Eight majority Muslim nations – Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – were listed as being an extreme travel security risk.
Mali came top of the list. The African nation has been wracked by conflict since 2012 when a Tuareg rebellion began in Northern Mali, led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.
However, “Islamist” groups including Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) turned on the Tuareg and took control of the North with the goal of implementing sharia in Mali. In 2013 this led to an invasion by the French at the request of the interim government.
Meanwhile, in the central Mali province of Mopti, conflict has escalated since 2015 between agricultural communities like the Dogon and the Bambara, and the pastoral Fula (or Fulani) people. The conflict has seen the creation and growth of Dogon and Bambara militias.
The Travel Risk Map ranks the safety of countries across three different criteria: medical, security and road safety.
International SOS says of countries with extreme travel security risks: “Government control and law and order may be minimal or non-existent across large areas. Serious threat of violent attacks by armed groups targeting travellers and international assignees. Government and transport services are barely functional. Large parts of the country are inaccessible to foreigners.”
Countries with a high travel medical risk have almost non-existent or over-taxed healthcare. International SOS added: “There may be very limited or no primary care, emergency care or dental services. Quality prescription drugs are frequently unavailable. Food and water-borne infections are common. Potentially life-threatening infectious diseases such as malaria and cholera may be persistently present and large outbreaks may occur.”
Venezuela, Haiti, Niger, Libya and many western African nations fall into “very high” risk category for travel medical risks, as does North Korea and Afghanistan.
International SOS used the World Health Organization’s Global status report on road safety 2018 to analyse the road safety of countries around the world and found Vietnam, Thailand, Belize, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Namibia and many other Africa nations pose the highest road safety risk.
On the other end of the spectrum, many Nordic countries were placed in the lowest, “insignificant” risk band including Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark. European nations Switzerland, Luxembourg and Slovenia were also classed in the safest band.
The UK and most of Europe was classed as having a “low” travel risk, which also included China, Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Argentina among others.
Most European countries are considered to be a low to medium medical risk besides Kosovo which is listed as “high” risk. And the UK and most countries in Europe were among the countries with the lowest road death tolls, alongside Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Egypt.