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Safety in East Africa

Updated July 3, 2014

The School for Field Studies (SFS) continually works to enhance our approach to safety on our East Africa Program. By closely monitoring the security situation in East Africa, including political and environmental threats, SFS manages group activities, itineraries, staffing, and overall program models to evolve with changes in-country in order to provide programs of the highest quality.

At present, SFS has chosen to suspend the Kenya component of the dual-country Wildlife Management Studies program for Fall 2014 and Spring 2015.  Our Kenya program is based in a rural community with no history of terrorism, violence or national conflict.  However, due to increasing unrest in outlying regions, it is becoming more difficult to access many of the areas we would choose to include in our wildlife programs.  We will be monitoring the region closely and will be updating our website in the event of a return to our previous program schedule.  For Fall 2014 and Spring 2015, our program will operate entirely in Tanzania.

Some highlights of our safety strategy in  East Africa include external and internal safety reviews, 24-hour phone coverage for emergencies, regular review of the hazard landscape, emergency medical training for field staff, knowledge of local and regional medical resources, and a full-time Student Affairs Manager (SAM) at each station who is dedicated to safety and student life. The SAM holds a 72-hour Wilderness First Responder certification.

SFS also employs at its headquarters, a full-time Safety and Student Life Director that has extensive experience in managing student health and safety in international settings. The Safety Director seeks input from a variety of external resources and continually monitors world news, U.S. State Department Warnings, daily briefs from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and oversees our 24-hour emergency contact system. Every SFS field station has a satellite phone, cell phones, and Internet access. We have 24-hour communication lines as well as regularly scheduled conference calls with SFS headquarters to monitor the day-to-day situation.

All students fly to East Africa programs via the Kilimanjaro International airport in Tanzania. They are met at the airport by SFS staff at the beginning of the program and taken to the airport at the conclusion of the program. Consistent with U.S. State Department recommendations, SFS programs do not frequent heavily touristed areas such a s shopping malls and restaurants. Most of the students’ time is spent at our field station or in game parks performing research. Our activities occur far from high crime areas. Our field station is located in a small, rural community where our predominantly local staff maintains tight relations with our neighbors and the region. Unlike other SFS program locations where students are permitted limited non-program time during which they may leave the field station and travel farther afield without direct SFS supervision, in East Africa there is very limited unstructured free time and no mid-semester break.

Participants of all SFS programs are enrolled in emergency medical evacuation and repatriation coverage with AIG Travel Assistance. Additionally, participants are required to have health insurance valid in the country or countries where they will study. In Tanzania we work closely with FAME, an outpatient medical clinic which has examination and treatment rooms, acute care facilities, a small surgery, laboratory, pharmacy, and an inpatient ward with 24 hour Emergency Care. Additionally our sites are partnered with AMREF Flying Doctors in the event a medical evacuation by air is required.

If SFS determines that it is unable to operate a safe, high-quality program in East Africa due to natural or manmade events, SFS will cancel, postpone, or move the program location.  In the case of an early program close, SFS works closely with Advantage Travel of Syracuse, N.Y., and can assist students in modifying their return travel plans. SFS maintains its own vehicle fleet on campus and can provide transport to the airport in Tanzania.

Students considering going to East Africa with SFS should make their decisions carefully and consider their goals and risk acceptance as part of their own evaluation. Our decades of experience in the region, robust safety management system, and our exceptional and experienced staff add to our ability to provide a positive, enriching experience in East Africa.

SFF staff is available to answer questions about health and safety in East Africa. You may contact us on our 24-hour emergency line at 978.741.3544 or email us at sfs@fieldstudies.org.