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Kidnappings squeeze aid programs

Caritas says seven foreign staff have been abducted, four already in January

Kidnappings squeeze aid programs
Members of Caritas France visit Northern Province reporter, Lahore

January 26, 2012

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A rise in abductions of foreign workers by Islamist militants has curbed relief efforts in flood-affected parts of the country, say officials from Caritas Pakistan. Seven foreign aid workers have been kidnapped in the last six months, with four of them taken so far this month. “The security of visiting Caritas partners including officials and journalists has been our top concern,” said Amjad Gulzar, executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan. “We have barred them from field visits to a few southern areas including rural Sindh province and restive Balochistan.” Islamist militants have targeted foreign aid workers, particularly those helping in flood relief, to get ransoms or concessions from the US or Pakistani governments. “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. Caritas Pakistan has provided roofing and other construction materials to families whose homes were damaged during flooding and heavy rains in 2010. “Shelter is still a basic need of people in three dioceses. However we had to delay the support, as funding had halted,” said Fr Joseph Louis, executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan in Lahore. Ishaq Bulanda, coordinator of the disaster program for Caritas Pakistan in Multan, said the organization 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 Muslims, but 295 still await help.”
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