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MSF in Iran, 2010
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One to two million undocumented Afghans are estimated to be living in Iran. People are continually crossing the border between the two countries, both voluntarily and under pressure from Iran’s policy of repatriation. Most of the Afghans living in Iran are longstanding residents.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans live in Sistan-Baluchestan, a remote province in southeast Iran where living conditions are poor and opportunities are limited. Afghans face restrictions on work, access to education and access to health services. In 2007, the province was declared closed to foreigners. According to officials, this was to control cross-border crime.
For more than a decade, MSF’s assistance in Iran has focused on medical support for vulnerable and minority groups. MSF has opened three clinics in Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan. In 2010 staff held more than 6,300 consultations per month. MSF refers patients requiring specialist medical and surgical care to Ministry of Health structures, covering the costs of emergency care, specialist consultations, treatment and hospitalisation. All referrals are followed up by an MSF doctor.
In a fourth clinic, MSF focuses on maternal and paediatric care. The team ensures that straightforward deliveries are referred to the national safe delivery centres, and high-risk births are referred to the city’s hospitals. A home visitor team, which includes midwives, brings some postnatal care directly to patients at home.
Relief for vulnerable people
Providing care for the most vulnerable people remains MSF’s first objective, and there is a team responsible for identifying vulnerable people and ensuring that they get the care they need. Staff make home visits in Zahedan to find returnees, identify their needs, and offer training in basic hygiene and distribute relief items such as food, cleaning materials, blankets and heaters.
MSF has worked in Iran since 1996.