Most Afghan nationals in Iran fall under the three deciles with the lowest income and are extremely vulnerable and dependent on humanitarian support. The majority of Afghans already relied on unstable and precarious sources of income before the pandemic, which has impacted 95% of Afghan households’ income, as per UNHCR’s interactions with refugees. The current socio-economic situation in Iran, exacerbated by the sanctions, has severely aggravated refugees’ and asylum seekers’ already limited access to livelihoods and basic necessities. Skyrocketing inflation and devaluation of local currency led food and housing prices to soar, disproportionately hitting the population with the lowest income. With continuous inflation and restricted access to the labour market, many Afghan refugees increasingly have to resort to negative coping mechanisms. In this context, UNHCR Iran offers protection through Cash-Based Interventions (CBIs) to the most vulnerable and assists them in meeting their needs with choice and dignity.
UNHCR Iran offers a variety of CBIs with almost 98% of the cash provided as Multi-Purpose-Cash (MPC) – unrestricted and unconditional. In addition to MPC, the operation provides tailored cash solutions such as cash for durable solutions – resettlement and voluntary repatriation – cash for disability, cash for work, and cash for protection. UNHCR provides Multi-Purpose Cash (MPC) assistance to refugees, using a targeted approach based on a vulnerability assessment to ensure that assistance targets those who are most in need. UNHCR’s countrywide MPC is provided in the form of one-off and recurrent multi-purpose cash to households that meet pre-defined criteria.
Additionally, cash-based interventions not only contribute to the economic inclusion of refugees by ensuring that they are connected to channels for financial transactions but also play a catalytic role in driving local economic development.
UNHCR’s policy on CBIs seeks to institutionalise and systematically expand the use of cash across all its operations globally with a focus on countries that have an enabling environment and have shown operational readiness to roll out and scale up the use of CBIs.
Iran has a conducive environment for CBIs characterised by an enabling security environment, very developed banking sector despite sanctions, fully functional and accessible markets where refugees and asylum-seekers can easily use prepaid cards or gift cards on the widely spread Point of Sale “PoS”, and linkage of the refugee settlements to major trading centres and markets.
UNHCR Iran maintains its focus on scaling up CBIs across all thematic programme areas through multipurpose cash grants and using CBIs to create financial inclusion and livelihood opportunities. In parallel, UNHCR will continue to actively support coordination with BAFIA, UN agencies, INGOs, private sector, and other actors; paying particular attention to the harmonization of approaches and sharing lessons and experiences, and improving the quality of cash programming.
In line with its Grand Bargain commitment to double the use of cash as a proportion tool of its assistance, and the need to ensure equal and meaningful access to cash assistance, UNHCR in Iran managed to effectively and efficiently reach 6,722 vulnerable households (26,224 individuals) with cash assistance throughout 2022.
UNHCR Iran Co-chairs the Cash Working Group which is attended by all humanitarian actors in Iran such as , WFP, UNICEF, UNFPA, IOM, NRC, RI and INTERSOS to harmonize approaches and maximize cooperation between all CBI actors in the country.