Difference between pages "FAQs about Peace Corps in Senegal" and "Health care and safety in Benin"

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The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer and trainee. Medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease. The medical unit in Cotonou is staffed by two full-time doctors, one receptionist, and two laboratory technologists.  Limited laboratory testing and radiographic studies are also available at local facilities. If a Volunteer becomes seriously ill, the Volunteer will be transported to either a regionally approved facility or to another country as determined by the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C.
  
===How much luggage am I allowed to bring to Senegal? ===
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===Health Issues in Benin===
  
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds those limits.  
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The biggest issue while on the Peace Corps is the volunteer's safety and health. Unfortunately, the majority of volunteers do get some form of disease that affects citizens of underdeveloped countries. The most common minor health problems here are similar to those found in the United States, such as colds, diarrhea, constipation, skin infections, sinus infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), adjustment disorders, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These common problems may be somewhat more frequent or compounded by life in Benin due to a host of environmental factors here that raise the risk and/or exacerbate the severity of illness and injuries.  
  
The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The Peace Corps’ allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 70 pounds for any one bag. Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.  
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Major health problems among Peace Corps Volunteers in Benin often the result of a Volunteer not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The major health concerns here are worms, malaria, amoebic dysentery, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS.  
  
===What is the electric current in Senegal? ===
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Because malaria is endemic in Benin, anti-malarial pills are required. You will also be vaccinated against yellow fever; hepatitis B and A; meningitis A and C; tetanus/diphtheria; typhoid; polio; mumps, measles, and rubella; and rabies.
  
It is 220 volts, 50 cycles.  
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Amoebic dysentery can be avoided by thoroughly washing and drying fruits and vegetables and by only drinking boiled and filtered water. You will receive a thorough orientation to food and water preparation during your pre-service training.
  
===How much money should I bring? ===
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===Women’s Health Information===
  
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash, but cannot be used in all locations. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs.  
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Pregnancy is a health condition that is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions requiring medical attention, but may also affect your continued ability to serve as a Volunteer. 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 circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps medical and programmatic standards for continued service can be met. The majority of Volunteers who become pregnant are medically separated.  
  
===When can I take vacation and have people visit me? ===
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Feminine hygiene products are available in Cotonou, but can be expensive. Peace Corps/Benin stocks four types of birth control pills: Ortho Tri-cyclen, Yasmin/Jasmin, Lo/Ovral, and Alesse. If you use a different brand, please work with your doctor and change to one of these before you depart.
  
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. An extended stay of over two weeks at your site is strongly discouraged and requires advance permission from your Peace Corps supervisor and the approval of the country director.
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===Your Peace Corps Medical Kit===
  
The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa, travel, or medical assistance. We strongly suggest that visitors consider obtaining insurance with emergency evacuation coverage from a company such as international SOS Assistance Inc. (PO Box 11568, Philadelphia, PA 19116; 800.523.8930 or 215.244.1500).  
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The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical 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.  
  
===Will my belongings be covered by insurance? ===
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====Medical Kit Contents====
  
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage or reimbursement for the loss or theft of personal effects;
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Your medical kit may contain the following items depending on availability:
  
Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase such insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers are cautioned not to ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, expensive watches, radios, cameras, and computers are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and satisfactory maintenance and repair services are for the most part not available.
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Ace bandage <br>
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Adhesive tape <br>
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American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook <br>
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Antacid tablets <br>
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Antibiotic ointment <br>
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Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner <br>
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Band-Aids<br>
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Butterfly closures<br>
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Calamine lotion<br>
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Cepacol lozenges<br>
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Condoms<br>
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Dental floss<br>
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Diphenhydramine HCL 25&nbsp;mg<br>
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Insect repellent stick<br>
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Iodine tablets (for water purification)<br>
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Lip balm<br>
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Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade<br>
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Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)<br>
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Pseudoephedrine HCL 30&nbsp;mg<br>
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Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)<br>
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Scissors<br>
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Sterile gauze pads<br>
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Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)<br>
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Tinactic (antifungal cream)<br>
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Tweezers<br>
  
===Do I need an international driver’s license? ===
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===Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist===
  
Volunteers in Senegal do not need to get an international driver’s license because they are prohibited from operating pri-vately owned motorized vehicles. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. Rural travel ranges from buses and minibuses to trucks, bicycles, and lots of walking.  
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If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since the time 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.  
  
===What should I bring as gifts for Senegalese friends and my host family? ===
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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, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.
  
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.  
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If you wish to avoid duplicate vaccinations, you should contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and take it to your pre-departure orientation (staging). If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, we 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 Benin. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.  
  
===Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?===
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Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-the-counter 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. Johns’ wort, glucosamine, selenium, or anti-oxidant supplements.
  
Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed their pre-service training. This gives Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, and living conditions. However, keep in mind that many other factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you would ideally like to be. Most Volunteers live in small towns or in rural villages and are usually within one hour from another Volunteer. Some sites require a 12-to-16-hour drive from the capital.  
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You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, although it might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about your three-month supply of prescription drugs.  
  
===How can my family contact me in an emergency? ===
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If you wear eyeglasses, bring an extra pair. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the U.S. provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. To reduce the risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease, we discourage you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service. 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 their use has been recommended by an ophthalmologist for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services has given approval.
  
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and
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If you are eligible for Medicare, over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure.
  
Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580; select option 2, then extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special
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The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare 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 healthcare 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 and/or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.  
  
Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For nonemergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580; select option 2, then extension 2317 or 2318.
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===Safety and Security—Our Partnership===
  
===Can I call home from Senegal? ===
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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.
  
Yes. International calls to most countries can be dialed directly. To call the United States, first dial “00” and wait for a continuous tone (different from the regular tone). Then dial “1” plus the area code and the number. If you prefer to call through an operator, dial “16.” Calls can be made at businesses known as telecenters and at cabines téléphoniques (phone booths). At a telecenter, a clerk will present you with a bill after you have completed the call. At a cabine téléphonique, you will deposit coins during the course of the call.  
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Property 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 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.  
  
===Should I bring a cell phone with me? ===
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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 and security information.
  
Cellular phones are widely used in Senegal and function in most (but not all) parts of the country. Volunteers are allowed to purchase their own cellphones but are advised to purchase them in Senegal after ensuring that cellphones will work at their sites. If you have an existing phone that uses the GSM standard (for example T-Mobile), your phone should work in Senegal with a simple switching of the SIM card and having it unlocked if it is a locked phone. This can be done at many locations in Dakar. Note that the cost of cellphones and service is the personal responsibility of the Volunteer.
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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.  
  
===Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my laptop? ===
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===Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk===
  
There is e-mail and Internet access at the many Internet cafes that have sprung up in Senegal, particularly in regional capitals. The cost varies from the equivalent of around $.40 an hour to $1.00 an hour. Many Volunteers do not have electricity in their homes, and security and maintenance of personal computers cannot be guaranteed by Peace Corps. Nevertheless, more and more volunteers are bringing laptops, especially netbooks, and finding them a valuable resource. Having a netbook in your community can facilitate grant-writing, information sharing and reporting duties. It also helps in IT training which is becoming an important part of many Volunteer's services across many sectors. If you do decide to bring a computer, it is imperative that you purchase personal property insurance because the Peace Corps does not reimburse trainees or Volunteers for the loss of personal items.  
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There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.  
  
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Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, 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).
  
[[Category:Senegal]]
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* Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 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 evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
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* Absence of others: Assaults usually occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the 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: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
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===Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk===
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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.
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For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
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<u>Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft: </u>
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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
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<u>Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault: </u>
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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
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===Support from Staff===
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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; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.
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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.
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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.
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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 Benin as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
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To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
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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
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The chart is separated into eight crime categories. 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).
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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.
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===What if you become a victim of a violent crime?===
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Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.
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Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.
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If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect.  Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.
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In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-aday, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at violentcrimehotline@peacecorps.gov.
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===Security Issues in Benin===
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As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Benin.  When it comes to your safety and security, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking advance precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities, but it does occur. Tourist attractions, especially in large towns, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. Normal precautions usually reduce most risks.
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Because you are a foreigner and probably considered “rich,” your new home may be more prone to break-ins than those of your neighbors. Fortunately violent crime is not a severe problem.  Benin is considered safe, although Cotonou has seen a marked increase in theft and harassment of Volunteers. The Peace Corps recommends that you do not go out alone at night, especially in larger towns. It is also preferable to travel in groups.
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===Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime===
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You must be prepared to take on a large responsibility for our 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 Benin, do what you would do if you moved to a large U.S. city: Be cautious, check things out, ask lots of questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be alert. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by local law and Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Benin will require that you accept some restrictions to your current lifestyle.
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Volunteers attract a lot of attention in large cities and 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 will 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 don’t respond to such negative and unwanted attention. Keep your money out of sight; do not keep it in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. Use an undergarment money pouch, such as the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat.
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===Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Safety Support in Benin ===
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The Peace Corps approach to safety 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 Benin in-country safety program is outlined below.
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The Peace Corps/Benin office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be offered in the newsletter and in memoranda from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through an emergency communication network.
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Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Benin. 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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Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. Peace Corps staff work closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for your arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting Volunteers. Each site is inspected before your arrival to ensure viable work placements as well as appropriate, safe, and secure housing. Site selection criteria is based in part on relevant site history; safety and security conditions, and other support needs within the resources limits of host communities and Peace Corps.
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You will also learn about the Peace Corps/Benin detailed emergency action plan (EAP), which is a guide for reducing your exposure in the event of situations that pose a security risk. You play a crucial role in the success of the EAP. First, when you arrive at your site, you must complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. You must also update your site locator form as often as necessary (e.g. when a new phone is installed in your village, your supervisor gets a cell phone, etc.). If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Benin 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 Safety and Security Coordinator or Duty Officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to responding to the needs of the Volunteer, the Peace Corps collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
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[[Category:Benin]]
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[[Category:Health and Safety]]

Revision as of 23:50, 12 March 2009


Health care and safety in [[{{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer and trainee. Medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease.

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.

  • [[Packing list for {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Training in {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Living conditions and volunteer lifestyles in {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Health care and safety in {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[Diversity and cross-cultural issues in {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[FAQs about Peace Corps in {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
  • [[History of the Peace Corps in {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |7}}]]
|6}} [[Image:Flag_of_{{#explode:Health care and safety in Benin| |5}}.svg|50px|none]]}}

See also:
Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline
The Health of the Volunteer The Safety of the Volunteer


The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer and trainee. Medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease. The medical unit in Cotonou is staffed by two full-time doctors, one receptionist, and two laboratory technologists. Limited laboratory testing and radiographic studies are also available at local facilities. If a Volunteer becomes seriously ill, the Volunteer will be transported to either a regionally approved facility or to another country as determined by the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C.

Health Issues in Benin

The biggest issue while on the Peace Corps is the volunteer's safety and health. Unfortunately, the majority of volunteers do get some form of disease that affects citizens of underdeveloped countries. The most common minor health problems here are similar to those found in the United States, such as colds, diarrhea, constipation, skin infections, sinus infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), adjustment disorders, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These common problems may be somewhat more frequent or compounded by life in Benin due to a host of environmental factors here that raise the risk and/or exacerbate the severity of illness and injuries.

Major health problems among Peace Corps Volunteers in Benin often the result of a Volunteer not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The major health concerns here are worms, malaria, amoebic dysentery, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS.

Because malaria is endemic in Benin, anti-malarial pills are required. You will also be vaccinated against yellow fever; hepatitis B and A; meningitis A and C; tetanus/diphtheria; typhoid; polio; mumps, measles, and rubella; and rabies.

Amoebic dysentery can be avoided by thoroughly washing and drying fruits and vegetables and by only drinking boiled and filtered water. You will receive a thorough orientation to food and water preparation during your pre-service training.

Women’s Health Information

Pregnancy is a health condition that is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions requiring medical attention, but may also affect your continued ability to serve as a Volunteer. 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 circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps medical and programmatic standards for continued service can be met. The majority of Volunteers who become pregnant are medically separated.

Feminine hygiene products are available in Cotonou, but can be expensive. Peace Corps/Benin stocks four types of birth control pills: Ortho Tri-cyclen, Yasmin/Jasmin, Lo/Ovral, and Alesse. If you use a different brand, please work with your doctor and change to one of these before you depart.

Your Peace Corps Medical Kit

The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical 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

Your medical kit may contain the following items depending on availability:

Ace bandage
Adhesive tape
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets
Antibiotic ointment
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner
Band-Aids
Butterfly closures
Calamine lotion
Cepacol lozenges
Condoms
Dental floss
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg
Insect repellent stick
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm
Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Scissors
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactic (antifungal cream)
Tweezers

Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist

If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since the time 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, 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 duplicate vaccinations, you should contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and take it to your pre-departure orientation (staging). If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, we 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 Benin. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.

Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-the-counter 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. Johns’ wort, glucosamine, selenium, or anti-oxidant supplements.

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

If you wear eyeglasses, bring an extra pair. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the U.S. provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. To reduce the risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease, we discourage you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service. 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 their use has been recommended by an ophthalmologist for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps Office of Medical Services has given approval.

If you are eligible for Medicare, over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure.

The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare 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 healthcare 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 and/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.

Property 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 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey 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 and security 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 within the Volunteer’s control.

Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, 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, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
  • Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
  • Absence of others: Assaults usually occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
  • Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
  • Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent 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; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.

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 Benin as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. 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

The chart is separated into eight crime categories. 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.

What if you become a victim of a violent crime?

Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.

Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.

If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.

In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-aday, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at violentcrimehotline@peacecorps.gov.

Security Issues in Benin

As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Benin. When it comes to your safety and security, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking advance precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities, but it does occur. Tourist attractions, especially in large towns, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. Normal precautions usually reduce most risks.

Because you are a foreigner and probably considered “rich,” your new home may be more prone to break-ins than those of your neighbors. Fortunately violent crime is not a severe problem. Benin is considered safe, although Cotonou has seen a marked increase in theft and harassment of Volunteers. The Peace Corps recommends that you do not go out alone at night, especially in larger towns. It is also preferable to travel in groups.

Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime

You must be prepared to take on a large responsibility for our 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 Benin, do what you would do if you moved to a large U.S. city: Be cautious, check things out, ask lots of questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be alert. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by local law and Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Benin will require that you accept some restrictions to your current lifestyle.

Volunteers attract a lot of attention in large cities and 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 will 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 don’t respond to such negative and unwanted attention. Keep your money out of sight; do not keep it in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. Use an undergarment money pouch, such as the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat.

Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Safety Support in Benin

The Peace Corps approach to safety 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 Benin in-country safety program is outlined below.

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

Volunteer training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Benin. 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.

Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. Peace Corps staff work closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for your arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting Volunteers. Each site is inspected before your arrival to ensure viable work placements as well as appropriate, safe, and secure housing. Site selection criteria is based in part on relevant site history; safety and security conditions, and other support needs within the resources limits of host communities and Peace Corps.

You will also learn about the Peace Corps/Benin detailed emergency action plan (EAP), which is a guide for reducing your exposure in the event of situations that pose a security risk. You play a crucial role in the success of the EAP. First, when you arrive at your site, you must complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. You must also update your site locator form as often as necessary (e.g. when a new phone is installed in your village, your supervisor gets a cell phone, etc.). If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Benin 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 Safety and Security Coordinator or Duty Officer. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner. In addition to responding to the needs of the Volunteer, the Peace Corps collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.