UNHCR flies additional aid items to Iran to fight the Coronavirus

UNHCR staff receives airlift of aid items to support Iran's national response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
© UNHCR/Samar Maleki

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, received over the last week an additional of 1.8 tonnes of essential medical items to support the national COVID-19 response in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The consignment, which arrived in three flights from Shanghai, China, to Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, contained life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE). These items will further assist Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education and the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant’s Affairs (BAFIA), health workers and humanitarian service providers in their essential work to assist refugees and the host community.

This complements the first airlift on 23 March that brought in some 4.4 metric tons of PPE and essential medicines to help address critical shortages in Iran’s health care system.

While the Government of Iran ramped-up production of such essential medical equipment and while independent entrepreneurs – refugees included – have also redirected their efforts towards contributing to the national COVID-19 responses, Iran continues to welcome additional supplies for its health care system during these trying times.

There are close to one million refugees in Iran and 1.5-2 million undocumented Afghans who have access to free of charge primary health services, similar to the host community. They also have access to free of charge COVID-19 related testing, treatment and hospitalization.

In order to further help the government’s efforts to deal with this public health crisis, UNHCR continues to support Iran’s health care system, with a focus on refugee-hosting provinces, which was already strained as a result of economic sanctions.

“No one is safe until we are all safe. Continued efforts to ensure that refugees receive the same treatment as host communities are essential in flattening the curve and overcome the Coronavirus pandemic in Iran,” said Ivo Freijsen, UNHCR Representative in Iran.

Further flights are scheduled in the coming weeks to transport even more aid-items, medicine and PPE.

UNHCR continues to work closely with its government partners, UN agencies including the World Health Organization, and national and international NGO partners to raise awareness amongst refugees and host communities. In the last month, UNHCR has distributed hygiene items for refugees and humanitarian service providers in refugee-hosting areas, increased awareness-raising among refugees and host communities, and begun a targeted, one-off cash assistance for those directly impacted by the Coronavirus and those with specific protection vulnerabilities, to help them cover their basic needs for up to three months.

Funding from our donors have been instrumental in being able to provide this much-needed support.

“Through Japan’s continued and generous contributions, UNHCR has been able to support those most in need during the Coronavirus public health crisis that has impacted Iran and the world gravely,” says Freijsen. “Funding from CERF, UN Central Emergency Response Fund, has also allowed us to mobilize quickly and to provide timely assistance.”

UNHCR is urgently seeking USD 18.6 million for its COVID-19 emergency measures and for its support to the national health care system to which refugees have access. This is part of the global funding needs of UNHCR, and feeds into the wider UN appeal, to address the public health needs of refugees and host communities prompted by the spread of COVID-19 around the world.

The Coronavirus and its effects will aggravate ongoing humanitarian needs and require solidarity with hard-hit countries like Iran more acutely. It is predicted to negatively impact more than just the health of refugees and their host communities. UNHCR urges the international community to support its activities under the umbrella of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees. In Iran, UNHCR requires USD 98.7 million to support the Government of Iran in maintaining and sustaining its commendable inclusive refugee policies.

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