Afghanistan Country Report
Insecurity, corruption, and a lack of infrastructure are major obstacles to economic development in Afghanistan. There have been some improvements during the past decade – for example, in telecommunications through the expansion of the mobile network, as well as civil aviation, with a greater number of international carriers flying into Kabul regularly. However, further major improvements to infrastructure are very unlikely over the next year given extremely limited institutional capacity, rampant corruption, and the poor security environment. Officials at all levels of government are likely to demand arbitrary payments to facilitate business activity. There is no organised labour movement in the country given the persistent civil war.
Taliban insurgents employ suicide bombings, roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and vehicle-borne IEDs, mainly targeting Afghan security forces, foreigners and government officials. However, Taliban attacks against foreign personnel and assets, particularly in Kabul, are likely to decrease significantly following the February 2020 US-Taliban withdrawal agreement, although attacks against Afghan security forces, electricity pylons, and telecoms towers will continue, particularly in northern Afghanistan. In addition, the Islamic State’s faction for Afghanistan will continue attacks against foreigners and diplomatic missions regardless of the withdrawal agreement.
Criminal networks in Afghanistan are wealthy and influential, and often overlap with militant elements, creating a complex array of non-state armed groups. Corrupt government and law-enforcement officials take bribes to allow drug traffickers to act with impunity, and buying key government positions is commonplace. These systems of political protection enable a small number of key trafficking cartels to control a large proportion of the opium economy. Criminal gangs also engage in kidnapping for ransom, particularly in Kabul.
The US and the Taliban in February 2020 signed an agreement for the conditional withdrawal of US soldiers from Afghanistan by mid-2021. The agreement reduces the risk of the Taliban targeting air bases, staging attacks in urban areas, or staging offensives to capture provincial capitals. The Taliban, however, is likely to intensify attacks against Afghan security forces in rural areas. Intra-Afghan talks are likely to be more complicated than US-Taliban negotiations. In the absence of a domestic Afghan agreement by early 2021, the US will likely delay withdrawal, although the COVID-19 virus pandemic increases the risk of the US withdrawing regardless.
Vaccines Required to Enter the Country
Yellow fever: There is no risk of contracting yellow fever in Afghanistan. However, the government of Afghanistan requires proof of vaccination for travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease.
Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers
Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary). NB: you may need to show proof of polio vaccination to exit the country.
Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers
Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.
Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).
Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers
Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.
Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.
Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).
Afghanistan is a very mountainous country with a significant risk of earthquakes.
A 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit Badakhshan province (southeast, Pram region) in October 2015, causing over 400 deaths and injuring some 2500 people.
Avalanches and snowstorms are frequent in the winter months and cause dozens of deaths every year. In February 2016, around 200 people were killed in a series of avalanches in the northeast (Salang and Panjshir regions).
Devastating floods and mudslides are also regularly reported; in April 2016, around 50 people were killed following torrential rains and floods in northern Baghlan and Takhar provinces.
Transportation infrastructure (by road and air) in the country is severely underdeveloped and travel carries its own inherent risks. The poor state of roads, high crime rates (attacks, extortion, kidnapping, illegal vehicle checkpoints, etc.), and the ever-growing insurrection make highway travel extremely risky in both the countryside as well as on the outskirts of cities. Road travel outside urban areas should only be conducted on a case-by-case basis following an adequate risk assessment. Flying within Afghanistan is not necessarily safe either; Afghan airlines have notoriously lax safety and security standards and none of the domestic companies, including Ariana, Safi, Pamir, and Kam Air, are allowed to operate in European Union airspace for this reason.
Afghanistan's climate is continental, with hot and dry summers (35°C to 40°C) and harsh and snowy winters, particularly at high elevations (with temperatures reaching -40°C). Precipitation is the most abundant in the months of March and April.
There are no emergency services in the country.
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