A wide variety of health concerns should be addressed when
contemplating short-term or long-term travel or residency outside Canada. These
1) Infectious diseases
Check with Health Canada
and Foreign Affairs and International Trade
to find out about infectious or tropical diseases such as
malaria and hepatitis C, and other health concerns that may require
inoculations and other procedures prior to departure.
2) Health screening
screen staff candidates, work teams and other short-term volunteers for
pre-existing medical conditions and food and medical allergies. You don't want
to risk life-threatening medical emergencies in locations with limited health
care. Your application process should ask those questions and also require the
applicant's informed consent with respect to the dangers of travel to the
proposed destination, along with a release of interest and waiver of legal
liability against the organization and its directors and representatives.
In addition to the worldwide liability protection that
should be carried by organizations operating outside Canada (see part 1)
, it is also important to
arrange individual travel insurance for all participants traveling abroad in
sponsored activities. Your travelers' out-of-country (and out-of-province)
medical expenses are often not covered, or are severely limited, by provincial
health insurance plans.
Traumatic injuries, heart attacks and strokes can involve
significant uninsured medical, emergency evacuation and repatriation costs.
They can place a heavy financial strain on the families of injured persons and
the survivors of deceased family members.
This burden can also force those affected to take legal action against
the organization and its leaders to avoid bankruptcy or financial hardship by
recovering these costs through civil damage awards or settlements.
To avoid this situation, insist on mandatory travel
insurance for all representatives and participants in your sponsored out-of-country
operations. Have participants give proof of their own individual coverage, or coordinate
protection centrally through the same travel insurer for ease of administration
and to ensure that coverage is adequate and equal for all participants. Travel
coverage is available through Blue Cross, TIC and many other insurers who
specialize in out-of-country protection.
It is unfortunate but true that increasing risks are associated
with relief, development and short-term missions work in many parts of the
world. At one time, personal security was only a concern for senior ranking
political figures and the executives of multinational corporations. However, in
the past decade even the directors and aid workers of nonprofit organizations (NPOs)
have been targeted by insurgency groups and gangs for political purposes or
monetary gain through ransom demands.
Although much of the world's attention is focused on obvious
trouble spots such as Afghanistan and Iraq, the threat of kidnap, ransom and
extortion is prevalent throughout much of Africa and parts of Latin America.
And this risk is found in both remote, rural areas and in the highly urbanized
areas of first- and second-world countries. According to the Clayton Report
, produced by one of the
leading reporting organizations for personal risk, large cities such as Mexico
City, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg and Moscow are major trouble spots for
Insurance protection is available through a handful of
specialty companies in the United States and Canada for kidnap, ransom, hijack,
wrongful detention, extortion, consultant costs and related expenses. Premiums
are based on the limit of coverage desired for ransom indemnity, the number of
persons to be insured and the location of operations.
Nonprofits and charities typically have two concerns about
purchasing Kidnap and Ransom (K & R) Insurance:
1) A religious and
philosophical objection to paying ransom in certain situations
concern can often be alleviated by understanding that the organization does not
have to pay a ransom if it chooses not to. A consultant will respond to an
incident and provide experienced advice to the client. The client makes the
final decision and can choose to accept or not accept the advice. Consultants
often help nonprofit clients to negotiate a release without paying ransom.
Also, "ransom" is not always bags of cash as portrayed in movies. Ransom can be
monies or services for work that the client organization was going to do
anyway, such as building wells, schools or medical clinics. The insurance
policy proceeds can be used to reimburse the client for those additional costs.
2) A belief that purchasing a K & R policy
will increase the organization's risk of an incident.
This is completely
untrue. First of all, very few people in the organization should even know
about the coverage. Great care is taken by both insurance organizations and
client organizations to keep the existence and details of coverage
confidential. Secondly, criminals will kidnap for money with no thought
whatsoever to insurance. Bad guys don't care whether or not an organization or
family has insurance - they will get their money. The perception, rightly or
wrongly, is that foreigners from Western countries are wealthy and are
One of the most important responsibilities for charities
operating outside Canada, whether permanently or occasionally, is to
demonstrate due diligence in ensuring the safety of employees and volunteers.
Although it is virtually impossible to guarantee safety in an ever-changing
world, there are at least two ways in which you can reduce the risk of harm to
your representatives abroad.
The first is to check with DFAIT
for travel reports and warnings for any proposed trips abroad. Its website contains valuable information on
safety and security, civil unrest, local laws and customs, entry requirements,
health conditions and infectious disease, and other important travel concerns.
Countries with an asterisk (*) are currently subject to a
Travel Warning, indicating that Canadians should either avoid non-essential
travel to the country or specific regions, or avoid all travel to the country
or specified regions. Failure to do so could result in undue legal liability in
the event of death or injury to a participant and may impact health and trip
Many organizations will also check with the US Department of State as well to access its research,
advisories and warnings regarding travel throughout the world.
Another way to reduce personal and security risk is to
partner with local nationals or other international charities or agencies who
are already operating in the area, and who have experienced personnel to guide
your organization and representatives while traveling and working in their
Although this is not a complete summary of risks and
insurance considerations, we hope that it has provided your organization and
leaders with some practical guidance and tips in eliminating, reducing and
transferring the risk associated with relief and development operations outside
Kenneth A. Hall is president
of Robertson Hall Insurance. He
specializes in insurance protection and risk management advice for over 6,000
churches and Christian charities across Canada. He is a frequent presenter at
national denominational conferences, para-church leadership gatherings and
various regional seminars. His "Facing the Risk" series of articles highlights
the current issues facing Christian charities and their leaders, including
abuse prevention, board governance, counselling services and injury prevention.