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MSF in Iran, 2009
Field Staff: 73
Reason for Intervention:
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Iran is hosting one of the highest numbers of refugees in the world. The UN refugee agency UNHCR reported more than 930,000 documented Afghan refugees in Iran in 2009, while estimates of undocumented Afghans reached two million.
MSF supplied relief aid to refugees in Zahedan, the capital of the Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan, where refugees have been crossing the border from Afghanistan for the last 30 years. The number of ‘illegal’ Afghans is estimated to be around 200,000 in the city, and as many as 500,000 in the province.
In Zahedan, MSF runs three medical clinics. In 2009, MSF carried out more than 6,700 consultations a month. A team of social workers identifies people in need of medical care in the refugee community. MSF distributed food and basic relief items to 1,290 families. Maternal and child healthcare activities were increased last year to meet the growing needs. Antenatal and postnatal care are now offered in the three clinics, and further postnatal care is provided in the community by a home-visit team that includes midwives.
In 2002, the Iranian government implemented a policy of repatriation, and the practice has continued even though conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated. Many people are reluctant to return to Afghanistan and prefer to remain in Iran. Some even return after they have been deported in spite of the difficult living conditions imposed on the refugees. These include work restrictions, lack of educational opportunities and health services. MSF teams provide general healthcare and maternal care to the Afghan people who have little or no access to the Iranian system.
MSF has been working in Iran since 1996.