The unnecessary loss of lives today in the apparent suicide bombing of the World Food Program office in Islamabad, Pakistan, is deeply saddening. The bombing, which killed five WFP employees and injured several more, is a tragic reminder of the incredible risks and sacrifices that humanitarian aid workers face every day while working in difficult and often dangerous conditions.
The blast killed four Pakistani nationals: Farzana Barkat, 22, office assistant; Abid Rehman, 41, senior finance assistant, who leaves behind a wife, two daughters and two sons; GulRukh Tahir, 40, office assistant, who leaves behind a husband; and Mohammad Wahab, 44, finance assistant, who leaves a wife, two daughters and two sons. It also claimed the life of Botan Ahmed Ali Al-Hayawi, 41, an Iraqi information and communication technology (ICT) officer, who leaves behind a wife, two sons and a daughter.
Al-Hayawi was no stranger to the risks of humanitarian work in conflict areas. He had been among those injured in the last major attack on humanitarian aid workers in Pakistan in June, when suicide bombers struck the Hotel Intercontinental-Peshawar, where a number of relief workers were staying. Al-Hayawi had been evacuated with minor injuries sustained in that blast, which killed 16. He returned to Pakistan to continue ICT support of WFP’s life-saving work to deliver food aid.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the bombing as a “heinous crime.” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran also condemned the attack, calling the victims “humanitarian heroes.” WFP Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla said: “Our deepest condolences go to the family, friends and colleagues of those who died or were injured in this incident. These were people working to assist the poor and the vulnerable on the frontlines of hunger in Pakistan.”
The WFP website describes its assistance in Pakistan as:
“focused on the most food-insecure people: the poorest-of-the-poor living in marginal, remote areas where socio-economic indicators are far worse than in the rest of the country. WFP aims to improve access to food in ways that enable vulnerable households, especially women and girls, to take advantage of development opportunities. Operations include school feeding, mother and child nutrition and socio-economic development programs. Goals include increased enrolment rates for girls, increased access to health services and increased ability of rural women to create and preserve physical assets.”
A video statement from WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran is available here.