Following a recent mine incident in Somalia when a staff member of a US NGO was seriously injured and lost a leg, it was discovered that there was a loophole in the insurance cover provided to US NGO personnel working in war zones outside the US.
Even though the NGO in question had war risk coverage, the insurance company claimed that they were not liable as the individual was working at the time of the incident and the claim should therefore be covered by the US Workers Compensation Insurance which covers the costs arising from injuries sustained while working.
However, the latter did not include cover for war risk!
On investigation, InterAction the US NGO umbrella organisation, discovered that other US NGOs were faced with similar loopholes and is currently exploring ways of filling this gap together with the US NGOs operating in war affected areas.
Recognising that this problem threatened the continued operation of US NGOs in humanitarian aid operations in several areas, the US Agency for International Development (AID) stepped in with a special indemnification programme to bridge the gap in insurance cover for a limited period.
AIDs Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has offered NGOs implementing OFDA-funded programmes in seven high risk countries, a ninety day programme involving US$2 million set aside for any claims not covered by existing insurance policies and the Workers Compensation Scheme.
Though the position of non-US NGOs is likely to differ from the dual cover situation of US NGOs, this experience suggests that other NGOs operating in war-affected areas should be closely examining the small-print on their existing insurance policies.
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