UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has flown 55 tonnes of vital medical supplies to the Islamic Republic of Iran, thanks to the newly established Humanitarian Air Bridge, an initiative by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and part of the EU’s global “Team Europe” coronavirus response.
The consignment arrived on an Emirates Boeing 777-200 flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran, this morning, containing life-saving medical items procured by UNHCR. The supplies include N95 masks, disposable face shields and portable ventilators, that will support Iran in its fight against the pandemic.
Over the past months, border closures have significantly reduced air traffic, increased freight costs and hampered the ability of humanitarian organizations to quickly procure and deliver much-needed aid to vulnerable people in refugee settlements and refugee-hosting areas.
“The global supply chain was brought to a near halt by the pandemic. This Humanitarian Air Bridge flight arrives at a critical juncture when needs in Iran remain high, and more international support and solidarity is required to bring in medical supplies to help those fighting the coronavirus,” said Ivo Freijsen, the UNHCR Representative to Iran.
UNHCR is grateful for the support of ECHO and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), which helps us reach refugees and Iranians in the host communities with life-saving medical supplies and equipment in a timely manner.
The EU Humanitarian Air Bridge was set up in early May 2020 to help countries respond to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting the flow of humanitarian aid and workers.
“We stand in full solidarity with the Iranian people at this difficult time. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this pandemic and to the first responders on the ground. Our support will help ongoing efforts in Iran deliver urgent life-saving protective medical gear and other vital medical supplies to those most in need. Global solidarity is essential in the fight against coronavirus,” said Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
Despite the restrictions brought about by COVID-19, UNHCR continues to work to ensure the distribution and delivery of critical supplies and equipment in support of Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education and the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant’s Affairs (BAFIA). The Government of Iran also ramped-up its production of essential medical equipment, and independent entrepreneurs – refugees included – have redirected their efforts towards contributing to the national COVID-19 response.
However, the coronavirus shows no sign of abating and, with a socio-economic environment placed under additional strain, Iran needs more support to be able to help the increasing number of people affected by the virus, including refugees.
There are close to one million refugees in Iran and 1.5-2 million undocumented Afghans who have access to free primary health services and similarly free COVID-19 related testing, treatment and hospitalization, just like nationals.
In Iran, UNHCR is seeking USD 16.2 million for its COVID-19 emergency. UNHCR extends its appreciation to all partners, including Japan, the Russian Federation, and the UN Emergency Fund (CERF), whose support is essential in overcoming the massive challenges brought on by the pandemic and accelerating efforts to leave no one behind.
In Iran, UNHCR requires an additional USD 98.7 million to support the Government of Iran in maintaining and sustaining its commendable inclusive refugee policies, under the umbrella of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR).
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