Spy war obstructs aid workers’ access to Pakistani flood victims

Pakistani flood victims

Pakistani flood victims

Pakistani officials tighten control

Fallout from the death of Osama bin Laden is affecting charities efforts to assist millions of flood victims still in critical need of aid in Pakistan.  The epic floods affected twenty million people last summer.  Now, Pakistan’s escalating spy war with US president Obama is adding one more obstacle to charities’ efforts to aid victims, as the Pakistani government pursues CIA spies.

“We’ve seen gradual restrictions on movement and longer processing time for visas”, a spokesman for the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, which represents 40 aid groups, said.

Only last month, an aid worker with Catholic Relief Services was taken to court for visa irregularities, jailed for nine days, then deported.

Michael O’Brien from the Red Cross said, “The authorities have started paying more attention to who is in the country and what they are doing”.

“Half the help, even though the need may be twice as great”

The crackdown began when two Pakistanis were shot and killed in Lahore last January, and intensified after the assassination of Osama bin Laden on the 2nd of May in Abbottabad.

Many aid workers have spoken out anonymously, fearing discrimination from Pakistani authorities.  “Quite a lot of the population are affected by both floods and conflict”, said one.  “The irony is that they’re getting half the help, even though the needs may be twice as great”.


Survivors have little hope

According to Oxfam, approximately 1 million people require food aid and 800,000 families are still lacking permanent shelter.  The possibility of survivors rebuilding homes has been wiped out by quadrupled prices of bricks in some places.  An appeal from the UN to help surviving families start over has a shortfall of $600m (£366m).

The flood last year brought about 2,000 deaths and the demolition of 1.5m homes.  The country is poorly prepared for another flood, with an unstable disaster management scheme, a destitute government that owes $59bn to various agencies, an economy dependent on the IMF and wretchedly low tax collections


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