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What are the current issues in Iran

Civil and military conflicts in neighbouring countries have surrounded Iran ever since its own war with Iraq came to an end in the late 1980s. Although the resource-rich country was able to recover from the war with Iraq, the continuous influx of refugees, especially from Afghanistan and Iraq, required international assistance.

Despite efforts to facilitate the repatriation of refugees living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a significant number of poor and food-insecure refugee households continue to require humanitarian support; including WFP food assistance. At present, some 840,500 Afghan refugees and 45,000 refugees from Iraq were registered in Iran. Although the majority of them live in urban areas, about 30,000 live in 19 refugee settlements, with very limited livelihood options.

WFP aims to ensure basic food security for vulnerable Afghan and Iraqi households in refugee settlements. 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 who have been severely affected by the removal of government subsidies and rising food prices receive an increased ration.

WFP also supports durable solutions through promoting education and technical training among refugee girls and young people to increase their livelihood opportunities and help their future reintegration in their respective countries. WFP provides incentive take-home rations to girls attending primary and secondary education. At the same time, WFP will introduce another programme to encourage youths living in settlements to attend technical training courses.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Iran

WFP assistance to refugees, which started in 1987, has been a major factor in the prevention of hunger and malnutrition, as documented by successive joint assessments.

While a large majority of refugees live in urban areas, there are 19 officially designated refugee settlements hosting around three percent of the total refugee population (30,000 people). Settlements allow refugees who have no other means of living to receive free housing and basic services, provided by the Government with support from UNHCR, as well as WFP food assistance.

In the 2012 Joint Assessment Mission by WFP and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), household interviews showed 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.

The provision of take-home rations of fortified vegetable oil as an incentive for girls’ education has contributed to increased enrolment and regular attendance for girls at primary and secondary schools. WFP school feeding programme has become an important factor in households’ decision to send their girls to school and not to marry them off at an early age. Girls’ attendance at schools in the refugee settlements has improved but remains lower than that of boys.

Parents have been reluctant to send their girls to schools with no female teachers, preferring to keep them at home to attend to domestic tasks. Female teachers are difficult to attract to work in these schools due to their remoteness. An individual in-kind incentive for female teachers has proved to be an effective solution to this problem.

The UN Joint Assessment Mission recommended that WFP in-kind transfers be extended to households in the settlements that send young people for skills training provided by partner organizations under the Solutions Strategy.

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.

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