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MSF in Iran, 2011
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In 2011, Afghan and Iraqi refugees registered in Iran received some good news: they were at last eligible for medical insurance. However, undocumented Afghans and Pakistanis in the country face increasingly restrictive rules and policies, and they continue to be deported.
Since 2001, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided basic and specialized healthcare to both Afghans and Iranians who would otherwise have difficulty accessing medical services in three health clinics and one specialized mother and child clinic in the city of Zahedan, in Sistan-Baluchestan.
Between January and September 2011, MSF carried out more than 26,500 consultations, 38 percent of which were for children under five. Staff referred patients requiring emergency medical attention to a Ministry of Health hospital, and then provided medical follow-up. A team of 20 home visitors distributed relief items, such as food, blankets and cleaning materials, to 820 families.
Sistan-Baluchestan has been closed to international humanitarian workers since 2007. In mid-2011, security concerns led to the closure of two of the clinics and the end of home visits. The team focused its activities on medical emergencies and women’s health instead. However, after three years of tension between the Iranian Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs and MSF, a decision was finally made in September to stop medical activities, and MSF closed the Zahedan program.
Health services for women and children in south Tehran
In the south of the capital Tehran, the neighbourhoods of Darvazeh Ghar, Khazaneh Molavi and Shush are home to vulnerable people such as sex workers and drug users.
The Iranian authorities have recently started to talk about some social issues more openly. This year, for the first time since the 1979 revolution, authorities acknowledged that prostitution, child labour and child homelessness were national concerns. The Ministry of Health and some municipalities are setting up medical and social centers in several areas of Tehran, offering services such as social protection, methadone maintenance therapy and health education to sex workers and drug users. Nevertheless, many people still have no access to medical or social support.
MSF is collaborating with a network of associations working mainly in child protection or harm reduction, and in early 2012 plans to open a new program, providing healthcare to children under five and women living in the Darvazeh Ghar area.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 62 staff in Iran. MSF has been working in the country since 1996.