ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Western aid groups are resisting what they say is U.S. pressure to brand aid items with American red, white and blue logos in Pakistan, saying it puts the lives of humanitarian workers helping flood-victims at risk.
Eleven aid groups, including CARE, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision, have sent a letter to American government aid officials asking them to reconsider their use of labels in order to protect aid workers from attacks by anti-Western militants.
“Branding in flood-affected areas must not be used as a test-case because the outcomes are likely to be fatal and impact on the longer-term ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance in Pakistan,” said the letter obtained by Reuters.
Last month, the United States tried to showcase its relief efforts in Pakistan — an ally considered vital in the war against militancy — during a visit to flood-hit areas by Richard Holbrooke, Washington’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He repeatedly told officials and reporters the U.S. had donated the most flood relief money — over $260 million — and expressed frustration that many Pakistanis did not realise it.
InterAction, an alliance of U.S-based non-governmental relief organizations, says the U.S. is pressuring aid groups to make American-funded relief projects visible in Pakistan.
The U.S. government would like aid branding across the country. Aid groups say it should be up to them to determine whether to brand based on security concerns.
Suspected Islamist militants stormed an office of a U.S.-based Christian aid agency World Vision in Pakistan in March, killing six Pakistani aid workers after singling them out and then blowing up the building.
The floods have killed more than 1,750 people and left over 10 million homeless.
Aid groups want the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to extend a branding waiver for flood-affected areas, like it has in Pakistan’s northwest, where militants are likely to attack anyone associated with the U.S.
“We have a constantly changing security environment and any application of branding needs to take into account that security environment in different parts of Pakistan,” said InterAction president Samuel Worthington.
(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here)
Editing by Noah Barkin