Afghanistan still world’s most dangerous destination

Security and health risk services company, International SOS has released its  releasing its annual Risk Map, which highlights the most dangerous countries to visit in 2023 and the safest.

Unsurprisingly the risk map ranking see Ukraine rise into the top five, but Afghanistan remains the world’s most dangerous destination.

Using data from the maps, Syria was deemed to be the second most dangerous country, with Ukraine third, Mali fourth and then Iraq.

Norway is deemed to be the safest country, followed by Finland, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland.

The company said the map is designed to help organisations and their mobile workers better understand the risk level of each country around the world.

“As global risks continue to evolve around the world, using data-driven tools like the Risk Map can help organisations maintain their Duty of Care responsibilities in these often-uncertain times,” said International SOS.

This year the map provides a layer illustrating mental health illness globally using external data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease. It shows the estimated percentage of a location’s population suffering from mental health disorders. The aim said the company was to allow organisations, particularly large multinationals, to understand which locations may be particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.

Dr Irene Lai, medical director at International SOS explained: “With travel and health risks on the rise in many regions, it is important for organisations to also focus on mitigating the ongoing impact of mental health issues. Although other acute medical issues which may have a significant impact regularly arise, mental health problems remain in the background and cannot be overlooked. Organisations must handle multiple physical and mental health issues to effectively maintain their Duty of Care responsibilities.

“Organisations could look to use all the tools they have at their disposal to make this challenge more manageable. For instance, the detail provided by the Risk Map can help decision- makers better protect their staff, gauging which locations are challenged with access to medical care, or are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.”

The company said the major security crisis from the past year has undoubtedly been the conflict in Ukraine. This has been reflected in the security focused map, as parts of Ukraine are now marked as having an ‘Extreme’ level of security risk.

Sally Llewellyn, security director at International SOS said: “The security crisis in Ukraine has clearly been significant, impacting both the country and bordering regions in a number of ways. At International SOS, we have worked with a variety of organisations through this challenging period, often directly supporting them with all their security, health, and travel needs.

“For instance, we have organised evacuations for large multinationals, helping some of their workforce leave Ukraine where necessary. We also support organisations who have remained in Ukraine, providing on-the-ground assistance and timely information on the risks which may impact them. This is particularly important for NGOs, for the media, and for professional services companies, where many Ukrainian employees now want to return home to visit loved ones.”

Despite the wide-reaching impact of the Ukraine conflict and the rise in social unrest associated with cost-of-living increases, the underlying security risk environment across Europe has not changed.

Outside of Ukraine the most notable risk rating increases have been in the Sahel where extreme security risk zones have expanded due to the rising risk of militancy – a trend also notable in Mozambique and other parts of Africa.

Whilst in Colombia, a rise in criminality resulting in part from the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in high-risk zones.

“Employees are more attuned to risks, and many are now more anxious about travel than pre-pandemic,” added Llewellyn. “Organisations must account for risk rating changes and trends in their planning. Managers should ensure employees have access to reliable information about the risks they  may face, support with effective mitigation measures, and provide clear communication plans for employees before and during higher risk travel.”