Field Benefits

Per Diem

Per Diem is a lump sum intended to contribute to the cost in the field of a set of basic personal expenditures of the employees. It is paid on monthly basis in the field in local currency, pro-rated if need be. 

The Per Diem policy is based on equity (therefore policies should be consistent across MSF and between countries of mission) and equality within the same country of mission, and regardless of position (as it relates to the same set of local living expenses for all),

Same Country, Same Per Diem

Per diem is the same for all OCs within the same country of mission, as it is intended to contribute to the same local living expenses and is linked to local cost of living.

No differentiation between capital and field: the same Per Diem amount is granted to all international staff working in the same country of assignment regardless of their location. Keeping the same per diem for the field allows staff to buy items or use facilities not available in the project site (for shipments or when they come to the capital e.g. during breaks) and simplifies administrative management.

External Provider

In order to ensure coherence across sections and maintain objectivity in determining per diem amounts, MSF outsources the data used to set per diems. Currently, MSF’s data provider is Eurocost International.

Eurocost uses price surveys. These surveys, carried out by their network of international correspondents, cover a range of 350 goods and services typically consumed by expatriates living in different countries.

Cost of living indices used for calculating MSF’s Per Diem monthly amounts are adjusted to comply with MSF’s requirements (composition of the “basket”, etc.). The list of items comprises approximately 70% foodstuffs and 30% sanitary and leisure goods depending on local prices.

Learn more about Eurocost's methodology at

The MSF Basket

As the Per Diem is intended to be a contribution to a basic set of expenses, the Per Diem is based on the 80% of Eurocost data and is reviewed on an annual basis at the end of the year, for implementation in the first quarter of the following year. 

The MSF basket of goods contains the following items:

1. Bread and cereals

8. Other food products

2. Meat

9. Non-alcoholic beverages

3. Fish

10. Hygienic products

4. Milk, cheese, eggs

11. Communication

5. Oils, fat

12. Leisure and cultural services, 

6. Fruit & vegetables

13. Newspapers, stationary

7. Sugar, chocolate, sweets   

14. restaurants, cafes

Per Diem in local currency

Per Diem amounts are fixed in local currency. The surveys performed by Eurocost are also done in local currency.


Per diem is paid to all international staff during their assignment, including holidays (paid leave) taken during the assignment, regardless of where holidays are taken, with a maximum of 25 days. 

Family/Dependent Facilities

Security conditions permitting, MSF may allow dependents to accompany international staff on mission. The possibility for dependents to accompany the staff member and corresponding facilities is a decision of the Operational Centre.

MSF only considers spouse/partner and/or child(ren) under the age of 18 as potential dependents.

There are standard practices regarding family/dependent facilities provided by MSF.  MSF may choose to vary these benefits in countries depending on the context.  

Family Field Allowance

A family field allowance is also paid for each accompanying dependent (validated to accompany an international staff member to the field, and covered by MSF) at the rate of 50% of the per diem amount per person.  

The field allowance is paid, provided that:

  • the dependent child is under 18 years of age
  • the dependent partner is not carrying out any remunerated work (including paid work as a freelancer or as an employee of any organization, even if based outside the mission country; excluding all sorts of unpaid work, e.g. volunteer work).
  • Official documentation is provided (a copy of the birth / adoption certificate or a copy any legal “family” documentation attesting to the composition of the family) before departure.

Individual housing

MSF acknowledges that the usual collective housing may not be ideal arrangements for families, especially for longer periods of time. In order to facilitate the relocation of an employee and their family, MSF generally organizes individual housing arrangements for:

  • International staff members with their partner and children;
  • International staff members with their partner when deemed possible by Operations.

In addition, beyond the scope of the family facilities, some provisions for individual housing are considered for single coordinators if they go on assignment period equal or longer than 24 months, when deemed possible by Operations.

School fees

MSF contributes to school fees to make it easier for international staff to relocate their children for the duration of the assignment in the country of mission.

  • For children in kindergarten up to 2300€ child/school year. Customary starting age for kindergarten may vary depending on the country but MSF will not cover school fees for children younger than 2.5 years; for younger children, families may be able to benefit from contribution to child care (see below).
  • For children in primary or secondary school (up to 18 years of age) MSF contributes the same first 2300€, as well as 80% of the school fees above 2300€ child/school year, with a total cap of 8000€ per child/school year.

The international staff member is responsible to cover any additional school related expenses (uniform, transport, books, extracurricular activities, etc.).

Child care

MSF will assist with providing child care for children below school age, when both parents are working for MSF or the partner’s employer does not provide this facility; or the partner is not in the country (costs and organization e.g. by employing the person directly). Conditions under which this facility is provided are up to the OC and will vary depending on the situation in the mission.

Note that Child Care and School Fees are mutually exclusive benefits. The international staff cannot benefit from both for the same dependent child.

Insurance and Administration

For accompanying dependents (partners and children):

  • Accompanying dependents are covered under the same insurance as the international staff but their coverage includes reduced death benefits (different if adult or child) and does not include disability (income replacement) or professional liability (as they are not working for the organisation). Refer to your contracting section for details.

  • Administrative costs incurred by the accompanying dependents travelling to the field (such as visa costs, translation and legalization of official documents,  etc.) are also covered and the necessary formalities organized by MSF.

Travel To and From Country of Domicile


All International staff are provided with one round-trip ticket per assignment, between their place of domicile and their assignment location.

In the event of a personal emergency requiring international staff to return to their country of domicile, MSF’s participation to the cost of returning home is determined by the Operational Center/Managing Section.

Additional Returns

In addition, and to contribute to the stability of staffing in the field, MSF provides additional returns home as part of special packages and when assignments are extended, recognizing the value that less turnover brings to MSF and the quality of its projects. This allows staff to return home at the cost of MSF to rest and reconnect with home and family.

Eligibility & Summary Table

Depending on duration of assignment and whether the person is accompanied by dependents or not, MSF offers additional returns to the place of domicile every 12, 6 or 3 months (ideally/on average), to the following groups of staff:

Return policy ENG

Detailed Travel Policy

International Staff without accompanying dependents (except Vocationers)

To encourage extensions, MSF provides additional returns home when assignments are extended to a minimum duration of 12 months, for which MSF will favor using the return ticket already issued to send the International staff member to the Mission, as they are subject to limited duration (normally expire after 1 year if not used before). See below for further information.

All International Staff without accompanying dependents are entitled to an additional return to the country of domicile, from the time an extension brings the assignment to a total of 12 months, and after that for extensions of a minimum of 6 months.

Vocationers on assignment without accompanying dependents

Please refer the section on Vocationers package, click here.

All International Staff on assignment with accompanying dependents/partner in the field

In order to encourage extensions in the second year while still maintaining on average a return every 12 months, staff are entitled to an additional return to the country of domicile every 12 months of assignment, including extensions of a minimum of 6 months. The staff member and their dependents will then be eligible to return home provided they have not done so home within the last 12 months.

This means that:

  • For assignments of 12 months in total, the staff member needs to extends by a minimum of 6 months to be able to benefit from a return home with his/her family.
  • For assignments between 12 and 17 months, the staff member and dependents will not benefit from an additional return within the assignment period. The person will need to extend by 6 months minimum and will be eligible for an additional return from that time.
  • For LTAs of 18 months or more (from the start or in total duration, including extensions), the staff member and dependents will benefit from one additional return with the 18 months of the assignment period.

When can the eligible International Staff use the additional returns?

As a general approach, MSF recommends planning the return flights on month 6, 12, 18, etc. of the assignment, and avoid planning it for the last 3 months of the assignment, as this may prove to be operationally disruptive for the mission.

Returns paid by MSF and the associated paid leave taken are subject to prior approval by MSF (the manager and/or Field Coordinator, and/or the coordination (HRCO and/or HoM ad/or desk – detailed systems may vary depending on the OC/Managing Section), as any paid leave.

These extra returns to the country of domicile do not come as extra to other returns which may also be required professionally, whether for meetings, training or other requirements, should the expat reside in the country where these professional returns take place. MSF and the staff member work together to limit costs and make the best use of existing tickets and opportunities (e.g. using a return to MSF HQ for meetings or training, for staff residing in that country or for whom the HQ is necessarily on the travel route home).

No compensation of additional returns not taken

MSF does not provide financial compensation in case additional returns cannot be taken.  As a general rule, in-kind benefits are not compensated in cash if not taken. In this case, the objective of this benefit: for staff to maintain a connection to their home society while on assignment, to see their family, etc., which will not be achieved by a cash compensation.