Roger Yu of the USA Today writes about how business travelers are increasingly sent to dangerous places, and how the companies who are sending them are managing travel risks:

In pursuit of new clients and suppliers, U.S. companies of all sizes and interests — ranging from Halliburton to Marriott and Starbucks— are sending more employees on hardship assignments and taking new, aggressive steps to protect them from an ever-changing range of threats. Several recent events — the murders of Western aid workers in Afghanistan, the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran, the massive flooding in Pakistan and the killing of tourists on a bus in Manila on Monday — continue to serve as stark reminders of the perils travelers face overseas…

About 10% of employees who are transferred from the U.S. are assigned to countries that are considered “dangerous or have harsh conditions of living,” says Mariana Costa, an international employment lawyer from law firm Littler Mendelson.

Indicative of the danger and hardship they face: Global Rescue — one of the largest medical evacuation companies, whose clients include National Geographic, foreign aid agency Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) and technology firm EMC — says its number of international operations, including rescues and emergency responses, more than doubled in 2009…

Medical problems

Health issues are a ceaseless source of worry when more than 80 million travelers migrate annually from developed countries to countries with little or no medical infrastructure, according to the World Trade Organization.

Medical evacuation companies have responded. They partner with groups of doctors and travel security firms to provide quicker access to quality care to people traveling or working overseas.

When Emanuel Arvat, who worked as an electrical engineer for WorleyParsons, was assigned to Kuwait last year, he started dramatically losing weight and began suffering from severe heart palpitations. Doctors tested him for the avian flu and other cardiovascular diseases, but no clear diagnosis was made. His request to be transferred to a U.S. hospital was denied because no doctors would sign a waiver that would approve him for commercial air travel.

His employer called Global Rescue, a medical evacuation company. The firm flew him to a hospital in Turkey on a private jet. Doctors there treated him for a thyroid condition. “It didn’t take very long for the doctors in Turkey to figure out what was wrong,” Arvat says. “I had someone from Global Rescue with me the entire time.”