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Humanitarian Action for Children 2021 - Islamic Republic of Iran

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  • The Islamic Republic of Iran is the nation in the Middle East that has been most affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the national economy, which was already strained by the reinforcement of sanctions in 2018. This situation has diminished national capacities to respond to increasing humanitarian needs and the vulnerabilities of affected populations.
  • UNICEF's humanitarian strategy in the Islamic Republic of Iran is to support national efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis and mitigate and address the secondary impacts of the crisis on the most vulnerable populations.
  • UNICEF is requesting US$14 million to meet the critical needs of the most vulnerable families and children affected by the COVID-19 crisis, in the context of the lingering effects of previous emergencies and deteriorating economic conditions.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is ranked among the 10 most disaster-prone countries in the world. Its geography, coupled with infrastructural fragility, growing urbanization and challenging socio-economic conditions, make it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Extreme climate conditions are exposing the country to several slow- and rapid-onset emergencies and exacerbating existing vulnerabilities.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is the nation in the Middle East that has been most severely affected by COVID-19. The pandemic has dramatically impacted the national economy, which was already strained by the economic sanctions reinforced in 2018. This has adversely affected the Government's capacity to maintain public services, particularly social services, and provide timely emergency preparedness and response. As the adaptive capacities and resilience of local communities decline, vulnerability to emergencies – and related humanitarian needs – are on the rise.

A recent analysis undertaken by the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labour and Social Welfare and UNICEF suggests that 11.5 million households in less-developed areas and on the margins of major urban centres are under or just above the multidimensional poverty line; and 1 million of these households, including 4 million people, urgently require humanitarian assistance. This population has not benefited from social security during the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, some 3 million Afghans living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including refugees and immigrants, have been severely impacted.

The national social protection system is neither shock-responsive nor agile, and is unable to effectively target and support specific vulnerable populations. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, 40 per cent of the national budget was allocated to social protection schemes, including the universal basic income. However this scheme and supplementary measures do not currently follow the principles of inclusiveness, adequacy of coverage and comprehensiveness. The latter is compounded by rapid currency devaluation and inflation.

Projections indicate that the current situation could reverse national achievements towards the Sustainable Development Goals. According to the Ministry of Education, more than 20 per cent of school-aged children, including 500,000 refugees and 170,000 children with disabilities, lack access to online learning opportunities. This has made it difficult for students to build skills and has exposed adolescents to various social harms. The number of out-of-school children could dramatically increase in low-income households, especially in less-developed provinces and on the margins of major urban centres. The Government also increasingly needs international support to provide vital health, nutrition and psychosocial support services to the most vulnerable communities.