban centres.

Water is reportedly available at upmarket hotels however food stocks are reportedly low.

Journalists are advised to be self-sufficient and take water purification means.

Bring cash (Euros or Francs) as there are few, if any, working ATM machines.

It is recommended to use tents outside of Bangui if possible.

Bangui

There is a risk of mob violence in the busy PK-5 district of Bangui. The largely Muslim neighbbourhood is said to be particularly difficult to work in at the moment.

Ex-Seleka are still on the street of Bangui, according to reports. Journalists who have attempted to film them are believed to have been threated.

Malaria

There is a high risk of Malaria in CAR.

The Fleet Street Clinic in London has provided the following advisory on malaria:

Newsgathering professionals should only travel with

The high risk of malaria in Central Africa makes it foolhardy and inappropriate for any news gathering professional to risk travel without:

o A pre-travel consultation with a suitable, specialist travel clinic to review options for prevention

o An adequate supply of prophylactic antimalarial medication - to include an allowance for unforeseen or enforced delays and extension of stay

o Suitable personal protective measures, including mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, sprays, killers, and clothing.

o An understanding of possible signs and symptoms of malaria, plus recognition of the fact that suspected malaria in non-immune visitors to malarial areas is a medical emergency (death may follow the first symptoms within 24 hour)

o It may also be appropriate to consider travelling with malaria treatment medication (such as Riamet / Co-artem / Eurartesim) for self-tratment in an emergency.

The most suitable drug for prevention may depend on individual factors, and medication needs to be individually prescribed.

The two most suitable antimalarial medicines for rapid deployment situations are: Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil) and doxycycline, both of which can be commenced just 24 hours prior to departure. By contrast, Lariam (mefloquine) requires three doses (usually with a one-week gap between each dose) prior to departure, though this gap can sometimes be compressed if needed, on specialist advice.

CAR should be regarded as a tropical war zone, with a high risk of locally prevalent infectious/tropical diseases in addition to the many other likely hazards.

We recommend travelling with a complete individual trauma kit, and a professionally-assembled personal medical kit containing a full range of prescription medicines, rather than attempting to source medicines or supplies locally.

• A pre-travel consultation with a suitable, specialist travel clinic to review options for prevention

• An adequate supply of prophylactic antimalarial medication - to include an allowance for unforeseen or enforced delays and extension of stay

• Suitable personal protective measures, including mosquito repellents, mosquito nets, sprays, killers, and clothing.

• An understanding of possible signs and symptoms of malaria, plus recognition of the fact that suspected malaria in non-immune visitors to malarial areas is a medical emergency (death may follow the first symptoms within 24 hour)

• It may also be appropriate to consider travelling with malaria treatment medication (such as Riamet / Co-artem / Eurartesim) for self-tratment in an emergency.

The most suitable drug for prevention may depend on individual factors, and medication needs to be individually prescribed.

The two most suitable antimalarial medicines for rapid deployment situations are: Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil) and doxycycline, both of which can be commenced just 24 hours prior to departure. By contrast, Lariam (mefloquine) requires three doses (usually with a one-week gap between each dose) prior to departure, though this gap can sometimes be compressed if needed, on specialist advice.

CAR should be regarded as a tropical war zone, with a high risk of locally prevalent infectious/tropical diseases in addition to the many other likely hazards.

The Fleet Street Clinic advises reporters to travel with a complete individual trauma kit, and a professionally-assembled personal medical kit containing a full range of prescription medicines, rather than attempting to source medicines or supplies locally.

An in-depth advisory on malaria, provided by the Fleet Street Clinic, is available here.

For more information about the vaccinations and medication you will need, contact the Fleet Street Clinic.

INSI's previous travel advisory on CAR (published 21/11/13) is available here


Note: The views here are those of the author and are personal reflections and safety advice. They are meant to assist the media in preparing to work in the Central African Republic and are not meant to be negative in nature. If they cause offence to anyone, sincerest apologies are offered in advance. INSI holds no responsibility for any ensuing problems, bodily harm or death in relation to this advice.

Photo: Children play in a makeshift camp for internally displaced people set up in the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, Friday Dec. 13, 2013. Over 30,000 have gathered there, prompting the UN to start food distribution a kilometer away. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)