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Iran, MENA: Drought - Appeal n° MDRIR005 - Operational Strategy (3 March 2022 to 30 September 2023)

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Glide №: 2021-000089


The most dramatic proof of the devastating and prolonged drying of the past thirty years is the disappearance of lakes and wetlands in parts of Iran. Excessive stress on water resources across the country, notably in the borderlands of the east and west, is becoming more pronounced and impossible to ignore. Safe and sufficient water supply for drinking, hygiene and health, agriculture, animal husbandry, and electrical power is under threat; while food insecurity and a breakdown in societal cohesion are highly likely to follow if increased strains on households and communities are not addressed.

Current drought conditions are primarily human-induced, both locally and as a symptom of global climate change; caused, or intensified, by unsustainable land and water management domestically and in neighbouring countries.

Vast expanses of central and western Asia, including the majority of Iran within its mountain ranges, have been affected by drought conditions with degrees of severity and local magnitude that have varied throughout history.

What brings the current situation into sharp humanitarian focus is the confluence of declining precipitation over the last 30 years, inadequate infrastructure projects, and the economicpolitical hit to the country, and thus its National Society, given the impacts of the renewed sanctions on the country, where all the while, some 3.5 million refugees are being hosted from war-torn lands.

Severity of humanitarian conditions

The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) estimates that nearly five million people – 70 percent of the rural population of the worst drought-affected provinces – are at high risk of drought-related impacts, mostly in remote rural areas of the provinces. Livelihoods are decimated and need rebuilding and refining to fit the new realities and mitigate the negative coping mechanisms that prevail; female-headed households and those with members that have underlying health issues are most affected.

The IRCS requested surge support from the IFRC to understand the drought, the accompanying multi-hazards, and the humanitarian impacts this was having. This preliminary assessment, which was conducted through field visits to remote communities and discussions with key provincial and capital informants, can be summarised as follows:

1. Impacts on accessibility, availability, quality, use and awareness of goods and services

a. Lack of water for drinking and hygiene, causing health issues.

b. Lack of water for agriculture and animal husbandry, by far the largest sectors providing livelihoods, and where mostly borderlands are affected.

c. Outward migration caused by the lack of jobs also has a disrupting effect on the receiving urban localities, with an increasing deterioration of social services and protection. The loss of regular livelihoods has had a huge impact on the coping mechanism of communities.

d. Markets in all of the provinces are functioning with food and essential items, including the availability of medicines. However, purchasing power remains weak due to the lack of jobs and significant unemployment rate.

e. Deteriorating urban settlement/crisis with people on the move from rural settings.

2. Impacts on physical and mental well-being

a. High mental health toll, with increased frustration, depression, anxiety, and anger expressed by communities.

b. Physical effects include respiratory, eye, and skin diseases. Diarrhoea and stomach problems due to contaminated drinking water.

c. The deterioration in living standards is affecting people’s health.

3. Risks and vulnerabilities

a. Increased vulnerability to other hazards, such as flooding and earthquakes, due to decreased soil moisture. As the topsoil and vegetation, including forests and wilderness wither, the rains that do come cause flood damage.

b. Further migration to provincial urban centres, metropolitan mega-cities or even further afield.

c. The influx of Afghan refugees/migrants has the potential to bring COVID-19 variants, hence the need for strong coordination and management with public authorities and relevant stakeholders.