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Country Reports

Eritrea Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

A former Ethiopian province until 1993, travel to this East African country (population 5.8 million) requires the consideration of certain issues.

SECURITY

Many Western governments advise against all nonessential travel to the country, where the political situation remains precarious. The country suffers from long-standing tensions with several neighboring countries and faces a constant risk of violent domestic clashes. A UN peacekeeping force has been deployed along the border with Ethiopia since 1998 when a border conflict broke out between the two countries. Some Western governments formally advise against travel to zones bordering Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti due to the presence of numerous landmines.

Due to the ongoing activities of armed groups in the Danakil desert (south), some governments also formally advise against travel to this region. In any case, authorization to travel to this region is rarely granted (access to any area outside of the capital Asmara requires authorization by the Eritrean authorities). The capital Asmara and the city of Massaoua can be visited without much difficulty, but vigilance is still required.

TERRORISM

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Eritrea, attacks cannot be ruled out. Known opposition and separatist groups operate in border areas and primarily conduct small-scale attacks against government or military outposts. Organizations such as Eritrean Islamic Jihad (now the "Islamic Salvation Movement") have focused their attention on opposing the current government and seek to establish a caliphate in the Horn of Africa. These groups could pose a threat to Western interests.

POLITICS

Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year war. President Isaias Afwerki (in power since 1993) and his party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), dominate the political scene and enjoy the support of the army. It should be noted that Eritrea has particularly poor international governance scores and remains one of the most secretive states in the world.

Freedom of the press is effectively non-existent; there are no media outlets outside official state-sanctioned newspapers and television, and international journalists are routinely refused access to the country. In its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders placed Eritrea second to last, ahead of only North Korea.

In 2004, the government announced a more democratic political order with the introduction of a multi-party system; however, this promise has yet to be fulfilled. No elections are currently planned.

HEALTH

Healthcare infrastructure is extremely limited and shortages of medicine are common. All travelers should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

Tap water is not safe to drink and food- and water-borne diseases, including typhoid fever, are common.

Various mosquito-borne diseases are present.

  • Malaria is endemic to all areas of Eritrea below 2200 m (7200 ft) in elevation, except in the Sahel area. Southern Eritrea and the Samhar region are particularly at risk.  
  • Dengue fever is endemic to all areas below 1500 m (4900 ft), including on the shores of the Red Sea, especially between November and May.
  • There is a risk of exposure to chikungunya nationwide.

There is also a risk of exposure to bilharziosis. Infection occurs when the larvae of a parasite released by freshwater snails penetrate the skin of a person exposed to contaminated water. It is recommended to avoid contact with bodies of freshwater (e.g. ponds, lakes) and to avoid walking barefoot outdoors.

NATURAL RISKS

Eritrea is situated along the East African Rift, a highly active seismic zone. There is a risk of earthquakes and volcanic activity; the Nabro volcano last erupted in 2011.

Furthermore, there is a heightened risk of flooding during the rainy seasons (January to February and June to August), including along wadis (normally-dry riverbeds). There is also a risk of landslides in the west and in regions of higher elevation from May to August. 

OTHER

Finally, travelers should be aware that landline and cell phone networks are not always dependable. As there are no agreements between Eritrean mobile telephone companies and international providers, it is not possible to send and receive text messages from overseas mobile networks in Eritrea. Local SIM cards cannot be purchased without a residency permit. Additionally, unconfirmed reports claim that calls made on local networks are recorded.

Climate

The climate along the coast is arid. Heading west to the central highlands, conditions become cooler and more humid. Winters are mild and summers very hot along the Red Sea coast. Precipitation is heaviest in the highlands (lighter rain in March-April, heavier rain from late June until August with the risk of flooding).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +291 Police: 1 127 799 Ambulance: 1 112 244

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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