Red Cross downscales operations in Pakistan

Red Cross emblem. The International Committee of the Red Cross has decided to cut back aid operations in Pakistan. Photo by: Toby Bradbury / CC BY-NC-ND

The murder of one of its staff members in April has weighed heavily on the International Committee of the Red Cross: While it has decided to resume some operations in Pakistan, the organization will terminate a number of activities in the strife-torn country.

The ICRC made public the decision Tuesday (Aug. 28), more than three months after suspending work in the cities of Peshawar and Karachi. The organization re-assessed its work in the country following Khalil Rasjed Dale’s brutal murder in April.

The ICRC will end all activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the latter being where the dead body of Dale was found. It will also close all of its offices in Sindh province, according to a press release.

The organization has decided to stop visits to thousands of detainees in Pakistan as well, many of whom are suspected Islamist militants. A neutral organization, the ICRC checks on the conditions of prisoners worldwide.

Red Cross also plans to reduce staff from 1,256 to 500, and only an estimated 40 foreign aid workers will remain, ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia Jacques de Maio told The Associated Press. The organization will be “terminating all relief programs in parts of the country which are extremely vulnerable to insecurity from violence but also natural disasters such as floods,” de Maio added.

It remains to be seen how the Red Cross’ move will affect populations in Pakistan, many of whom remain vulnerable to a number of domestic challenges. The country was ranked ninth most fragile country in the world, according to a report by Canadian researchers.

Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Islamabad, said the organization is “aware that some of these decisions will affect vulnerable people in some areas.” But he said Red Cross needed to “take into account the challenges faced by our staff and adjust our activities accordingly.”

ICRC’s orthopedic center in Muzaffarabad, however, will remain open. It will also proceed with the re-opening of its surgical hospital in Peshawar in the coming weeks, as “conditions permit.” The organization will maintain logistics assets in Pakistan as well, in support of operations in the region.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.