Hepatitis Screening for Afghan Refugees

Hepatitis Screening  for Afghan RefugeesHepatitis Screening  for Afghan Refugees

The Hepatitis B and C screening program for Afghan refugees living in four of the 15 permanent refugee camps in Iran, conducted by the Communicable Disease Management Center at the Health Ministry, is making good progress with the process completed in one camp.

Screening at the Bardsir refugee camp in Kerman Province is over and the other three camps will be covered by the end of the current Iranian year in March 2017, said Mahmoud Soroush, head of the center, on the sidelines of a visit to the camp by a diplomatic group representing embassies and international organizations based in Tehran, IRNA reported.

The scheme also envisages an immunization package that will be provided following a survey in this regard.

Based on a trilateral memorandum of understanding, the ministries of interior and health and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are in charge of providing health and treatment services for the refugees.

Ambassadors of Australia, Holland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and Afghanistan, the deputy chiefs of missions from the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Romania, first secretary of the Venezuelan mission and representatives from international organizations in Iran, were among those who toured the refugee camp.

  Health Volunteers

With the inclusion of informal settlements in the outlying areas of cities, the number of centers  housing Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani refugees, has reached 23, Soroush said.

In each camp, between 20 and 80 health volunteers, selected from among the refugees cooperate with the Health Ministry in communicating health messages to the families. There are 38 volunteers in Bardsir camp.

The diplomats also saw the educational services provided in Bardsir Camp. The head of the education department of Bardsir County said 420 boys and 440 girls are currently studying in permanent classrooms in four single-sex schools in the camp, and 400 refugee students are studying in Bardsir along with Iranian children in regular schools.

“Seventy of our best male and female teachers from the province are educating the young refugee children,” said Mohammad Kazemi Nejad, adding that even adult refugees are provided literacy classes in the afternoon shift at the same schools. Over 300,000 refugees reside in Kerman Province.

  Budget Increase

During the past five years, the UNHCR budget to better address the needs of Afghan and Iraqi refugees in Iran has gradually increased. In 2015 the budget was $73 million, a 6.3% ($4.3 million) increase from 2014.

UNHCR assistant high commissioner, George Okoth-Obbo, during his recent visit commended Iran’s exemplary role towards refugees.

“For over 30 years, Iran has demonstrated a humanitarian commitment to protect millions of refugees. This is heart-warming, particularly at a time when 60 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide.”

Commending the high quality of healthcare offered to refugees on par with Iranians, he noted that the inclusion of refugees in the public health insurance scheme is worthy of admiration.

He lauded the government for providing refugee children access to Iranian schools. In particular, he recognized the importance of the Leader’s recent decree that allowed for children of undocumented families to also attend schools in the country, reported.

Noting that “refugees can be an asset to their host country”, he said the government and the UNHCR have provided vocational training and created jobs to ensure that refugees, especially vulnerable women, become self-reliant. “These skills will help them throughout their lives, in Iran and also when they return to their country.”

There are nearly 3 million unregistered Afghans in the country in addition to the one million officially registered as refugees.

  SSAR Framework

In this context, Okoth-Obbo reaffirmed the UNHCR’s commitment to Iran and the Afghan refugees, and noted that the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) – the quadripartite regional framework between the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran together with UNHCR –continues to be the main framework for joint interventions aimed at facilitating voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of Afghan refugees in Afghanistan while simultaneously providing assistance to refugee hosting communities.

He also thanked the government and people of Iran for the support provided to some 30,000 Iraqi refugees who have been residing in the country for decades, and for ensuring they have access to the necessary services.

“I am confident that Iran will continue to provide asylum space to the refugees and they will do the best to overcome the existing challenges and address the protection issues related to the refugees.”

In Okoth-Obbo’s first mission to Iran from April 18-21 he was accompanied by Daisy Dell, director of the regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific. Arriving in Dogharoun, Iran’s border station with Afghanistan, he toured the Torbat-e-Jam refugee settlement. He also visited refugee projects in Mashhad and in Tehran, the Solymankhani Administrative Center for refugees, one of the Interior Ministry’s seven centers for registration and administrative affairs of refugees in Tehran Province.