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POW in the war against poverty: The case of Warren Weinstein

Captive aid worker Warren Weinstein before and after he was kidnapped in Pakistan. --AP

Warren Weinstein had been in Pakistan for some seven years, working with a contractor on local-scale economic development. Then four days before he was due to leave, in August 2011, gunmen barged into his house in Lahore and took him prisoner.

He has remained in captivity for nearly three years now, his health deteriorating, with little indication of when or how he could be freed.

With the liberation of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl generating news and controversy, we turn our attention to the case of another American in captivity, believed to be held by the Taliban or Al Qaeda. The case illustrates some of the dangers facing aid and development workers in unstable countries – dangers that caught up even with an experienced development expert like Weinstein.

As Tom Paulson has written, the dangers to aid and development workers likely have been exacerbated by the actions of the U. S. government, who has used aid work as cover for covert action in operations such as the assassination of Osama bin Laden. (The CIA has promised not to do that any more, at least when it comes to vaccinations)

We speak with Warren Weinstein’s daughter Alisa Weinstein, a designer in Chicago (who happens to be a friend of Your Humble Producer) about her father’s case, growing up with a globetrotting humanitarian worker who’s held senior positions at USAID and elsewhere, and the impossible dilemmas facing the family members of Americans taken hostage.

Happier times for the family of Warren Weinstein, who is seated at far right. Alisa Weinstein is at far left.
Happier times for the family of Warren Weinstein, who is seated at far right. Alisa Weinstein is at far left.

You can find out more about Weinstein’s case here, consider some of the ramifications of the Bergdahl swap here, and check out a former hostage David Rohde’s reflection on captives’ families here. And as usual, prior to our interview with Alisa, Tom Paulson and I discuss some of the top news items in the Humanosphere – from our own humanitarian World Cup, the Ugandan homophobe appointed to a top post at the UN and a KPLU story I did about one of our region’s leading anti-AIDS activists and his advice for future generations working in global health.

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About Author

Gabe Spitzer

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago.