U.N. Contractors in Kenya Unable To Secure Health Care Insurance, Including HIV Coverage, for Workers
Contractors who supply workers to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, Kenya, have been unable to secure health care insurance, including HIV coverage, for their workers despite U.N. officials' claims that the problem had been resolved, the Boston Globe reports (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 9/29). The United Nations in July said that beginning in 2004 the organization will require contractors to provide an eight-point health and welfare package, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs, transportation subsidies and maternity leave, to any staff members who work at least half the week at the U.N. office in Nairobi. Under official U.N. policy, consultants and subcontractors do not receive medical coverage from the agency. The contracted workers perform jobs including maintenance, cleaning, landscaping and food services at the compound (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/23). Managers of the contracting companies last week said that they cannot find an insurance firm willing to provide coverage for HIV inpatient care and that the United Nations has refused their requests for help. Two contract company managers said they had contacted more than six insurance companies in Kenya and none was willing to write AIDS policies, according to the Globe. Nick Nuttall, spokesperson for the U.N. compound in Nairobi, said that U.N. negotiators were aware that "local insurance companies do not give HIV coverage. But the deal we have now is that the contractors must find a way to give HIV and AIDS coverage, or they won't get contracts. It's up to them to do it."
However, Stephen Lewis, U.N. special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, said that the United Nations should get directly involved, adding, "It should be possible, given the power and scope of the U.N., to be able to find an insurance company willing to write policies." Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, last week visited the compound and was "visibly irritated" to find that the problem had not yet been fixed, according to the Globe. "You know, if no one in the developing countries is willing to give HIV insurance coverage, then that's an indication of a huge, huge problem," Piot said, adding, "We have to investigate this because it has implications for the entire system." He said, "We should help the companies find the insurance for the workers. This will be a test case for the whole U.N. system" (Boston Globe, 9/29).