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Although Iran’s war with Iraq ended in 1988, Iran continues to be surrounded by conflicts in neighbouring countries and has required international assistance in coping with a continuous flow of refugees, particularly from Afghanistan and Iraq. WFP has been present since 1987 in resource-rich Iran, which ranked 69 out of 188 countries in the 2015 Human Development Index. With an estimated population of 79 million, Iran is the 4th largest refugee hosting country, with just under one million refugees.

What are the current issues in Iran?

  • Refugees

    As a result of the refugee flow, a significant number of poor and food-insecure refugee households continue to require humanitarian support, including WFP food assistance. More than 951,000 Afghan refugees and 28,260 refugees from Iraq were registered in Iran as of early 2016. Although the majority of them live in urban areas, about 30,000 people live in 19 official refugee settlements with very limited livelihood options. Basic services and housing are provided in the settlements by the Government, WFP, and United Nations High Committee on Refugees (UNHCR).

What is the World Food Programme doing in Iran?

  • Food assistance to refugees

    WFP assistance to refugees in Iran, which started in 1987, has been a major factor in the prevention of hunger and malnutrition, as documented by a series of assessments. For instance, a survey of households by UNHCR and WFP in 2012 showed that extremely vulnerable, food-insecure households are completely reliant on WFP food assistance and are increasingly unable to purchase food from the local market to complement the WFP ration. At the same time, families with one or more breadwinner, and who are able to meet some of their food needs themselves, are sharing their rations with the extremely vulnerable.

    WFP aims to ensure basic food security for vulnerable Afghan and Iraqi households in refugee settlements in Iran. Although WFP has been providing general food distributions in refugee settlements since 1987, it has introduced a new targeting approach to this operation. The majority of refugees in settlements who are able to meet some of their own food needs receive a reduced WFP ration while extremely food-insecure households which have been severely affected by the removal of government subsidies and rising food prices receive an increased ration.

  • Technical training for youth

    WFP also supports durable solutions by promoting education and technical training among young refugees to increase their livelihood opportunities and help their future reintegration into their respective countries. Youth from the settlements receive vegetable oil as an incentive to attend technical training courses to increase their livelihood opportunities.

    In an effort to encourage more skills training, the UN Joint Assessment Mission has recommended that WFP in-kind transfers be extended to households in the settlements that send young people for skills training provided by partner organizations.

  • School Meals and Education

    The provision of take-home rations of fortified vegetable oil as an incentive for girls’ education has contributed to increased enrolment and regular attendance by females at primary and secondary schools. WFP’s school meals programme has become an important factor in many households’ decision to send their girls to school rather than send them into marriage at an early age. Girls’ attendance at schools in the refugee settlements has improved but remains lower than that of boys.

    In some instances, parents had been reluctant to send their girls to schools that did not have female teachers, although these can be difficult to find for remote schools. However, an individual in-kind incentive for female teachers has proved to be an effective solution to this problem.

  • Assessing the needs of refugees

    WFP in Iran has been preparing for a comprehensive Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) in co-operation with UNHCR to assess the food and non-food needs of refugees with an eye to including a livelihood component. An assessment into the feasibility of shifting to cash-based transfers is planned.

World Food Programme partners in Iran

WFP cannot fight global hunger and poverty alone. These are our partners in Iran:

Want to know more about WFP partners? Visit WFP's Partnerships section.

Featured Iran publications

  • Iran: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 443 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Iran? Visit the Iran publications archive.