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Haiti Travel Warning

Issued by US Department of State

Jan 20, 2011

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Haiti and strongly urges avoiding all but essential travel. This notice replaces the Travel Warning dated December 9, 2010 to reflect the critical crime level, cholera outbreak, frequent and violent disturbances in Port-au-Prince and in provincial cities, lack of adequate medical facilities, and limited police protection.

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Haiti unless essential and only if travel is fully supported by organizations with solid infrastructure, evacuation options, and medical support systems in place. U.S. citizens traveling to Haiti without such support have found themselves in danger in the past.

The number of victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, continues to increase in Port-au-Prince. Some kidnapping victims have been physically abused, sexually assaulted, shot, and even killed. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age. In a number of cases in the 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.

In addition, beginning last year, protests, demonstrations, and violent disruptions have occurred regularly in Port-au-Prince and in cities throughout the country. During these demonstrations protestors threw rocks, burned tires, damaged vehicles, and blocked traffic. In several cases, U.S. citizen missionaries and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers were trapped in their compounds with limited supplies of food, water, and medicines. During the most recent disruptions, airports throughout Haiti were also closed for several days, making it impossible for U.S. citizens to depart the country once they were able to leave their shelters.

The Haitian National Police (HNP), with assistance from UN Police (UN Pol), are responsible for keeping peace in Haiti and rendering assistance during times of civil unrest. However, given the size and frequency of violent protests, the ability of HNP and UN Pol to come to the aid of U.S. citizens in distress during disturbances is very limited. The U.S. Embassy does not have the capacity or infrastructure to evacuate U.S. citizens and relies on the HNP to provide assistance. U.S. citizens in Haiti must therefore have well-prepared security plans, including a location to shelter-in-place stocked with provisions, and a private evacuation strategy.

The January 12, 2010 earthquake significantly damaged key infrastructure and greatly reduced the capacity of Haiti's medical facilities. A recent outbreak of cholera – compounded by inadequate public sanitation – has killed thousands of Haitians, strained the capacity of medical facilities and personnel, and undermined their ability to attend to emergencies. Some U.S. citizens injured in accidents and others with serious health concerns have been unable to find the necessary medical care in Haiti and have had to arrange and pay for medical evacuation to the U.S. The cost of these evacuations exceeds $15,000 USD, on average, and the U.S. Embassy does not have the assets to evacuate U.S. citizens or to pay for their evacuation.

Travel within Haiti is hazardous; 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. Complete information about restricted/ dangerous areas is available in the Country Specific Information for Haiti at http://Travel.State.gov. Transportation in Haiti is not reliable and poses a safety risk. Crowded vans and "tap taps" should be avoided because they are often overloaded, mechanically unsound, and driven unsafely. Erratic driving, poor road conditions, and frequent accidents exacerbate the safety situation. These conditions, as well as incidents of violence and demonstrations, significantly limit the Embassy's ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside Port-au-Prince.

U.S. citizens wishing to assist in Haiti relief efforts should be aware that – in addition to the aforementioned safety and health risks, and despite good intentions – their travel to Haiti will increase the burden on a system already struggling to support those in need. Cash donations are the most effective way to help the relief effort in Haiti, support the country’s local economy, and ensure the assistance is both culturally and environmentally appropriate. The following website has information on how to assist in the Haiti earthquake relief effort: http://www.whitehouse.gov/HaitiEarthquake.

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to Haiti despite this Travel Warning are urged to confirm before traveling to Haiti that the organization they will be working with has the capability to provide food, water, transportation, and shelter for its employees and volunteers, including during extended periods of time when they may be forced to shelter in place. All relief organizations should have a security plan in place to protect and evacuate their personnel to the United States or other safe haven. U.S. citizens in Haiti should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, stay current on media coverage of local events, avoid areas where demonstrations are occurring or crowds are forming, and maintain a low profile. Prior to travel, U.S. citizens should also obtain information about cholera and other health related issues by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov.

U.S. citizens are also urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP - https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/) in order to receive the most up-to-date security information. While the Embassy's ability to provide emergency consular services is extremely limited, travel enrollment will enable receipt of warden messages via email. Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States; callers outside the United States and Canada can receive the information by calling a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except U.S. federal holidays. The Embassy of the United States of America is located in Port-au-Prince at Boulevard du 15 October, Tabarre 41, Tabarre, Haiti, telephone: (509) (2) 229-8000, facsimile: (509) (2) 229-8027, email: American Citizens Services Unit office hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Consular Section is closed on U.S. and local holidays. After hours, on weekends and on holidays, please call (509) (2) 229-8000. The Marine guard will connect you with the Embassy Duty Officer.

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