Security Concerns Slow Relief Efforts and Temporarily Closes Offices
Ongoing public protests over the re-publication of cartoons in the
western media depicting the Prophet Mohammad are curtailing IOM
relief operations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and North West
IOM personnel working in the field – specifically the
distribution hubs in Mansehra, Balakot, Bagh, Batagram and
Muzaffarabad – have been periodically restricted to secure
locations since the religious holiday of Muharram on 10 February
depending on the local security situation.
There have been no attacks on relief agency staff or offices in
Pakistan. However, UN/IOM security officers remain concerned that
while the international aid community are not the direct targets of
these protests, there is the potential for staff to inadvertently
get caught up in a security situation.
Today, all IOM staff movements in Pakistan have been cancelled over
concern about the possibility that post-Friday prayer protests
throughout the region could turn violent. All IOM offices,
including Islamabad, have sent their national staff home until
Monday, and advised all international staff that they are not
required to travel from home to work.
"Everything remains stable and peaceful at the present time,
however, an operational shutdown has been called for midday today
through the weekend," says IOM Pakistan Head of Security Paul
Johnson. "The safety of our staff is paramount and these security
measures are simply precautions."
Although aid deliveries have been restricted, the overall emergency
shelter needs of those affected by the earthquake have largely been
met and the cold winter weather is beginning to break. Some
assistance remains to be delivered in the Abbaspur and Hajira
Tehsils of Bagh District, where IOM is planning to ship 400
complete shelter kits with corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets
to a local NGO operating in the area.
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