Iran: Helping earthquake survivors and refugees

Iran has for decades received large numbers of Kurdish, Iraqi and Afghan refugees. Since the war in Afghanistan ended and a provisional government, with access to international aid, was established, Iran is now pressuring Afghan refugees to return home.

The snowy, cold weather of the mountainous Zarand region exacerbated the difficult conditions that faced survivors. MSF sent medical support and material to those hardest hit by the disaster, which ultimately affected more than 30,000 people.

In collaboration with Iranian authorities, an MSF team worked in the health center in the mountain village of Hotkan, home to more than 100 families. Located near the epicenter, Hotkan was almost completely destroyed by the quake. MSF carried out medical consultations and distributed needed supplies including blankets and hygiene kits. The team aided approximately 3,000 people living in this and other villages.

In the month following the quake, MSF set up mobile clinics to carry out medical consultations in the most affected villages. The organization brought in two tons of medicines, and medical and logistical supplies from Tehran, Mashad and Zahedan, where MSF runs medical programs for Afghan refugees. Following the Bam, Iran earthquake of December 2003, MSF had stocked these materials at these sites for quick access in response to future emergencies.

Iran has for decades received large numbers of Kurdish, Iraqi and Afghan refugees. Since the war in Afghanistan ended and a provisional government, with access to international aid, was established, Iran is now pressuring Afghan refugees to return home.

Many Afghans in Iran today, who fled from wars over the last 20 years, do not want to be repatriated immediately. A lack of adequate security, economic opportunities, health care, education and equal repatrition of aid are all reasons not to return. Although the refugees suffer increasing exclusion and impoverishment in the host country, many prefer to stay.

This resistance to leave has been met with increasingly strong repatriation efforts since 2002. Since then, more than one million Afghans officially have returned to Afghanistan, according to UN estimates. Almost one million more remain registered in Iran, and approximately 300,000 more live there without legal status. Facilitating access to care for Afghans remaining in Iraq is MSF's main activity in the country.

In Mashad, a city near the Afghan border in Khorasan province, a team provides free medical consultations to the most vulnerable Afghans, including pregnant women, and facilitates referrals to high-level care. More than 28,000 consultations were conducted by MSF staff in the first half of 2005.

Mobile-clinic teams conduct approximately 1,200 additional consultations per month. MSF also provides food and other aid to more than 150 destitute families in the area. Through MSF's home-visit network, trained volunteers visit approximately 800 families each month to provide needed assistance or direct them to other care.

In the economically deprived city of Zahedan in Sistan-va-Baluchestan province near the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, MSF carries out medical and nursing consultations and mobile clinics. Mobile teams conduct approximately 400 consultations a month, and staff provide more than 500 consultations each week at the Niatak refugee camp.

MSF provided aid in Iran following the 1990 earthquake and has worked there continuously since 1995.

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