Pakistani children sits outside their home damaged by floodwaters in Nowshera near Peshawar, Pakistan on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. Pakistani officials say heavy monsoon rains that triggered flooding in the country's north have caused dozens of deaths. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad) (Credit: AP)
GENEVA (AP) — The Red Cross will resume some of the work that it suspended in Pakistan after the killing of a British nurse it employed, but it plans vast cutbacks to its operations there, including more than halving its 1,256 staff, officials said Tuesday.
After a major internal review, the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross said it has decided to continue with its work in Pakistan but at a vastly reduced scale that will have major impacts felt throughout the nation, the officials said.
“One thing is absolutely clear: ICRC’s decision actually means a very significant reduction in the scope and size of its operations,” Jacques de Maio, the ICRC’s head of operations for South Asia, told The Associated Press. “A clear focus of what we’re going to continue to do is on the health — an almost exclusive look at health and the weapon-wounded.”
De Maio said the review was based on a range of factors that went well beyond just safety. He said that ICRC would reduce its operations from 1,256 staff in 10 offices down to about 500 in two offices. Most of the staff are Pakistanis, and the expatriates among them will be cut from 126 down to about 40, he said.
The organization had shut down most of its operations due to the April 2012 slaying in Quetta, Pakistan, of Khalil Rasjed Dale, a British Red Cross worker who served as a health program manager. His kidnap and brutal slaying — police said his throat was slit and a note attached to his body saying he was killed because no ransom was paid — had stunned the organization and its workers.
Paul Castella, head of ICRC’s delegation in Islamabad, said the organization will continue to work in Pakistan only if conditions are adequate. ICRC will coordinate with Pakistan authorities to reopen its surgical hospital in Peshawar, he said, but the ICRC has decided to keep operations closed in the provinces of Khyber, Pukhtunkhwa and Sindh.
The Red Cross also will cease to visit the tens of thousands of detainees, among them many Pakistanis and Afghans, who are being held in Pakistan’s civilian and military facilities.
The body of Dale, 60, was dumped close to the southwestern city of Quetta on April 29. The veteran aid worker had been kidnapped in the city in January. No arrests have been made in connection with his killing.
Islamist militants, separatist gangs and criminals with links to both have been accused of previous kidnappings in Baluchistan, a poor province close to the Afghanistan where Pakistan’s government has little control.
The ICRC has been helping victims of violence and natural disaster in Pakistan since 1947.