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MSF in Iran, 2008
Field Staff: 96
Reason for Intervention:
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Since 2001 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (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 in conditions in conflict-ridden Afghanistan, the Iranian government implemented a policy of forced repatriation. Many people are reluctant to return to their home country and prefer to remain in Iran; some even return after deportation. With Iranian restrictions on work, educational opportunities, and health services, living conditions for refugees are difficult. Despite this, people continue to migrate from Afghanistan, essentially for economic reasons, because of drought in the northern provinces or increased insecurity in other areas.
Iran is in economic crisis, and resentment towards refugees has increased. In November 2007 the government declared the regions next to the border no-go areas, technically for security reasons. This included areas such as Sistan-Baluchistan, where more than half a million Afghans still remain illegally.
Iranian authorities estimate that most Afghans are economic migrants, and therefore are not entitled to legal status or access to free health care. In Sistan-Baluchistan, MSF continues to provide primary and secondary health care to this population, which has little or no access to the Iranian health care system. In 2008 the teams visited an average of 23 newly arrived families per week at Zahedan—an increase from an average of eight families per week in 2007.
MSF runs three medical clinics in Shirabad, Karimabad, and Besat, offering free medical consultations and nutritional support for children. In 2008 MSF carried out an average of more than 7,000 consultations per month. MSF also refers patients to secondary structures and covers costs for specialist consultations, treatments, and hospitalization. A team of social workers is in place in the refugee community to identify people in need of medical care and to ensure they can access consultations. The team distributes material goods such as blankets and heaters where needed.
MSF has worked in Iran since 1996.