According to a statement released by the UN High Commissioner for the Refugees office in Tehran on July 9, the planeload arrived to Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran on Thursday morning by an Emirate Boeing 777-200 flight from Frankfurt, Germany.
It contained life-saving medical items procured by UNHCR including “N95 masks, disposable face shields and portable ventilators that will support Iran in its fight against the pandemic.”
Over the past months, border closures have significantly reduced air traffic, increased freight costs and hampered the ability of humanitarian organizations to quickly procure and deliver much-needed aid to vulnerable people in refugee settlements and refugee-hosting areas.
“The global supply chain was brought to a near halt by the pandemic. This Humanitarian Air Bridge flight arrives at a critical juncture when needs in Iran remain high, and more international support and solidarity is required to bring in medical supplies to help those fighting the coronavirus,” said Ivo Freijsen, the UNHCR Representative to Iran.
UNHCR expressed gratitude for the support of ECHO and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), for helping the UN Refugee Agency “reach refugees and Iranians in the host communities with life-saving medical supplies and equipment in a timely manner.”
The EU Humanitarian Air Bridge was set up in early May 2020 to help countries respond to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting the flow of humanitarian aid and workers.
“We stand in full solidarity with the Iranian people at this difficult time. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this pandemic and to the first responders on the ground. Our support will help ongoing efforts in Iran deliver urgent life-saving protective medical gear and other vital medical supplies to those most in need. Global solidarity is essential in the fight against coronavirus,” said Janez Lenarčič, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
The UN Refugees Agency reiterated in its statement that despite the restrictions brought about by COVID-19, “UNHCR continues to work to ensure the distribution and delivery of critical supplies and equipment in support of Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education and the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant’s Affairs (BAFIA).”
Referring to the efforts made by the Iranian Government the statement added, “Iran also ramped-up its production of essential medical equipment, and independent entrepreneurs – refugees included – have redirected their efforts towards contributing to the national COVID-19 response.”
The UNHCR’s statement referred to the continuation of the fatal disease stressing, “Iran needs more support to be able to help the increasing number of people affected by the virus, including refugees.”
“There are close to one million refugees in Iran and 1.5-2 million undocumented Afghans who have access to free primary health services and similarly free COVID-19 related testing, treatment and hospitalization, just like nationals,” said the statement.
It stressed that the UNHCR “in Iran is seeking USD 16.2 million for its COVID-19 emergency.”
The UN Refugees Agency also appreciated its “all partners, including Japan, the Russian Federation, and the UN Emergency Fund (CERF), whose support is essential in overcoming the massive challenges brought on by the pandemic and accelerating efforts to leave no one behind.”
It said that in order to support the Iranian Government in maintaining and sustaining its commendable inclusive refugee policies, under the umbrella of the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), “the UNHCR requires an additional USD 98.7 million.”