Medical and security specialist International SOS has identified Afghanistan as potentially the most dangerous country in the world to visit in 2022.
The organisation’s recently published Risk Outlook 2022 named Syria the second-most dangerous destination to visit, followed by Libya, Central African Republic and Iraq.
The same countries comprised the top five in last year’s forecast for 2021, with just Afghanistan and Libya trading places as we move towards 2022.
Other nations whose security risk was also categorised as ‘extreme’ include Mali, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, as well as certain areas of Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Ukraine.
In its annual update of risk ratings, International SOS drew attention to several changes, including the travel risk rating for Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince being raised from high to extreme due to worsening gang activity and crime, and Myanmar’s overall rating changing from medium to high.
The organisation says an ‘extreme security risk’ categorisation means government control and law and order may be minimal or non-existent across large areas, and there could be a serious threat of violent attacks by armed groups targeting international visitors.
In addition, government and transport services are barely functional and large parts of the country may be inaccessible to foreigners.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Norway was named as the safest destination currently, followed by Finland, Switzerland, Denmark and Luxembourg.
“In 2022 organisations must be aware that perennial security concerns such as crime, civil unrest, terrorism or other geopolitical issues have not gone away due to the pandemic. In many cases the risks from these concerns have actually grown,” said Mick Sharp, group director security services at International SOS.
“Tensions around pandemic lockdowns, vaccine rollouts, and perceived infringements on civil liberties have fuelled civil unrest and violence in some locations. With the increased use of vaccine mandates or restrictions on unvaccinated individuals around the world we can expect to see tensions heighten throughout 2022.
“Aside from the Covid-19 related triggers, natural disasters, geo-politics, domestic conflict and crime will continue to impact organisations globally. This impact will further increase in 2022 with a growing return to travel and an increased focus on the duty of care requirements of an in-country workforce.”
Investing in support
The organisation’s Risk Outlook 2022 also includes the results of several studies including a survey of nearly 1,000 risk professionals which found more than half of businesses (56 per cent) plan to increase investment in supporting the mental and physical health of employees.
Covid-19 was not surprisingly identified as the biggest expected cause of employee productivity decreases in 2022, while more than a third of respondents said they expect mental health challenges to cause a significant decrease in productivity, placing it second.
Natural disasters and extreme weather was third, transport concerns fourth and security threats and civil unrest completed the top five concerns.
Meanwhile, 28 per cent of European respondents expect travel risks to increase in 2022, 44 per cent expect risk levels to stay about the same, and 28 per cent expect risk levels to decline.
The figures were broadly similar among respondents in the Americas and in Asia, with 24 per cent and 30 per cent respectively expecting increasing risk levels, and 38 per cent and 41 per cent expecting to see falling risk levels.
“In 2022 we are facing a layered threat environment. Entering the third year of the pandemic, while Covid-19 and the fallout from lockdowns continue to be major disruptors, other risks are coming back to the fore as travel resumes,” said Dr Neil Nerwich, group medical director at International SOS.
“With many experts predicting 2022 will be the year of the ‘great resignation’, organisations must act to ensure they provide the necessary support for employees. Investing in both emotional health and physical wellness support will be essential for employee retention. This will also help to avoid a vicious cycle of productivity issues.
“Those that can best help employees navigate changing working environments will be rewarded with increased employee resilience, loyalty and productivity.”