Burma’s deadly cyclone and China’s massive earthquake have focused attention on the relief workers, who volunteer to bring aid to the stricken victims. “We take the sight of foreign aid workers arriving in disaster zones for granted,” Lloyd’s points out in an article on its web site (www.lloyds.com). But aid workers need insurance coverage, as it’s unlikely many would volunteer for this hazardous duty unless they had some measure of personal protection.
“Without the insurance cover that Lloyd’s insurers provide, the big aid agencies would find it very difficult to operate effectively in disaster zones,” said Lloyd’s. Insurers are central in providing coverage for the major aid agencies.
“Insurance is sometimes seen in a negative light,” observed Tim Prifti, Accident & Health underwriter at Kiln. “But this is a very good example of where insurance can make a positive difference.”
The big agencies and NGOs usually buy their cover on an annual basis, though it can be project specific. Agencies can’t always predict which parts of the world they will be working in so they aim to buy the most flexible, widest cover possible for their workers for the coming year. “It is fair to say that nowhere is off limits for Lloyd’s insurers like Kiln and we insure projects in diverse areas such as Darfur, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Prifti explained.
Banner Financial Services Group, a provider of medical and travel insurance to the worldwide missionary aid and NGO sectors, works with Lloyd’s insurers to provide bespoke insurance to the sector’s workers and their families while outside their home country for the short or long term. “War zones are difficult, but yes, we can nearly always get personal accident, travel and emergency medical cover for aid workers. We can also arrange life cover,” stated its Chief Executive, Robin Williams.
Lloyd’s noted that for Kiln the key areas “are accidental death and disability for individuals, emergency medical expenses and emergency evacuation/repatriation. The latter is important as aid agency workers are frequently working in areas where there is only access to primary medical facilities capable of stabilizing a patient at best. So it is very important to have in place cover to allow a worker to be evacuated to the nearest center of medical excellence.”
Prifti pointed out that standard insurers avoid covering aid agencies because they don’t like the potential one-off volatility that comes with it. However, he continued, “at Lloyd’s we specialize in managing volatile risks. With a large portfolio of volatile risks we can achieve a better balance. We have got the expertise and experience needed to write this business and we can price the business according to an agency’s risk profile.”
“Lloyd’s insurers understand the rating issues and loss mitigation issues and what is required to support non-traditional products such as these,” Williams added. “A high level of understanding is required.”
The big aid agencies are usually acutely aware of the risks their staff face and plan accordingly. “They are usually thoroughly professional and have all the right risk procedures and guidelines in place for their people,” Prifti noted. “That’s important, because it will affect the level of risk premiums they can achieve in the market.”
Aid agencies know they have a responsibility to their own people as well as to the people they are helping. “A failure to ensure they are properly protected by insurance would reflect badly on them and could hurt their reputation,” Prifti concluded. “And reputation is important in terms of recruiting the best people and attracting funding.”
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