Namibia - Introduction
Namibia became independent from South Africa in 1990. Namibia has one of the highest rates (22.5%) of HIV infection in the world, and it is the single biggest cause of death in the country. Access to education and health-care is uneven (a legacy of apartheid); there are good facilities available, but not in rural or poor urban areas. Malaria is prevalent in the northern regions of Namibia. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness) also occur. Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis, meningitis, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time.
Namibia is a stable, democratic country, and the Government of the Republic of Namibia is committed to stimulating economic growth and employment through foreign investment. There has been little political violence since independence, due in large part to its stable, democratic government. Namibia’s local and regional elections in November 2015 were generally peaceful. There was no organized violence, and the police intervened to stop any election-related problems. SWAPO has dominated Namibian politics since independence. In all post-independence elections (1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009), the SWAPO President has consistently taken just over 75% of the vote, while SWAPO has increased its seats in Parliament from 53 in 1994 to 55 in 1999 and 2004, giving it a two-thirds majority.
Police checkpoints are positioned approximately 15 kilometers outside the principal cities and towns on all major highways. During the holiday season, additional checkpoints may be established along the Windhoek-Swakopmund highway (B1) and near medium-sized towns. Most vehicles are allowed to proceed without inspection, but drivers should be prepared to produce vehicle registration documents, personal identification (passport, Namibian identification cards), car rental contracts, and/or drivers’ licenses on request.
Petty crime such as pickpocketing, purse snatching and theft from motor vehicles is prevalent. Violent crime, including muggings and robberies targeting foreigners, has increased particularly in Windhoek and Swakopmund. The risk of being a victim of crime increases at night. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are more likely to take place in downtown shopping areas and other high-traffic locations where foreign visitors congregate. The vast majority of crime that occurs in Windhoek is petty street crime. Cell phone theft is particularly common. Local scams include offers to sell rough diamonds or precious stones to tourists, an illegal transaction. Often, the “diamonds” turn out to be glass.
Road accidents remain one of the highest single causes of fatalities in Namibia. Traffic fatalities among foreign visitors occur periodically. Drivers in urban areas should be aware that taxis often stop abruptly to pick up/discharge passengers, resulting in frequent rear-end collisions. Tourists are frequently involved in single-vehicle accidents because of excessive speed and lack of familiarity with local road conditions. Particular care should be taken on Namibia's gravel roads. Other road hazards include poor local driving practices, lack of street lighting, inadequately maintained vehicles, pedestrians on the road and wild animals or livestock straying onto roads. While roads between main urban centres tend to be in good condition, roads in rural areas are generally unpaved. Namibia’s network of gravel secondary roads can be dangerous, particularly during the rainy season.
Namibia is an arid semi-desert. It can experience extreme temperatures, especially during the summer (November-February), and can experience seasonal flooding during the rainy season (October-March) in the central and northern regions. Dry river beds occasionally flood, resulting in roads being inaccessible. Motorists should adhere to warning signs posted at riverbeds and not cross them when water is flowing.
Windhoek’s 5,600-foot elevation can cause fatigue or light-headedness.
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