According to the data received from the Government in October 2020, on which consultations are ongoing, 800,000 refugee card holders reside in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 96% reside in urban areas, while the rest live in some 20 settlements across the country. Registered refugees and undocumented Afghans will continue to have access to primary health care at no cost, like nationals. Additionally, UNHCR will continue to support the Universal Public Health Insurance, a Government-led initiative which allows all refugees access to secondary and tertiary health services at a subsidized cost. Refugees and undocumented children also have access to primary and secondary education within the national system. Through continued collaboration between UNHCR and the Literacy Movement Organization, over-aged refugee children and adults will benefit from literacy trainings and accelerated learning programs, to facilitate their return to formal schooling. UNHCR will continue to support qualified Afghan students to attain higher education through the DAFI scholarship programme.
The Islamic Republic of Iran faced significant economic challenges in 2020, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation which is expected to continue into 2021. A high number of refugees relying on the informal job market will continue to struggle to meet their basic needs. While robust assistance efforts will continue at all levels, these economic challenges have put additional pressure on refugees and other vulnerable groups, thus underscoring the need for enhanced burden- and responsibility-sharing by the international community, coupled with a need to specifically focus on areas and locations hosting larger numbers of refugees.
In 2021, UNHCR will continue to support the Government’s progressive and inclusive policies, especially in the areas of health and education. UNHCR will also work with the Government to strengthen cooperation with national organizations, and to ensure that support for refugees is included in the national development plan. UNHCR will increase its public advocacy and fundraising efforts, and strengthen its engagement with donors. UNHCR will closely collaborate with UN agencies and international NGOs to identify areas of collaboration, especially on the inclusion of refugees and host communities into post-COVID-19 socioeconomic recovery programs. In the context of the pandemic, there also is a need to expand interventions in various sectors such as education, including by enhancing connectivity for students.
The main operational priorities for 2021 will remain health, education and livelihoods. UNHCR will continue to focus on:
- Supporting primary healthcare by assisting health centers in refugee-hosting areas, providing medical supplies to hospitals, and covering vulnerable refugees under the Universal Public Health Insurance.
- Supporting the inclusion of refugees in formal and non-formal education, including literacy classes for over-aged children and adults, while co-funding school construction.
- Seeking further opportunities for economic inclusion of refugees, while also pursuing impactful livelihoods interventions that build marketable skills, linking it with cross border initiatives and voluntary repatriation once conditions in Afghanistan become conducive. Cash assistance is also seen as both a financial inclusion tool and a means of outreach to people of concern to address immediate protection needs.
- Working towards the realization of resettlement opportunities