Friday, February 13, 2023 – In an effort to strengthen universal health coverage around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a project with the financial support of the Government of Japan to increase public health and humanitarian assistance to Afghan refugees and vulnerable populations in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Throughout the year 2023, the project will be carried out in tandem with the Ministry of Health and Medical Education and will focus on three main goals: reducing the spread of infectious diseases across borders and among vulnerable populations; improving people’s access to life-saving essential health services in all high-population, high-risk areas; and giving refugees and other marginalised groups access to psychosocial and rehabilitation services.
Investment on the national health system is the key to protecting vulnerable populations and improving access to those in need, according to Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative. “In the current complex situation and the shocks received by the health system due to COVID-19,” he said.
“The generous support from the Government of Japan will go a long way towards ameliorating the suffering of refugees and vulnerable host communities by increasing the scale and scope of health services to vulnerable host communities and the refugee population and introducing protective and preventive public health measures in the geographical areas bordering neighbouring countries. Further, “I greatly commend H.E. Kazutoshi Aikawa, the Ambassador of Japan to the Islamic Republic of Iran, for facilitating this support from Tokyo.” said Dr. Hussain.
As COVID-19 has spread throughout the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Japanese government has been providing health aid to the country’s citizens. Among the aid provided was state-of-the-art medical gear worth over $40 million. More than 4.3 million AstraZeneca vaccines produced in Japan were donated by the Japanese government. H.E. Kazutoshi Aikawa remarked that Japan had laboured diligently over a long period of time to help create conditions more amenable to bettering the lives of Afghan refugees and easing the burden on Iranian host communities.
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Some parts of the country are more impoverished than others, but the southeastern provinces have the highest rate of poverty. These provinces are situated in traditionally poor areas and in border communities that have been experiencing continuous influxes of Afghan refugees ever since August 2021 due to the ongoing humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are currently between 3 and 3.5 million Afghan refugees living in the Islamic Republic of Iran. About half a million have Iranian visas, while the remaining are considered to be undocumented immigrants.
The Japanese aid is meant to expand the health care system’s ability to provide for the influx of refugees, which could save lives. To this end, the World Health Organization will bring in cutting-edge medical equipment and life-saving drugs to Kerman and Sistan and Baluchestan provinces in the Islamic Republic of Iran to meet the healthcare needs of vulnerable populations, such as Afghan refugee communities. The financial aid is being provided at a crucial time as the country’s healthcare system begins to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.