Uganda has taken top place on the list of destinations for missionaries in 2019, underlining that Africa remains a key priority for charity and mission work.
However, what might surprise some people is that three of the top five destinations for people taking out specialist travel insurance with Salt Insurance, which provides emergency medical and travel cover designed for charity/aid workers, missionaries, volunteers and church groups, were in Europe.
Romania, Moldova and Greece all feature near the top of the list – above African nations such as Kenya, Zambia, South Sudan, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Tanzania, Egypt and Morocco.
Here is a full run down of the top five:
A land-locked country in East Africa, Uganda attracts visits from 15,000 British nationals each year and was the top destination for missionaries in 2019.
Lonely Planet praises its ‘tapestry of landscapes, excellent wildlife watching and welcoming locals’. The country is also home to Africa’s highest mountain range, the Rwenzoris and the source of the Nile.
Most visits are trouble-free in a country where prosperity is growing, but its history in the 1970s and 80s included a military coup, a military dictatorship, a five-year civil war and a 20-year insurgency in the north. So, specialist insurance is advised for missionary and charity workers.
UK health authorities have classified Uganda as having a risk of Zika virus transmission, so medical insurance is also important. The UK government reported potential political unrest and protests in 2019, and the BBC says Uganda, which earned independence from Britain in 1962, has also been criticised for its stance on LGBT issues.
Famous for its dramatic mountain scenery and Black Sea coastline, Romania has been ruled by several empires – including Roman, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian – and is also a former communist state.
Now part of the EU, its major religion is Christianity and memories of communist leader Nicolae Ceausecu’s reign are long in the past.
It has still proved a popular destination for missionaries in 2019, however, and the UK government recommends travellers should take on ‘comprehensive travel and medical insurance’ before planning to visit.
Much of the Christian and charity outreach work in Romania is focused on the poorest and most remote regions, amid claims that joining the EU has done little to end poverty.
The Union Mission says 50 per cent of children in Romania still suffer from deprivation due to poverty, neglect and domestic violence.
When it comes to history and culture, there are few countries that can match the heritage of Greece, home of democracy, the Olympics and Greek mythology.
It is also one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, with beautiful islands and coastlines to explore – and three million Brits visit every year according the UK government.
But the global financial crisis of the late 2000s had a devastating effect on the country’s economy, resulting in recession and crippling debt.
As a result, the country has become a focus for charity missions. The BBC says Greece has the highest youth unemployment in Europe and a report in 2018 suggested one in three people there are at risk of poverty.
The UK government warns of regular strikes and demonstrations that cause disruption to public transport and says visitors should be wary of severe weather extremes, especially wildfires in summer. Comprehensive insurance is vital.
One of Europe’s poorest and least-visited countries, the former soviet republic is wedged between Romania and Ukraine.
Lonely Planet praises its ‘unspoiled countryside and superb wine tours’ as well as the Soviet-style architecture in the capital, Chisinau – and tourist numbers are steadily rising.
But, with an economy that still relies on agriculture, charity missions focus on poverty in rural areas.
Mission Direct describes Moldova as ‘one of the most vulnerable nations in Europe’ and cites support of children with special needs as a priority.
The UK government says travel there is largely safe; but advises anyone heading to Transnistria that the region is outside of the control of the Moldovan authorities and consular assistance there may be severely limited.
Having the right visa is also vital – the Moldovan authorities strictly enforce penalties against those who overstay. Having the right advice and insurance is vital.
5. South Africa
This is a country that will need little introduction to most people who are well aware of the charms of Cape Town, the vibrancy of Johannesburg and the natural beauty of South Africa’s many safari parks.
However, despite making huge progress since the end of apartheid in 1994, poverty, crime and poor educational facilities in townships and villages are the focus of missionary, charity and volunteer workers.
South Africa was named in the ‘top 10 places to volunteer abroad in 2019’ by GoAbroad.com and remains hugely popular as a tourist destination too – 430,000 Brits visit every year.
However, although the Rainbow Nation has Africa’s strongest economy there are still issues to consider for all visitors to the country.
The UK government warns of ‘a high level of crime, including rape and murder’ as well as a prevalence of ‘scam artists’ and a history of robbers following tourists leaving OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
Having the right insurance in place is important for all visitors.