Reported Issues By Country
This information was provided by missionaries upon return from these countries.
We are just passing it on, allowing you to make appropriate plans for your trip.
- ARGENTINA - April 2018 - Customs in Buenos Aires confiscated 3 duffel bags with surgical supplies.
- BELIZE - 2013 or before - Customs is charging a small duty charge for the value of what you are carrying in. They are willing to work with you on the charge by not charging very much if any product is short dated and/or donated product. We have been there many times. Customs jerks us around, holds us up, and gets tighter every trip. They now want us to send them a list of exactly what we are bring WITH EXACT EXPIRATION dates 4 months in advance.
- BOLIVIA - May 2015 - We had to travel to La Paz to get a letter from the Ministry of Health in order for the team to pass through customs with all of their medical supplies and medicines. With that letter, they were able to pass through customs without any problem.
- COLOMBIA - July 2013 - We were advised that in the future it would be helpful to provide a letter from one of the local doctors in Colombia showing that the inventory had been "pre-approved" under his/her signature. We had to submit a huge about of paperwork ahead of time, where everything was manufactured, then translated into Spanish and notarized and mailed to Colombia. Permission was given the afternoon before we flew there. Once we were there, we went right in.
Columbia September 2015
This was the most difficulty we have ever had with customs in a country. They searched 3 of our bags that had meds in them and confiscated all of the meds in those bags. We had 11 other bags that were not checked and went through ok.
- COSTA RICA - June 2014 - Customs allowed us to bring our medications into the country this time but warned us that we need to get special permission in the future to bring in medicine. We have been alerted that such permission can be very costly. We are looking into alternatives.
- DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - 2013 or before - Forms need to be submitted to the Ministry of Health for clearance at least one week prior to your arrival.
Dominican Republic July 2014
The first group flew to Santiago, Dominican Republic without problems. Our second group flew to Punta Cana and all the medicines were held in customs, even OTC meds. We had several trips to the capital with our local hosts before the medicines were released. We were told we need to do this before the trip in the future and that all documents must be translated into Spanish.
Dominican Republic April 2017
Customs DR has instituted a pre-approval process to bring meds in. It is a lengthy process between the Ministry of Health, then Customs. It started 2 weeks before we came. They confiscated 4 of our 7 suitcases. At this point, a local missionary doctor is working through the Ministry of Health to have the medicines released to him. At this date, April 24, they are still being held in customs. Another mission team on the same flight also had baggage held.
Dominican Republic October 2017
There is now a Public Health official at the airport. They now can enforce all medical teams to have paperwork signed by the Dominican public health before entering the country. It is a very long process, I understand now what the organization I travel with is working through. There needs to be a list of medications, with expiration dates and lot numbers with the indication for use, and it needs to be translated into Spanish.
Also, deed of donation is required for all medications including OTCs and vitamins. The other paperwork required includes incorporation of the clinic we are working with, the Dominican MD’s licenses who we are working with, all licenses of the American professionals and a letter of support from the clinic for our work. All of the paperwork is sent to the local public health to sign off on. Once the paperwork is signed in San Juan, it needs to be delivered to the public health office where you are flying into and finally to the customs office.
The paperwork needs to be available when your team comes through customs. Some of our bags were taken at customs (but we did get them back with all items accounted for about 48 hours later), after supplying them with all of this information.
- ECUADOR - 2013 or before - Customs in Ecuador have confiscated medication in recent months. You must have a secure way of getting your medications in.
- EL SALVADOR - 2013 or before - Customs in El Salvador require a list of the medications you are bringing into El Salvador to be sent to them 2-3 months ahead of your arrival. They also require that the medications be translated into Spanish.
El Salvador February 2015
Some of our students transporting medicines were stopped at customs. All the students with medicines declared them, but only some were stopped. We were required to pay taxes on them.
- GUATEMALA - 2013 or before - Customs in Guatemala is charging a “Tax” unless the medicine is previously approved with them by an accepted Organization with them. Also, they are requiring that the list of medications you are bringing in be translated and sent to them 2-3 months ahead of your arrival.
Guatemala January 2015
The Guatemalan government required us to acquire a permit via the Health Department before they would release the medications from customs. They needed a list of all medications with their generic names and expiration dates and quantities. They held the meds for 2 days while this permit process took place, and then all was good after that.
Guatemala June 2016
List of medications had to be approved by the government prior to arrival. All medications had to have expiration dates at least 12 months after 6/2016.
Guatemala August 2016
Has now made a new rule to only allow medications that will expire 1 year after importation. This rule changed with each person we talked to. One custom worker said 3 months, another said 2 years. This made our customs experience very hectic.
- HAITI - 2013 or before - Haiti is getting very harsh at customs. An optical team just behind us lacked the history with customs and paid $200 a box for 16 boxes of glasses for their optical program. Our own team got frisked hard for the first time ever and they wanted 10% of the US value amount in duty - $100,000! I started making calls to friends and they got nervous and let us go. I expect you'll be hearing Haiti no longer wants mission teams to bring meds, possibly very soon. Requesting "tips" of $50 in order to allow the medications to go through and to not keep some of the medications.
Haiti May 2014
We have had an additional team that has stated they had to pay $200 in order to get their medications through customs. Customs didn't want to see any paperwork, they just weren't going to let them through without paying.
Haiti November 2014
When we entered Haiti customs informed us that we needed approval from the appropriate government ministry to carry the meds. This is approximately our 20th medical team to travel and this has never been a problem before. We were allowed in but told to follow proper protocol next time. Our Haitian contact knows of no such requirement. We simply thought it was a bit of a hassle and not a real requirement. It was hinted that a few dollars would make the problem go away but none was paid.
Haiti January 2015
We were required to pay a fee to allow clearance of the meds.
Haiti March 2015
The customs office in Haiti confiscated the luggage in which we carried the medications. We were able to get several suit cases through as they contained a mixture of personal belongings and medications. The organization with whom we served, Mission of Hope, was able to recover the
entirety of our meds 5 days after our arrival.
Haiti May 2015
We had to pay a $200 bribe to a customs official, "outside, in secret" in place of a "tax."
Haiti July 2015
Customs wanted $700 cash to bring our 30 bags of Meds into Haiti... we talked them down to $400.
Haiti September 2015
There is one particular person it seems at Customs who is shaking down the teams. I confirmed this with others who have gone recently. They pulled us off the line and did not care about any of my documentation or inventory sheets or letters inside the bags that said this was all for missions etc. We spent 2 hours in Customs and watched them dump all of our detailed inventoried bags on the floor. Every bag had itemized inventory sheets with each type of medication.
Our airport people from Mission of Hope were on the phone from the moment it started trying to get to the right people (government or MOH) and finally the call came in and they let us go with all of our supplies. Whoever it was that called got us all through with everything. An ordeal I would not want to wish on anyone. Hopefully the next government coming in will not take them backwards.
Haiti April 2016
Minor in comparison to last trip. Same person pulled us over and wanted us to pay a tax on the amount on the invoice. Surprised to witness that the majority of his co-workers in customs did not support what he was doing and started letting the team through on their own.
It is obviously one guy but he is in charge. He tried negotiating at $490 down to $50 but in the end gave up when we refused. This time every single item was invoiced even ones donated by friends and family. I also had a complete packet made-up in advance of every single invoice which took him off guard. Recommend this for other teams. In the end we were only kept 40 minutes.
Haiti December 2016
After we collected our luggage we were stopped by an airport official who said they needed to check the bags. We explained our supplies and why we were there. They told us that we could not bring it in and that they were going to confiscate all of our medications and radio equipment. A Haitian team member handled the interaction and stated they repeatedly asked for money and would again threaten to take all of the supplies. One worker even stuck his hand in our team member's pocket fishing for money.
Our team member just kept saying that we did not have money, and he did not know what they wanted him to do. After a few minutes our Haitian team member called a friend whom he rather loudly addressed as "Major" and explained the situation. The "customs officials" just looked at him and told us to take our bags and leave. We have been stopped and searched with previous trips, but we have never experienced this level of flagrant corruption.
Haiti November 2017
We submitted the donation paperwork to the Haitian Embassy in the US and brought it with us for customs in Cap Haitien. We were told that we needed to establish a Haiti foundation to avoid paying "taxes" on the supplies even though they were donated and they were going to be given away. We negotiated with the customs officers for about an hour before they gave us the "custom tax donation alternate amount" of $150 US in customs tax. We only paid $130 and they let us leave with that.
Haiti January 2018
We were stopped at Haitian Customs for inspection this year and the inspector was not pleased with the fact that we had already pre-packaged many of our medications into individual prescription packets with instructions. His contention was that there was no way to know whether the medications were still effective and within the expiration dates. I can see that as a concern.
Furthermore, the inspector stated that they required a letter from the Ministry of Health in order to bring our relief supplies/medications through customs, which we did not possess. Ultimately, the inspector allowed us to pass through without any consequence other than his warning. When we came through Port-au-Prince last year with the same mission and supplies, we were simply passed through when they saw doctors/nurses with bags of medications, so the change this year was quite a surprise. Regardless, God's will was sovereign and prevailed.
- HONDURAS - 2013 or before - We were told that all meds should be in the original package with date of expiration, etc. Some groups repackage or prepackage their meds but we did not, so we did not have a problem.
- JAMAICA - 2013 or before - A team leader has written, We always bring a giveaway gift for all of the patients (toothbrush and toothpaste and floss). Unfortunately, 75% of these were confiscated by customs. We recommend registering the toothbrushes, etc with the Ministry of Health so that they will assist in getting items through customs.
Jamaica July 2014
No problems clearing the drugs through customs, however, customs charged us an unprecedented and unanticipated 21% tax on the invoice value we paid for the medications we brought to give away. This resulted in a non-budgeted expense of $850.
Though I submitted ahead of time the medication list, I was not able to leave with the medicine I brought. I did not receive the two large suitcases of medicine until day #3. To my surprise, several of my key medicines were taken. It cost us a lot more than we'd paid in the past to clear the medicine. I had to purchase medicine from a local pharmacy to meet the needs of the people.
- JORDAN - October 2018 - All of the medications we brought in were taken by customs and not released during the time we were in Jordan. They said they were testing the meds.
- KENYA - 2013 or before - Customs in Kenya require that you have a form/document from the Minister of Health of Kenya approving the medications you are bringing in, prior to your arrival into Kenya with the medications.
Kenya June 2014
Kenyan authorities are looking for "new" items to tax. We were taxed $130 for $800 of micronutrients.
Kenya February 2017
All medicines have to be registered with the Pharmacy and Poison Board before entry.
Kenya August 2017
They did charge us tax on our medicine. This has never happened before and they said if one of the local organizations filled out a special form, then we'd never have to pay taxes on the meds.
Kenya October 2017
Kenya has just passed a law against importing plastic bags. We tried via various emails to get clarification about bags, because we have always used small plastic zip lock bags. They are safer for children and medications to stay protected from moisture. We outlined our plan and methods in detail, but never got any response from 2 different agencies, so we used more expensive, cumbersome, brown paper bags, some with a zip lock closure.
The customs person said we had to have everything approved by a Kenyan chemist in advance. I cited 9 trips into Kenya with letters of invitation from pastors and local clinics with whom we share our supplies, our credentials, protocols and brought out the inventories with expiration dates, as well as my unanswered emails. She finally agreed, but we were taxed $200 for bringing in reading glasses to give away for free. I am still not sure what website she was alluding to.
Kenya June 2018
We had to have the local team fill out special papers including all our meds, cost, and weights. Then they had to submit with some paperwork before we could get it out.
Kenya July 2018
Even with all the proper papers from the Dept. of Health, etc. the customs people still charged us $204. I think this was a corrupt deal from the 2 customs workers.
- LIBERIA - January 2017 - We were notified that the Liberian government is charging $500 per MD/dentist and $200 per nurse to serve in their country. Also stating that all medications we bring must have at least 18 months expiration date.
- MALAWI - 2013 or before - Malawi customs held the medications and asked us to get permission from the Health Department of Malawi. After two days, we got a letter from the medical department of one of the prisons where one of our missionaries worked, but customs did not accept the letter. We prayed and explained the situation, finally they released the medicine, but we had to pay customs a storage fee of $100.00 US dollars. When you carry medications to Malawi, it would be best to spread the medicine into several different bags and put them on the bottom. The custom officers do not search everything in the bag, but if they see boxes, they like to open them.
- MEXICO - 2013 - Customs in Mexico have confiscated some medication. You must have a secure way of getting your medications in. Apparently there was a new law passed that went into effect January 1, 2013 which does not allow any medication into Mexico including donated medications. We thought we had the right paperwork to get the medication into Mexico but according to them it wasn't. None of the government officials that we were working with knew anything about this "new law". Need to give yourself plenty of time to get the correct documentation through the ministry of health to have approval to bring your medications in. They are now asking for physician and other medical staff credentials. Need to order medications early enough to get them so you can send expiration dates and list of medications in as well.
Mexico June 2015
At customs clearance at the Mexican border, they checked every medicine and charged us on certain items even though we showed the ‘Certificate of Donation'. Not only did we have to pay on those certain items but also while they were checking every single item, the rest of the mission crew
had to wait in hot weather.
Mexico July 2016
We usually don't have issues, but we did it legally and declared the medicine when we entered. We had a letter from the city string we were doing humanitarian service, etc. and I think we found a guard who was having an off day. Anyway, after several hours of haggling, we were able to bring it in.
- MYANMAR - March 2015 - Had to pay a tax on this trip, sometimes we do, sometimes we don't; depends on who is working that day.
- NAIROBI - 2013 or before - Customs in Nairobi has a new form that must be completed in advance of transporting medication into their country.
- NICARAGUA - 2013 or before - Customs in Nicaragua requires that all medications have at least 12 months expiration. Also, we have had several reports of medications being confiscated. PLEASE check to be sure you have filed ALL appropriate paperwork with the Nicaraguan government. Some reports tell us that your paperwork must be filed as early as 3 months BEFORE your arrival. Please be sure to check on this before you travel to Nicaragua. Also, Unable to clear the medicine through customs at all, so we had to 'borrow' other medicines the missionary had, and brought the medicines back to the US on our return trip. We then mailed it all to the missionary to 'replace' what we used. Naturally, towards the later part of our mission clinic days, we were very short on medicine supplies. The rumor has it that president Ortega is preparing to get into the pharmaceutical business and has begun controlling the influx of medicines very tightly. We had to have an approval to bring in medicines and our medicines had to have a minimum of one year expiry. Must have NAFDAC's permission to bring medicines into Nigeria now. NAFDAC is the equivalent of our FDA. Medical mission guidelines to Nigeria has changed. They will no longer accept medication that has less than one year expiration date. The Nicaraguan ministry of health is making the import of medical supplies a very difficult process. It seems to be arbitrary what will be challenged. The recommendation is to start paper work at least 6 weeks prior to the arrival date and have a knowledgeable local partner helping with the documents. Our partners in Nicaragua (Christ for the City International) work in advance with MINSA (Ministry of Health) to obtain approvals. Customs agents had our records and approval letter on-site at airport when we arrived. We recommend that all teams preparing to enter Nicaragua follow a similar process so that teams will not have meds pulled/confiscated or be tied up for long periods of time waiting for approvals.
Nicaragua June 2014
At the border, the Nicaraguan officials held us up for a long time trying to get a bribe from us to bring the medicines across the border. We held our ground as representatives of Christ and eventually our patience and kindness (and maybe a little stubbornness) got us through.
- NIGER - September 2016 - For the first time we had all of our tubs taken in customs and were told that we hadn't done the correct paperwork with the Ministry of Medicine in order to get the medications into the country. I had to prove to the police that we had secured the correct paperwork and was able to show it to them. They proceeded to tell me that this was not the correct papers. They wanted to charge us $100USD per tub at 22 tubs to get the meds into the country. I was able to show them that we were also purchasing an additional $1k USD in meds in Niger to be used for the mission. After over an hour of debate they released the tubs to us and we left. It was quite the ordeal. Our first for this team of 10 years.
- NIGERIA - 2013 or before - Customs in Nigeria require at least 6 months expiration.
Nigeria May 2015
My approval from the NAFDAC (equivalent to FDA) did not come through on time. I applied in March and was still waiting to hear from them at the end of May. Without approval, medicines and other medical devices are not allowed. In this case, I showed documentation of my application for good faith efforts on my part but that was not good enough.
Nigeria May 2015
Nigeria has a new president and new government so the NAFDAC papers we submitted were not processed and l was only informed at the airport on the day l was traveling. They want you to get an approval certificate from NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control). They want us to bring medications that will not expire for at least 6 months. They also want us to submit the list of medications 3 months before traveling.
Nigeria November 2016
The Department of Customs expects a list and pre-approval of all medications and medical equipment before arrival and a letter of invitation from the hosting community. We had to make contacts with local authorities and this caused some delay in clearing our baggage from customs.
- PANAMA - 2013 or before - Customs in Panama require at least 6 months expiration.
- PERU - June 2016 - We passed through Lima customs without any problem but through Trujillo customs (domestic flight) they've confiscated most of our medications. The local missionary told us that this was the first time that this happened and suspected corruption at local level.
Peru September 2018
We cargo shipped 70 boxes of supplies and medications. Customs did not release many of our boxes. They held all supplies that were not in a sealed box: gloves in ziplock bags, ace bandages that were individually wrapped, alcohol pads etc. To make matters worse they confiscated
entire boxes instead of just removing the one item that was not acceptable to them.
- ROMANIA - 2013 or before - When going to Romania, we still find it best to fly into Budapest, Hungary with our pharmaceuticals and supplies and then drive across the border. The customs officers in the airports of Romania have made national headlines over the last 2 years because of corruption, and another team had all of their supplies confiscated. We've never had any issue being processed while flying into Budapest driving through the border control into Romania.
- SENEGAL - 2013 or before - They held half of our luggage for 3 days at the airport, therefore delaying our medical clinics. They were concerned that we were going to sell the medication. They first asked for a letter from the Medical Director in their country, then they wanted a letter from the head of pharmacy.
Senegal December 2015
Medical mission teams should get approval from the Ministry of Health before bringing medication into Senegal. That's what we are doing. Don't want any delays at the airport.
- SIERRA LEONE - 2013 or before - You need to contact the Ministry of Health to let them know when and where you will be doing a health clinic and send them a list of all medicines to be brought into the country so they can approve the medicine prior to you coming. When approved, ask for a document stating all medicines are approved so you can show that as you enter the country. Make sure no medicines, even over the counter, are expired. Bring the number and contact information of the Ministry of Health just in case you need to contact them. Also, connecting with a ministry that is in the country is helpful. We did all this prior to getting in and had the list of medicines with us as we entered, but the local custom guy would not let us take the medicine in until he talked with the Ministry of Health and it was 11:30 pm. So, the solution was for us to leave with the medicines that night and leave our address of where we were staying and they would send out the Department of Pharmacy to check the next morning. No one came the next day since the Ministry of Health verified we were cleared.
- TANZANIA - 2013 or before - Tanzania is requiring one year shelf life of medicines. Prior registration of medicines is necessary and approval by the Ministry of Health and Customs Officials.
- TOGO - February 2016 - When traveling into Togo with medications, it is important to have a detailed formulary of all medications as well as an invitation letter from your host missionaries. We always carry these with us along with a letter from our church stating that none of the medications will be sold but that they are all provided as donations.
- UGANDA - May 2017 - Uganda has a National Drug Policy with criteria about bringing medications into Uganda. They require us to inform the government about the medications we will be bringing, along with a certificate of the products. They also look for an expiration of 1 year, and care about manufacturing dates as well.
- UKRAINE - 2013 or before - Customs in the Ukraine require at least 6 month expiration on medications brought into the Ukraine and the medications must be on the “Registry List” in the Ukraine.
- ZIMBABWE - September 2014 - We didn't lose any of the medicines or medical supplies but this was the first time in 4 trips that we were stopped and charged custom fees amounting to $420 (USD). That was unexpected by us and our ministry partner. This was approximately 6% of the value of the prescription glasses, medicine, clothing, and VBS supplies that we brought with us.