Difference between pages "Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in Micronesia" and "Health care and safety in The Gambia"

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===Communications===
 
  
====Mail====
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The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. Peace Corps/The Gambia maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health-care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in The Gambia at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.
  
The postal system of the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia is modeled on the U.S. Postal Service.  Costs for mailing letters and packages were identical to those in the United States, but as of January 2006, international rates have been phased in incrementally. FSM and Palau use their own postage stamps, and a customs declaration form is required for packages. Items that ship airmail normally take about two weeks between the U.S. and FSM or Palau, but those that go by sea may take months to arrive. The mail system is generally quite reliable. There is one post office in each of the state capitals of FSM and in Palau; all are open during regular business hours. During training, you can receive mail at the main Peace Corps office in Kolonia, Pohnpei:
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==Health Issues in The Gambia==
  
“Your Name,” Peace Corps Trainee
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Major health problems among Volunteers in The Gambia are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer’s not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most <span class="plainlinks">[http://goo.gl/lF3qt<span style="color:black;font-weight:normal; text-decoration:none!important;  background:none!important; text-decoration:none;">century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia</span>] common minor health problems are ones that also exist in the United States, that is, colds, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, constipation, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, STDs, adjustment disorders, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in The Gambia because certain environmental factors here raise the risk of or exacerbate the severity of certain illnesses and injuries.
  
Peace Corps/Micronesia
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The most common major health concerns in The Gambia are malaria, giardiasis, amoebic dysentery, and hepatitis. Because malaria is endemic in The Gambia, you are required to take antimalarial pills. In addition, you will be vaccinated to protect you against hepatitis A and B, meningitis A and C, tetanus, diphtheria, typhoid, and rabies.
  
PO Box 9
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==Helping You Stay Healthy==
  
Kolonia, Pohnpei, FM 96941
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The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy.  Upon your arrival in The Gambia, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
  
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During training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs <span class="plainlinks">[http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/Solomon_Islands<span style="color:black;font-weight:normal; text-decoration:none!important;  background:none!important; text-decoration:none;">century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia</span>] and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.
  
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You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in The Gambia will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in The Gambia, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.
  
After you move to your site, you must make arrangements to have your mail sent directly to the state where you serve.
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==Maintaining Your Health==
  
====Telephones====
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As a Volunteer, you must accept a certain amount of responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in The Gambia is to take preventive measures.
  
Phone service within the main islands of both FSM and Palau is generally reliable, and long-distance service is available in most locations through the use of a prepaid phone card from FSM Telecom or Palau National Communications Company.  
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The most important step in preventing malaria, and many other tropical diseases, is to avoid mosquito and other insect bites by sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing long-sleeved tops and long pants whenever possible, using insect repellent, and making sure your windows and doors have screens.  
  
Phone service is not available on most outer islands. The four
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Rabies is prevalent throughout the region, so you will receive a series of immunizations against it when you arrive in The Gambia. If you are exposed to an animal that is either known to have or suspected of having rabies, you must inform the Peace Corps medical officer at once so that you can receive post-exposure booster shots.
  
FSM states and Palau each have one main telecommunications office in their capitals where you can make telephone calls and access the Internet. Cellphones are available in FSM and Palau; their coverage is limited but expanding.  
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Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken.  These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables and either boiling your drinking water or using a water filter and disinfectants (such as household bleach) can help prevent these illnesses.  The medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in The Gambia during pre-service training.  
  
Calls within FSM cost about $1 to $2 per minute, depending on the time of day. Rates for international calls using a prepaid phone card in FSM were recently reduced to 47 cents per minute off-peak; peak times cost about double. Palau prices are slightly higher. (Refer to www.telecom.fm for more information on FSM communications services and prices and www.palaunet.  com for more information for the Republic of Palau.)
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AIDS is less common in The Gambia than in other parts of Africa, but is far more common than in the United States.  
  
If your site is on an outer island, you will communicate with the Peace Corps offices using single-side band (SSB) radio (all outer islands you may serve on have at least one) or a Peace Corps-issued satellite phone, but you will not have international calling capability from your site.  
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Abstinence is the only certain choice for prevention of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every timeyou have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen,a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from the medical officer about this important issue.  
  
====Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access====
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Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer. Generic formulations may be substituted for brand names. You may be asked to switch to a pill routinely stocked by the health unit.
  
The main Peace Corps office in Pohnpei and the field offices in the other FSM states and Palau each have one Volunteer computer with limited Internet access for Volunteers. Note that the Peace Corps offices are located in the state capitals and your site could be more than a two-hour drive away.  
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It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office for scheduled immunizations, and that you let the medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.  
  
Telephone offices in state capitals and Palau offer Internet access for about $4 per hour, and there is currently no Internet capability on any of the outer islands except Ulithi, Yap. Some schools in FSM and many schools in Palau have Internet access on site, and Volunteers working with schools may have some Internet access at their school. Partner agencies that Volunteers assist may also have Internet access for Volunteers. The public libraries in Pohnpei and Kosrae offer Internet access at reduced prices. There are also Internet cafes in Palau and Pohnpei, which also charge about $4 per hour. FSM prepaid telecom cards can be used for prepaid dial-up Internet service from all four FSM main islands. Charges are based on traffic, and many users report that a $20 card will last them a month if they do not download large files.
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==Women’s Health Information==
  
===Housing and Site Location===
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Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions requiring medical attention but also has programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country.  Given the medical circumstances that exist in The Gambia, any Volunteer who becomes pregnant is medically separated.
  
Volunteers in Micronesia are required to live with a host family for training and for the entire two years of service. Many Volunteers find it a challenge to adjust from the independent living they are used to. Household rules, especially for women, are likely to feel very restrictive compared to life in the United States. Yet the rewards tend to be immense. Almost all life in Micronesia revolves around the family, and being “adopted” into a family gives a Volunteer a vehicle to becoming part of the local community. Micronesians live with extended family, and find it extremely odd for anyone to live alone. Living with a family makes it easier to learn the language, provides unique opportunities to become part of the culture, and ensures a safer and more secure environment. Much of a Volunteer’s life in Micronesia is based on interactions with the host family, and these interactions help facilitate community entry. Married couples also live with a family for their entire service.  
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Few feminine hygiene products are available for you to purchase in The Gambia. If you require a specific feminine hygiene product, please bring a six-month supply with you.  
  
If you serve on a main island, you will likely live with a family in a small village. On main islands host family sites range from a two-hour drive to the capital to right near the city. Peace Corps/Micronesia is committed to focusing on rural communities. Living in the more rural villages is a very different experience from living in one very close to the capital town. On main islands, you may be surprised by how spread-out houses in a village tend to be. On outer islands, space and land is more limited.
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==Your Peace Corps Medical Kit==
  
If your primary site is a school in your community, you will likely be within walking or biking distance from the school.  Taxis are available and inexpensive in most cases. You will likely use taxis or get rides with host families to get to town if you live in a village outside of town. Only the main island of Yap has a “public transportation” system of sorts; school buses transport workers from villages to the capital in the morning and back in the late afternoon.  
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The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.  
  
Although living situations differ, most host families’ houses in the main islands of FSM and Palau are constructed of corrugated iron and cement, with tin roofs, and have electricity.  Most houses have running water inside, but some have outside toilet and shower facilities on their “compound.” Most Volunteers take bucket showers. In most homes, you will find televisions, VCRs or DVD players, telephones, and other Western conveniences. Host families are required to provide you with your own room for sleeping, with a door and lock.  Peace Corps staff attempts to identify host family situations for married couples that offer slightly more privacy.
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===Medical Kit Contents===
  
If you are assigned to a lagoon or outer island, you will probably live with a large extended family, and you are not likely to have running water, electricity, or inside toilet facilities.
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Ace bandages <br>
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Acetaminophen 325&nbsp;mg (Tylenol)  <br>
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American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook  <br>
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Antacid tablets (Di-Gel) <br>
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Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B) <br>
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Antifungal cream (clotrimazole) <br>
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Antimicrobial skin cleanser (Hibiclens) <br>
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Baby powder (Johnson’s) <br>
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Band-Aids <br>
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Butterfly closures <br>
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Cepacol lozenges <br>
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Ciprofloxacin 500&nbsp;mg <br>
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Condoms <br>
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Dental floss (waxed and unwaxed) <br>
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Diphenhydramine HCL 25&nbsp;mg (Benadryl) <br>
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Erythromycin 25&nbsp;mg <br>
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Hydrocortisone cream <br>
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Ibuprofen 400&nbsp;mg  <br>
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Insect repellent  <br>
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Latex gloves (one pair) <br>
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Lip balm (Aloe Vera) <br>
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Multivitamins <br>
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Oral rehydration salts <br>
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Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets <br>
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Pseudoephedrine HCL 60&nbsp;mg (Sudafed) <br>
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Scissors <br>
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Soap (Dial) <br>
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Sterile gauze pads <br>
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Sucrets lozenges <br>
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Sunscreen (SPF 30) <br>
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Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine) <br>
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Thermometer <br>
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Tweezers <br>
  
During “site development”, Peace Corps identifies housing and host families using criteria that include safety and security guidelines. Your host family might provide simple, basic furniture; a bed/mattress, table/desk and chair, and storage space.
 
  
===Living Allowance and Money Management===
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==Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist==
  
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will receive several types of allowances. FSM and Palau use the U.S. dollar for currency.  Allowances will be deposited quarterly into your local bank account, which we will assist you in setting up once your site is assigned.  
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If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.  
  
You will receive a living allowance of around $383 to $415 per month to cover your living expenses. You will provide $75 of this amount in cash or in-kind as your contribution to your host family. You will eat primarily with your host family. The remainder of your living allowance is provided to fund your needs for toiletries and household supplies, clothing, supplemental food you choose to buy, transportation, reading materials, recreation and entertainment, and other incidentals. A vacation allowance of $24 per month will be deposited with your living allowance. After you swear-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will receive a one-time settling-in allowance of $150 to purchase household necessities such as a futon, lantern, and fan. You may find that even though you are a Volunteer, you receive more remuneration than your Micronesian counterpart or even your supervisor, which can create certain challenges. Additionally you will probably have more material goods and actual money than your host family, issues that should be dealt with sensitively.  
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If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.  
  
Peace Corps/FSM/Palau will likely ask you to travel for training events/conferences. For these instances, you will be given funds to cover the cost of any additional transportation and meals.  
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If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in The Gambia. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.  
  
Most ATM cards can be used in the capital towns of Pohnpei and in the Republic of Palau. Credit cards and traveler’s checks can be used in tourist areas in Micronesia and Palau. Volunteers are discouraged from supplementing their living allowance with money from home. It is important for Volunteers to live at an economic level similar to that of the people they serve in their communities.  
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Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, we will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.  
  
===Food and Diet===
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You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.
  
You will be living and eating with a host family, so your diet will be heavily dependent on what the family eats. In FSM and Palau, staples consist of breadfruit, taro, tapioca, and many varieties of banana, rice, ramen, canned meat, pork, reef fish, and tuna. On ceremonial occasions, dog is eaten in the Eastern Caroline Islands. Canned foods are popular, and SPAM, sardines, and turkey tail are dietary staples among Micronesians. Many items may be cooked with coconut milk, and Micronesians like sugar added to many dishes. Seasonal fruits and vegetables include papaya, soursop, eggplant, cucumber, avocado, and green beans. These fresh fruits and vegetables may not be a usual part of your host family’s diet.  
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If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. We discourage you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.  
  
Generally a meal is rice, soy sauce, and a meat/fish product.  Local root crops (taro, tapioca), bananas and oranges can also be found at reasonable prices. For the most part, especially in FSM, few local fruits and vegetables are available at the markets. Some Pohnpei and Yap stores carry imported fruits and vegetables when the ship arrives, but they are more expensive and not fresh. In general, more produce is available in the capital of Palau. Cheese is sometimes available in Pohnpei and common in the capital of Palau. Eggs, tofu, onions, and butter cannot usually be found in rural communities, but tend to be available in island capitals after the arrival of a ship.  It is important to remember that the host family is doing you a service by allowing you to stay; it is a hardship for them to constantly worry about the Volunteer’s eating needs.  
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If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in health-care plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary health care from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service health-care benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.  
  
The local diet is often high in fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Vegetarians will find it difficult to maintain their diet both because of the limited variety of fruits and vegetables and because host families expect Volunteers to accept the food that they eat. Most vegetarians choose to modify their diet while serving in Micronesia, at least to include fish.
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==Safety and Security—Our Partnership==
  
===Transportation===
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Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 83 percent of Volunteers surveyed say they would join the Peace Corps again.
  
There is no public transportation in FSM or Palau, except for the limited school bus service in Yap. Volunteers are encouraged to use taxis, which tend to be inexpensive. If you choose to purchase a bicycle, the Peace Corps requires you to wear a helmet and will issue you one. You may travel by boat on a regular basis, and you are required to wear a life jacket (also provided by the Peace Corps) any time you are in a boat. Peace Corps prohibits Volunteers from owning or driving motorized vehicles and riding on motorcycles. Violations of these policies may result in immediate termination of your Peace Corps service.  
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The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety information.  
  
===Geography and Climate===
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The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.
  
The climate of Micronesia is tropical. Temperatures fluctuate very little annually (86 degrees Fahrenheit is the average year round, but it can seem warmer under the intense sun).  Rainfall and humidity are high year-round. Northeast trade winds bring relief from the tropical climate during the first few months of the year, but these breezes are mostly felt directly along the coast. October through May is typically typhoon season in the Pacific. Although most of Micronesia is outside of the main typhoon belt, Chuuk and Yap are the most likely to be affected by typhoon activity.
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==Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk==
  
All of the main islands receive a fair amount of rainfall, but none as much as Pohnpei, arguably the wettest place in the world. Pohnpei averages more than 400 inches of rainfall per year in the upland forests and more than 200 inches on the coast. On these islands, people go on with their daily chores, seemingly oblivious to the rain.  
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There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are in the Volunteer’s control. Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2003, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).  
  
===Social Activities===
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* Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings).  Specifically, 47 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
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* Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the late evening between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.— most often occurring around 1:00 a.m.
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* Absence of others: More than 75 percent of crime incidents occurred when a Volunteer was unaccompanied.
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* Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
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* Consumption of alcohol: Almost a third of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
  
Most social activities in Micronesia center on the family.  There are many sporting events, cultural events, and customs throughout the year in which you may be able to participate.  Micronesians love watching movies, and most families on main islands own DVD or VCR players.
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==Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk==
  
Going out at night to a bar or restaurant is more difficult for female Volunteers than male Volunteers. Traditionally, local women would only go out to the houses of other family members in the evening. Volunteers under age 35 or 40 will still be considered “youth” per the Micronesian definition of youth, and will likely be under the protective and watchful eyes of strict host families. Standards of social behavior may appear somewhat more relaxed in communities in Palau closer to the capital, but the nuances of what behavior is considered acceptable and not acceptable take time and patience to learn.  Kosrae is the most religious of the islands, and Volunteers there may find themselves in church with their families every Sunday. Despite these differences in social activities and norms, most Volunteers learn to enjoy recreational time with Micronesian friends and find their niche over time.  
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Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.  
  
Possible outdoor activities include snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. There are marvelous waterfalls on most main islands. Caution is necessary, as currents can be strong and flash flooding can occur. SCUBA diving is expensive, but spectacular. Much diving in the FSM and Palau is rated as advanced due to the currents. Volunteers interested in diving should become SCUBA certified before arriving in-country, as not all the islands offer accredited certification classes.
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For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
  
===Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior===
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Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
  
Micronesians in all FSM states and Palau dress conservatively.  Micronesian men rarely wear shorts to work. The average Micronesian woman does not wear anything that would expose her thighs or knees. Women typically wear longer skirts and muumuus (loose dresses), often with layers of slips or other skirts underneath so that their thighs are not visible when backlit. Bicycle-type sports shorts can also be worn underneath skirts. Tight blouses, halter-tops, and tank tops are never appropriate for women. Loose-fitting blouses with covered shoulders or T-shirts are appropriate. In your home, loose sleeveless tops that are not “strappy” may be acceptableMen should wear casual slacks and sports shirts. On some of the outer islands (Western Chuuk and Yap), both men and women go bare-breasted, but women still cover their thighs.
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* Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
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* Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
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* Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
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* Carry valuables in different pockets/places
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* Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
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* Live with a local family or on a family compound
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* Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
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* Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.   
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* Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
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* Make local friends
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* Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
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* Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
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* Travel with someone whenever possible
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* Avoid known high crime areas
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* Limit alcohol consumption
  
Although island dress tends to be casual, trainees and Volunteers should dress up (long pants for men; nice long skirt/dress and covered shouldered blouses for women) during special occasions and when visiting government offices.
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==Support from Staff==
  
Volunteers are not only guests in the country but also representatives of the Peace Corps. Micronesians will look up to you for dressing well, and earning their respect will help you succeed as a development worker. Peace Corps/ Micronesia’s recommendation is to dress as conservatively as possible until you learn the norms at your permanent site. You may choose to consult with your host family and colleagues. Keep in mind that it is the older, more traditional generation whose support and approval you will need throughout your Peace Corps service for you to be effective. Modeling your attire after the extremes that may be visible in some members of the younger generation can quickly alienate the elders, who are the decision-makers in these communities.
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In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security;
  
During pre-service training, trainees will be expected to follow these same Micronesian norms of attire.  
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Information and Personnel Security; and Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise. The safety and security team also tracks crime statistics, identifies trends in criminal activity, and highlights potential safety risks to Volunteers.  
  
===Personal Safety===
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The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.
  
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Although Micronesia presents relatively few risks to a Volunteer’s personal safety, harassment is common and there have been infrequent incidents of assault. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Assuming personal responsibility for your actions and integrating into your community as a member of your host family will help keep you safe. Appropriate dress and behavior will help minimize occurrences of harassment and the risk of assault.  
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If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provides support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.  
  
Avoiding bars or isolated areas (such as ports) late at night and not walking alone after dark can also decrease risks. It is also important to be attuned to water hazards, and to check with your program assistant on your island of service before traveling on the water. Peace Corps/Micronesia monitors weather and water conditions, and will, at times, restrict water travel when there is a “high surf warning” or other weather advisory.  
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The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/trainees in The Gambia as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 1999-2003. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.  
  
Most Micronesia Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. Peace Corps/ Micronesia has established procedures and policies designed to help reduce your risks and will provide ongoing training to enhance your safety and security.
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To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
  
===Rewards and Frustrations===
+
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T-Years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.
  
Most Peace Corps Micronesia Volunteers have rewarding personal and professional experiences that are with them for the rest of their lives, but you will inevitably encounter frustrations. Collaborating organizations and host families do not always provide the support they intended due to cultural and family obligations, changing financial situations, or illness/obligations that cause people to unexpectedly travel off-island for long periods of time. The pace of work and life is slower than what most Americans are accustomed to.  Family, not work, is the priority of almost all Micronesians. Some Micronesians are understandably hesitant to change practices and traditions that are centuries old in the name of “development.” For these reasons and many others, the Peace Corps experience of adapting to and living in a new culture and environment is often described as a series of emotional peaks and valleys.  
+
The chart is separated into the eight most commonly occurring assault types. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).  
  
You will have personal responsibility and independence in your work in a way that you have not had in any other job. You will initially be a listener and an observer, and you may do little else for your first six months of service. Micronesians have their own goals and community priorities, and your biggest task will be to acquire an understanding of what they want for themselves, their family, and their community. You may find yourself in situations where you have little guidance and want to motivate your community partners. You may work for months without seeing any visible impact from your efforts and may not receive any feedback. Development is a slow process.  Progress may come only after the combined efforts of several Volunteers over the course of many years. You must possess the self-confidence, patience, and vision to continue working toward long-term goals without seeing immediate results.  
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When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.  
  
Your impact on the ambitions and English language skills of a child, your lifelong friendship with your host sister, or the computer skills you teach to a colleague are each significant accomplishments. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by focusing on your positive impact on the people around you and on your own personal growth and experiences.
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==Security Issues in The Gambia==
  
You will need maturity, flexibility, open mindedness, resourcefulness, and a good sense of humor. Micronesians are hospitable, friendly, and warm people. The Peace Corps staff, host families, colleagues, and fellow Volunteers will help support you through times of challenge and in moments of success. Most Volunteers feel that the peaks of their service are well worth the difficult times and leave Micronesia feeling that they have gained much more than they sacrificed during their service.  
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When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. While The Gambia is considered one of the safest countries in West Africa, Volunteers have experienced petty theft, pickpocketing, and home break-ins. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions, especially in large towns, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. The following are safety concerns in The Gambia of which you should be aware.  
  
[[Category:Micronesia]]
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Perhaps the single greatest risk to your safety in The Gambia is public transportation. While public buses, taxis, and private vehicles are generally safe, many accidents occur in “bush taxis.” Bush taxis are the main mode of transport for Gambians and may be the only type of local transportation available to and from your community. Because of bad roads, poor auto maintenance, and overloading, bush taxis are prone to breakdowns. During the rainy season, road conditions deteriorate and accidents are even more frequent.
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Pickpocketing and bag snatching most frequently occur in congested areas such as marketplaces, bus terminals, ferry crossings, and while traveling on public transportation. Being aware of your surroundings and projecting a confident attitude can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of petty theft. Volunteers are safest in their host communities, where people know them and value their contributions, but house break-ins sometimes occur when Volunteers are away from their residence. Remember to always lock your doors and windows, even if you are leaving for just a short time.
 +
 
 +
Male colleagues, supervisors, and acquaintances may occasionally make inappropriate advances toward female Volunteers, but once the Volunteers become well-known in their communities, such harassment usually ends. Strategies to deal with this issue will be discussed during training, and command of one or more local languages will help you manage potential problems.
 +
 
 +
Cases of physical and sexual assault are rare, and are often associated with cross-cultural differences regarding intimate relationships. The five most common risk factors in assaults are visiting the capital, going out on the weekend, being out at night, walking alone, and being intoxicated. (Although alcohol is readily available in urban areas, drinking in your community or public drunkenness anywhere is inappropriate and socially unacceptable.) Volunteers who exhibit responsible personal behavior can minimize their risk. Volunteers are urged to report all assaults and threats of assault to the Peace Corps medical officer or security officer so that staff can respond with appropriate support.
 +
 
 +
The ongoing civil war in the Casamance region of southern Senegal (which began in the early 1980s) has not directly affected Volunteers serving in The Gambia. Although the region is off-limits to Volunteers, heightened awareness near the southwestern Gambia-Senegal border is warranted.
 +
 
 +
In the coastal areas, where tourists congregate, Volunteers are often mistaken for Europeans on vacation, and this assumption can bring with it preconceived notions about personal wealth or sexual mores. Volunteers, as well as tourists and other expatriates, are often referred to as toubab, which is not a derogatory term but merely means “stranger,” “outsider,” or, sometimes, “white person.” Young men, referred to as “bumsters,” may offer to help you or “be your friend.” These men are usually harmless, but they are annoying and can sometimes be aggressive. Once again, command of the local language, visiting the beach in a group, and being aware of your environment are key in decreasing your risk.
 +
 
 +
Any nonmedical issues involving personal security, such as those related to housing and transportation, should be directed to the security officer.
 +
 
 +
==Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime==
 +
 
 +
You must be prepared to take on a large responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to The Gambia, do what you would do if you moved to a large city in the United States: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in The Gambia may require you to accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
 +
 
 +
Volunteers attract a lot of attention in large cities and at their sites, but receive far more negative attention in highly populated centers, where they are anonymous, than in smaller towns, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. You should always walk with a companion at night.
 +
 
 +
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer
 +
 
 +
==Support in The Gambia==
 +
 
 +
During pre-service training, you will be briefed on safety and security measures that should be taken while living and traveling in The Gambia. The Peace Corps’ safety program is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. The Gambia’s in-country safety program is outlined below.
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The Peace Corps/The Gambia office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
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Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in The Gambia. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your two-year service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.
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Site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.
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You will also learn about Peace Corps/The Gambia’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in The Gambia will gather at predetermined locations until the situation resolves itself or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
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Finally, in order to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps medical officer or security officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
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[[Category:The Gambia]]
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[[Category:Health and Safety]]

Revision as of 10:00, 8 December 2015

Country Resources


The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. Peace Corps/The Gambia maintains a clinic with a full-time medical officer who takes care of Volunteers’ primary health-care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in The Gambia at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an American-standard medical facility in the region or to the United States.

Health Issues in The Gambia

Major health problems among Volunteers in The Gambia are rare and are often the result of a Volunteer’s not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia common minor health problems are ones that also exist in the United States, that is, colds, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, constipation, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, STDs, adjustment disorders, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in The Gambia because certain environmental factors here raise the risk of or exacerbate the severity of certain illnesses and injuries.

The most common major health concerns in The Gambia are malaria, giardiasis, amoebic dysentery, and hepatitis. Because malaria is endemic in The Gambia, you are required to take antimalarial pills. In addition, you will be vaccinated to protect you against hepatitis A and B, meningitis A and C, tetanus, diphtheria, typhoid, and rabies.

Helping You Stay Healthy

The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in The Gambia, you will receive a medical handbook. At the end of training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.

During training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs century 21 broker properti jual beli sewa rumah Indonesia and any other specific medical supplies you require, as we will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.

You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in The Gambia will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in The Gambia, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation and care.

Maintaining Your Health

As a Volunteer, you must accept a certain amount of responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in The Gambia is to take preventive measures.

The most important step in preventing malaria, and many other tropical diseases, is to avoid mosquito and other insect bites by sleeping under a mosquito net, wearing long-sleeved tops and long pants whenever possible, using insect repellent, and making sure your windows and doors have screens.

Rabies is prevalent throughout the region, so you will receive a series of immunizations against it when you arrive in The Gambia. If you are exposed to an animal that is either known to have or suspected of having rabies, you must inform the Peace Corps medical officer at once so that you can receive post-exposure booster shots.

Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These illnesses include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables and either boiling your drinking water or using a water filter and disinfectants (such as household bleach) can help prevent these illnesses. The medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in The Gambia during pre-service training.

AIDS is less common in The Gambia than in other parts of Africa, but is far more common than in the United States.

Abstinence is the only certain choice for prevention of HIV/AIDS and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every timeyou have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen,a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from the medical officer about this important issue.

Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer. Generic formulations may be substituted for brand names. You may be asked to switch to a pill routinely stocked by the health unit.

It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office for scheduled immunizations, and that you let the medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.

Women’s Health Information

Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions requiring medical attention but also has programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the medical circumstances that exist in The Gambia, any Volunteer who becomes pregnant is medically separated.

Few feminine hygiene products are available for you to purchase in The Gambia. If you require a specific feminine hygiene product, please bring a six-month supply with you.

Your Peace Corps Medical Kit

The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.

Medical Kit Contents

Ace bandages
Acetaminophen 325 mg (Tylenol)
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Di-Gel)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antifungal cream (clotrimazole)
Antimicrobial skin cleanser (Hibiclens)
Baby powder (Johnson’s)
Band-Aids
Butterfly closures
Cepacol lozenges
Ciprofloxacin 500 mg
Condoms
Dental floss (waxed and unwaxed)
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Erythromycin 25 mg
Hydrocortisone cream
Ibuprofen 400 mg
Insect repellent
Latex gloves (one pair)
Lip balm (Aloe Vera)
Multivitamins
Oral rehydration salts
Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets
Pseudoephedrine HCL 60 mg (Sudafed)
Scissors
Soap (Dial)
Sterile gauze pads
Sucrets lozenges
Sunscreen (SPF 30)
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Thermometer
Tweezers


Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist

If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.

If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.

If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in The Gambia. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.

Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, we will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.

You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. We discourage you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.

If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in health-care plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary health care from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service health-care benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.

Safety and Security—Our Partnership

Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 83 percent of Volunteers surveyed say they would join the Peace Corps again.

The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety information.

The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.

Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk

There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are in the Volunteer’s control. Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2003, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).

  • Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 47 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
  • Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the late evening between 10:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.— most often occurring around 1:00 a.m.
  • Absence of others: More than 75 percent of crime incidents occurred when a Volunteer was unaccompanied.
  • Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
  • Consumption of alcohol: Almost a third of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.

Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk

Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.

For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:

Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:

  • Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
  • Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
  • Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
  • Carry valuables in different pockets/places
  • Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
  • Live with a local family or on a family compound
  • Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
  • Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
  • Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
  • Make local friends
  • Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
  • Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
  • Travel with someone whenever possible
  • Avoid known high crime areas
  • Limit alcohol consumption

Support from Staff

In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security;

Information and Personnel Security; and Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise. The safety and security team also tracks crime statistics, identifies trends in criminal activity, and highlights potential safety risks to Volunteers.

The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.

If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provides support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.

The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/trainees in The Gambia as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 1999-2003. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.

To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:

The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T-Years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps’ classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.

The chart is separated into the eight most commonly occurring assault types. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).

When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.

Security Issues in The Gambia

When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. While The Gambia is considered one of the safest countries in West Africa, Volunteers have experienced petty theft, pickpocketing, and home break-ins. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions, especially in large towns, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. The following are safety concerns in The Gambia of which you should be aware.

Perhaps the single greatest risk to your safety in The Gambia is public transportation. While public buses, taxis, and private vehicles are generally safe, many accidents occur in “bush taxis.” Bush taxis are the main mode of transport for Gambians and may be the only type of local transportation available to and from your community. Because of bad roads, poor auto maintenance, and overloading, bush taxis are prone to breakdowns. During the rainy season, road conditions deteriorate and accidents are even more frequent.

Pickpocketing and bag snatching most frequently occur in congested areas such as marketplaces, bus terminals, ferry crossings, and while traveling on public transportation. Being aware of your surroundings and projecting a confident attitude can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of petty theft. Volunteers are safest in their host communities, where people know them and value their contributions, but house break-ins sometimes occur when Volunteers are away from their residence. Remember to always lock your doors and windows, even if you are leaving for just a short time.

Male colleagues, supervisors, and acquaintances may occasionally make inappropriate advances toward female Volunteers, but once the Volunteers become well-known in their communities, such harassment usually ends. Strategies to deal with this issue will be discussed during training, and command of one or more local languages will help you manage potential problems.

Cases of physical and sexual assault are rare, and are often associated with cross-cultural differences regarding intimate relationships. The five most common risk factors in assaults are visiting the capital, going out on the weekend, being out at night, walking alone, and being intoxicated. (Although alcohol is readily available in urban areas, drinking in your community or public drunkenness anywhere is inappropriate and socially unacceptable.) Volunteers who exhibit responsible personal behavior can minimize their risk. Volunteers are urged to report all assaults and threats of assault to the Peace Corps medical officer or security officer so that staff can respond with appropriate support.

The ongoing civil war in the Casamance region of southern Senegal (which began in the early 1980s) has not directly affected Volunteers serving in The Gambia. Although the region is off-limits to Volunteers, heightened awareness near the southwestern Gambia-Senegal border is warranted.

In the coastal areas, where tourists congregate, Volunteers are often mistaken for Europeans on vacation, and this assumption can bring with it preconceived notions about personal wealth or sexual mores. Volunteers, as well as tourists and other expatriates, are often referred to as toubab, which is not a derogatory term but merely means “stranger,” “outsider,” or, sometimes, “white person.” Young men, referred to as “bumsters,” may offer to help you or “be your friend.” These men are usually harmless, but they are annoying and can sometimes be aggressive. Once again, command of the local language, visiting the beach in a group, and being aware of your environment are key in decreasing your risk.

Any nonmedical issues involving personal security, such as those related to housing and transportation, should be directed to the security officer.

Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime

You must be prepared to take on a large responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to The Gambia, do what you would do if you moved to a large city in the United States: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in The Gambia may require you to accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.

Volunteers attract a lot of attention in large cities and at their sites, but receive far more negative attention in highly populated centers, where they are anonymous, than in smaller towns, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. You should always walk with a companion at night.

Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer

Support in The Gambia

During pre-service training, you will be briefed on safety and security measures that should be taken while living and traveling in The Gambia. The Peace Corps’ safety program is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. The Gambia’s in-country safety program is outlined below.

The Peace Corps/The Gambia office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.

Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in The Gambia. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your two-year service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.

Site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; different housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.

You will also learn about Peace Corps/The Gambia’s detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in The Gambia will gather at predetermined locations until the situation resolves itself or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.

Finally, in order to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps medical officer or security officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.