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MSF in Iran, 2007
Field Staff: 78
Reason for Intervention:
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Since 2001, MSF has been assisting Afghan refugees in Zahedan, capital of the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan, where they have been crossing the border for the last 30 years. In 2002, despite a deterioration of conditions in Afghanistan, the Iranian government adopted a policy of forced repatriation. Many are reluctant to return to Afghanistan, some even returning to Iran after deportation.
In 2007, an economic crisis in Iran led to increased resentment towards refugees. Some 150,000 Afghan refugees were expelled between May and August but over half a million remain in Sistan-Baluchistan and an average of 34 new families arrive at Zahedan every week. With Iranian restrictions on work, educational opportunities and health services, living conditions for refugees are difficult but remain better than in Afghanistan. Iranian authorities estimate that the majority of Afghans are economic migrants and, therefore, not entitled to legal status or access to free healthcare.
In response, MSF provides primary and secondary healthcare to this population. MSF runs three medical clinics in Shirabad, Karimabad and Besat, offering free medical consultations and nutritional support for children. MSF also refers patients to secondary health facilities and covers costs for specialist consultations, treatments and hospitalization. A team of social workers identify those in need of medical care and ensure they get access to consultations. A total of 18,000 people were assisted through this program.
New project in Mehran
Given the extreme difficulties in accessing patients and providing healthcare inside Iraq, a project started at the end of 2007 in Mehran, close to the Iraqi border, to provide surgical care for victims of violence coming from Iraq. This project plans to receive between 30 and 50 patients each month.
MSF has worked in Iran since 1996.