Prioritising the Well-being and Safety of NGO Workers Abroad

November 2023

How NGOs can prioritise the well-being and safety of their people working overseas?

NGOs are realising the growing extent of their duty of care towards the people that deliver their projects and programmes, whether they be employees, volunteers or beneficiaries. Confronted with all types of health and safety risks, they often work in unpredictable and even hostile environments. As political instability and terrorism is becoming less and less predictable globally, employers have a duty of care to be more vigilant to protect their frontline workers while working in remote or volatile situations. 

Here are some measures that you can take as an NGO to address the care and wellbeing of your people:

Employee wellbeing is a central aspect of any organisation’s duty of care. Physical risks are not the only threats faced by people who work for NGOs. According to research, the majority of humanitarian workers report high levels of stress and poor overall wellbeing.

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offering psychological support should be in place to support workers, offering access to certified mental health professionals 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via Skype, phone calls and face-to-face sessions - before, during and after their deployment. EAPs can provide valuable support to workers experiencing personal or work-related challenges.

NGO workers are often located in remote or crisis-hit regions, which increases their risk of illness and injury. Comprehensive health insurance coverage should be available for international staff travelling or on deployment. As an NGO employer, ensure your workers have access to quality healthcare, which includes both a local and global network of healthcare professionals, whether they are posted in a big city or a remote location. 
As an NGO, ensure that your insurance policy fits your travel and risk profile, that the countries and locations that your staff potentially travel to and work in are not excluded, and that staff and others travelling on your behalf are, at the very least, properly insured for medical assistance. If the need for an emergency medical evacuation arises, you are covered for evacuation and repatriation services to help your workers get transported to a facility where they can access the care they need. Treating and repatriating a seriously injured staff member, consultant or visitor without insurance is extremely costly. 
Some NGOs believe that their responsibility for staff care ends with the end of an assignment. However, recent litigation suggests that the responsibility may extend a little further. That’s why post-assignment medical checks are good practice. Tropical screenings at travel clinics identity diseases or parasites contracted in the field, and psychological reviews enable staff to process their experience, receive advice on dealing with reverse culture shock, as well as prepare for the next assignment.
Protect your NGO employees while they are living and working abroad. Talk to us about our international health insurance products tailored to the unique needs of an NGO.