Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has sent a 50-bed inflatable hospital and an emergency team to Isfahan, in central Iran, to treat patients critically ill with coronavirus disease COVID-19.
The inflatable hospital has been shipped by air from MSF’s logistics hub in Bordeaux, France and is to be set up in the compound of Amin hospital in Isfahan. The unit is equipped to treat critically ill patients requiring constant medical supervision and care.
MSF team to treat coronavirus in hard-hit province alongside local staff
An MSF team comprised of nine emergency and intensive care unit (ICU) doctors and logisticians are to run the unit. The team will work with local medical staff, in close coordination with the Iranian health authorities.
“Iran is by far the hardest hit country in the region, and Isfahan the second worst-affected province in Iran,” says Julie Reversé, MSF’s representative in Iran. “We hope our assistance will relieve at least some of the pressure on the local health system.”
“We heard the Iranian authorities’ calls for more support to help them cope with the outbreak,” says Reversé. “As a medical organisation already present in the country, we offered to help with what we believe can provide the most value: treating the most severe cases.”
The scale of the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran is a cause for concern. According to official figures, as of 21 March, there were 20,610 cases and 1,556 people had died - the sixth-highest number of cases worldwide. On the same day, the number of infections in Isfahan province rose to 1,892.
MSF responding to emergencies in Iran for nearly 30 years
We began working in Iran in 1991 and, since that time, we have responded to several emergencies, including in 2003 after the earthquake that struck Bam. MSF also responded in 2019 when flooding hit several of the country’s provinces, including Lorestan, Golestan and Khuzestan.
Alongside providing emergency assistance, MSF continues to run routine activities for refugees and other vulnerable people in Tehran and Mashhad in northeastern Iran. However, due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, some of these activities have had to be cut back.
We have been providing healthcare, including medical and midwife consultations, infectious diseases screening, hepatitis C treatment and nursing and mental healthcare services, to vulnerable populations, including those facing exclusion from healthcare services, in South Tehran since 2012 and in Mashhad since 2018.
MSF responding to coronavirus COVID-19 in several countries
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MSF teams are currently responding in Italy, supporting three hospitals in the most affected areas in the country's north. In France and Belgium, we are supporting efforts to detect and manage COVID-19 cases among vulnerable populations such as homeless people, migrants and unaccompanied minors. In Spain, MSF is collaborating with authorities in order to increase case management capacities.
In countries where MSF is already running medical programmes, teams are reviewing activities to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis, and are coordinating with local health authorities to see how they could help in detection and management of coronavirus disease COVID-19.
MSF is an international medical humanitarian organisation running activities in over 70 countries.
For its deployment in Iran, MSF has chosen to rely solely on private donations. The organisation does not receive funding from any government.