Health, Insurance Services for Afghan, Iraqi Refugees

Health, Insurance Services  for Afghan, Iraqi RefugeesHealth, Insurance Services  for Afghan, Iraqi Refugees

The health ministry will provide healthcare services for Afghan refugees and migrants (including Iraqis) in Iran with the cooperation of local and international authorities.

The provision of health services for the refugees was discussed in a meeting at the presidential office with officials from the administration, the ministries of health and medical education and foreign affairs, the organizations of management and planning and health insurance and Iran’s Red Crescent society, IRNA reported.

The meeting, referring to the vulnerability of the refugee population, ineffectiveness of supplemental insurance and the necessity of preventing any disruption in the national health care system, discussed the following issues: evolving strategies to identify and treat refugees with communicable diseases and identify and treat patients with incurable diseases.

 Basic Insurance

It was decided that the health ministry provide basic packages under insurance services for the refugees in line with the Health Reform Plan, by making use of international resources. Prior to the decision, the meeting discussed and evaluated insurance services for the displaced people.

The political instability and insecurity in neighboring Afghanistan in the past decades, and more recently in Iraq, has led to Iran hosting millions of Afghan and  thousands of Iraqi refugees.

One of the most serious challenges of this human group was lack of adequate access to health care, given that the displaced people are not confined to specific areas. Their dispersal in several rural and urban areas was also seen as a threat to the country’s healthcare services as it could cause problems for the control and prevention of communicable diseases under the national healthcare system.

Iran continues to host one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world, despite the voluntary return of hundreds of thousands Afghan and Iraqi refugees to their countries of origin over the past decade.

According to the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA), as of October 2011, the number of refugees registered with the authorities stood at over 882,000 (over 840,000 Afghans and 42,000 Iraqis).

 UNHCR Assistance

 Close to 97 per cent of all refugees live in urban and semi-urban areas. Between January 2002 and July 2013, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assisted over 913,000 Afghans to return home voluntarily, and almost 30,000 Iraqi refugees have also been assisted to repatriate voluntarily since 2003. However, the number of people who have returned in 2013 remains low in comparison with previous years, and the assistance program will need to continue, says the UN refugee agency.

The delivery of services by different government sectors has been affected by inflation. There has also been a rise in the cost of living, including food items, other basic needs, health and education-related costs. This has affected the refugee population in particular. At present, approximately 24 per cent of registered refugees are considered vulnerable, and this situation is expected to affect increasing numbers of refugees.

 Sustainable Solutions

The Iranian government was actively involved in the process leading to the Solutions Strategy for Afghan refugees (SSAR), endorsed in May 2012. This strategy aims to enhance the prospects for sustainable solutions for Afghan returnees.

The government also grants the refugee population on its territory access to: medical services, education for students, literacy classes for out-of-school children and the labor market.

The main groups of people of concern planned for in 2014 are: Afghan refugees, most of whom arrived before 2001 as prima facie refugees; and Iraqi refugees, the majority of whom were registered in 2002 as prima facie refugees.

Almost all refugees live in rural and urban areas, with just 3 per cent residing in settlements allocated for Iraqi refugees.