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Kidnapping of aid workers hampering Pakistan relief programmes

Lahore (UCAN): “The security of visiting Caritas partners, including officials and journalists, has been our top concern,” said Amjad Gulzar, executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan. 

Seven foreign aid workers—four in January alone—have been kidnapped in the last six months by Islamist militants hampering relief efforts in flood-affected parts of the country.

The militants have targeted foreign aid workers, particularly those helping in flood relief, for ransom or concessions from the governments of Pakistan or the United States of America.

“Although Caritas visitors continue coming to the country, the aid workers (in general) can change their priorities including resources. 

The country still needs outside help and has to protect foreign workers helping the locals,” said Gulzar, adding, “We have barred them from field visits to a few southern areas, including rural Sindh province and restive Balochistan.”

Caritas has provided roofing and other construction materials to families whose homes were damaged during the heavy rains and flooding in 2010.

“Shelter is still a basic need of people in three dioceses. However, we had to delay the support, as funding had halted,” explained Father Joseph Louis, executive secretary of Caritas in Lahore.

Ishaq Bulanda, coordinator of the disaster programme for Caritas Pakistan in Multan, said the organisation had to extend the number of beneficiaries after reassessing needs in flood-hit areas.

“So far we have supported 1,150 families, most of them Muslim, but 295 still await help,” he said.

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