ISLAMABAD: The Red Cross is scaling back its work in Pakistan, with the loss of hundreds of jobs, the aid organisation said Tuesday, following the brutal murder of a British aid worker earlier this year.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was closing offices in Karachi and Quetta, and cutting projects in Pakistan’s tribal northwest.
The group suspended most of its operations in Pakistan in May after the killing of ICRC health worker Khalil Dale, whose mutilated body was found outside Quetta in April, four months after he was abducted.
ICRC field operations will be reduced to offices in Islamabad, a surgical hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar and a rehabilitation centre in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Talks have begun with the government over reopening the Peshawar hospital – closed since the May suspension – though ICRC spokesman Najumul Saqib Iqbal said the 120-bed capacity may be reduced and no timeframe has been set.
“We are ready to continue helping people in need, such as the wounded and the physically disabled, provided working conditions for our staff are adequate,” Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Islamabad, said.
“Having worked in Pakistan for more than 60 years, we are aware that some of these decisions will affect vulnerable people in some areas. But we need to take into account the challenges faced by our staff and adjust our activities accordingly.”
Agricultural support programmes and remote help for hospitals in the northwest will end, along with visits to prisoners, ICRC said.
Iqbal said it was still unclear how many staff would be laid off as a result of Tuesday’s announcement, but more than 100 in Karachi and Quetta would lose their jobs and the final total would be in the hundreds.