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Avoid the world’s most dangerous destinations in 2023: experts

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 11/30/2022 Ben Cost

Thinking of traveling abroad next year? You might want to steer clear of Afghanistan, Mali, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, which rank among the world’s most dangerous destinations for business and pleasure travelers.

That’s according to this year’s “Travel Risk Map,” compiled by global security and medical specialists from the risk assessment firm International SOS.

The index takes into account countries’ security levels based on the threat posed to employees by political violence (including terrorism, insurgency, politically motivated unrest and war); social unrest (such as sectarian, communal and ethnic violence); and violent and petty crime, among other factors, per the agency’s site.

The most “extreme risk” countries for 2023 in terms of security include Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Mali, Iraq and Ukraine. These nations were targeted for “minimal or non-existent” government control and law across large regions, as well as “serious threat of violent attacks by armed groups targeting travelers and international assignees,” per the site.

© Provided by New York Post The index weighs a country’s political violence, social unrest and crime.International SOS © Provided by New York Post Afghanistan was ranked an “extreme risk” country in terms of security.AFP via Getty Images

Once ranked a “medium risk” country, Ukraine was upgraded to “extreme risk” after getting invaded by Russia in February. Over the weekend, Ukrainian nationals fled the city of Kherson after sustained Russian shelling rendered the area virtually unlivable.

Meanwhile, “low risk” countries include the US, Canada, China, Australia and most of Europe, while Scandinavian nations constituted the highest number of “insignificant” risk nations — the safest designation. In fact, Europe saw virtually no overall increase in security risk despite the Ukraine-Russia conflict and its resulting economic upheaval, Metro reported.

The firm also assessed nations’ medical safety as it pertains to business travel, rating countries on everything from COVID-19 healthcare to the infectious disease standards of emergency medical services and access to quality pharmaceutical supplies.

Clocking in at “low risk” in the medical category are the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most of Western Europe. Meanwhile, “very high risk” nations include Mali, Niger, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia and Haiti.

© Provided by New York Post A man shows a child a destroyed Russian military truck on display in central Kyiv, Ukraine.Oleksii Chumachenko / SOPA Image

For the first time since the map’s creation in 2015, the International SOS factored in countries’ mental health based on research from the Global Burden of Disease Study. The index counts anxiety, depression, eating disorders and schizophrenia as mental health disorders.

Interestingly, many countries that scored well in the medical safety and security categories ranked poorly in terms of mental health and vice versa. According to the index, between 15 and 17.5% of people have experienced mental health issues in Western Europe and most of Scandinavia. Meanwhile, a whopping 17.5 to 20% — the highest amount — have suffered these problems in Greenland, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.

Iran also scored poorly in the mental health category, which experts attributed to the nation’s strict morality laws. On Tuesday, a man was killed by Iranian security forces for allegedly celebrating the country’s World Cup loss to the US amid nationwide protests against the regime.

© Provided by New York Post Syria was rated an “extreme risk” nation in terms of security.AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, mental health issues have been on the rise internationally with around one in seven people globally (some 11-18%) suffering one or more mental or substance use disorders, per the World Health Organization.

Though specific factors aren’t cited, COVID-19 could be partially to blame as the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% in the first year of pandemic, according to WHO.

“With travel and health risks on the rise in many regions, it is important for organizations to also focus on mitigating the ongoing impact of mental health issues,” Dr. Irene Lai, medical director at International SOS, said in a statement.

“Although other acute medical issues which may have a significant impact regularly arise, mental health problems remain in the background and cannot be overlooked.”

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