Health insurance for 120,000 refugees in Iran: UNHCR

April 7, 2021 - 17:10

TEHRAN – Some 120,000 refugees residing in Iran are now covered by health insurance, According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

With the help of UNHCR, 20,000 refugees gained access to Iran’s national health insurance scheme, taking the numbers assisted with health insurance to 120,000.

Health insurance aims to provide the most vulnerable among the nearly 800,000 Afghan refugees hosted in the country.

UNHCR covered the costs of insurance premiums for some 100,000 vulnerable refugees enrolled in Iran's Universal Public Health Insurance (UPHI) last year. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the prevailing economic downturn, UNHCR agreed to increase the number of refugees covered by the scheme.

Despite the challenges, Iran has continued to generously give refugees access to education and health services. Iran is one of only a handful of countries in the world that offer refugees the option to enroll in national health insurance for essential secondary and tertiary public health services in the same way as Iranian nationals.

The national insurance scheme allows for free COVID-19 treatment and hospitalization. It also subsidizes the cost of surgeries, dialysis, radiology, laboratory tests, outpatient care, and more.

However, many refugees are not able to afford the premium costs. The impact of the pandemic on livelihoods has been particularly severe for refugees, who usually rely on precarious and unstable jobs. Many can no longer cover their most basic needs, let alone the costs of health insurance, which is estimated to represent some 40 percent of an average refugee family's monthly expenditure.

Two million foreign nationals residing in Iran

Deputy Interior Minister Javad Naserian said last week that about one million documented foreign nationals are residing in Iran, and perhaps another one million are illegally living in the country.

At the end of 2018, Iran hosted close to one million refugees, making it the sixth-largest refugee host country in the world. The country was also the eighth largest refugee-hosting country in the world in 2019, hosting 951,142 Afghan refugees and 28,268 Iraqi refugees, according to the UNHCR.

One of the largest and most protracted urban refugee populations in the world is living in Iran; about 97 percent of refugees live in urban and semi-urban areas, while three percent are residing in 20 refugee resorts run by the UNHCR's main government counterpart.

Undocumented Afghans have access to free primary health services and similarly free COVID-19 related testing, treatment, and hospitalization, just like nationals.


Photo: Afghan refugee Abdulrahim Rostami, 66, holds his health insurance booklet in Tehran, Iran. 

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