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ICRC scales back aid program in Pakistan

After suspending operations in May following the murder of a British staff member, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has announced it will reduce its presence in Pakistan.

Tuesday's announcement from the ICRC's headquarters in Geneva said that the challenges facing its staff had led the organization to adjust their activities accordingly.

"Having worked in Pakistan for more than 60 years, we are aware that some of these decisions will affect vulnerable people in some areas," said Paul Castella, head of the ICRC delegation in Islamabad.

Red Cross spokesman Paul Castella gestures with his left arm. Photo: LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

ICRC's Paul Castella has demanded safe conditions for staff

In April, the beheaded body of British ICRC health care worker Khalil Rasjed Dale was discovered on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta. Dale was 60 years old and had been a long-time aid worker. He was abducted four months before his body was found, and the Taliban has been blamed for his murder.

The ICRC has worked in Pakistan since 1947, providing health care and other assistance to victims of violence and natural disasters.

"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," said Castella.

Eight of the ICRC's offices in Pakistan are to be closed, with the exception of offices in Islamabad and a surgical hospital in Peshawar.

"In the coming weeks, we will coordinate with the Pakistani authorities the resumption of health services as conditions permit," Castella said.

mz/lw, ipj (dpa, Reuters)