We provide free healthcare to excluded and marginalised groups in Iran

MSF's response to coronavirus in Iran

17 March 2020

MSF has submitted a proposal to the Iranian authorities to help care for patients with COVID-19.

Learn more about covid-19 >

Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, when the monarchy was overthrown and clerics assumed political control.

The Iranian revolution put an end to the rule of the Shah, who had alienated powerful religious, political and popular forces with a programme of modernisation and westernisation coupled with heavy repression of dissent. 
Persia, as Iran was known before 1935, was one of the greatest empires of the ancient world, and the country has long maintained a distinct cultural identity within the Islamic world by retaining its own language and adhering to the Shia interpretation of Islam. 
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Iran in 1990. Our work in the country has provided a response to healthcare exclusion.

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MSF's work in Iran: 2018

In Iran, Médecins Sans Frontières runs programmes to assist drug users, sex workers, refugees, homeless people and other vulnerable groups who face barriers when seeking healthcare. 

Drug addiction is a particular public health concern in Iran, with the number of drug users having doubled over the last six years to nearly three million (3.5 per cent of the population).* They, and other vulnerable groups such as sex workers, homeless people and the Ghorbati ethnic minority, suffer from stigma and exclusion in Iran, which limits their access to medical care. In 2018, this was further restricted by a financial crisis that crippled the health system. 

Our teams worked in South Tehran throughout the year, providing treatment for a range of communicable diseases to which marginalised communities are particularly exposed, including hepatitis B and C, HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and syphilis. We saw a large increase in the number of patients enrolling for hepatitis C treatment, an 82 per cent increase on 2017. 

We also ran sexual and reproductive healthcare services, comprising gynaecology and obstetrics, ante- and postnatal care, and consultations for victims of sexual violence, as well as psychosocial support and counselling. A mobile clinic specifically for women was set up in the city. 

In addition, we opened a new programme for refugees and the local community in Mashhad, near the Afghan border, where a significant number of the estimated two million Afghans in Iran live. Our teams there offer a similar range of services as in South Tehran: through fixed and mobile clinics, we treat hepatitis C and operate a referral system for patients needing treatment for HIV and/or TB. 

*Middle East Institute

find out more in our international activity report > 

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