May 19, 2019, 11:56 AM
News Code: 83319475
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UN determined to continue support to flood-hit Iranians

Tehran, May 19, IRNA - The UN Resident Coordinator and Representative of Secretary General in Iran Ugochi Daniels expressed the United Nations' determination to continue to offer long-term and short-term aid for flood-hit people to the Iranian government.

'We are strongly committed to multilateralism and the UN will continue to engage with the international community to support the Government of Iran and people in need,' she said in an exclusive interview with IRNA.

The floods caused by unprecedented flash rains in various parts of Iran in March and early April claimed the lives of scores of people and inflicted huge damages on infrastructures, including bridges and roads.

Two million people were affected by the floods and hundreds of thousand people are living in tents.

A number of countries forwarded humanitarian aid to Iran.

Iranian Government earlier announced that two-billion-dollar worth of emergency supplies are needed to be imported for victims of the floods. Simultaneously, it complained that the US sanctions created obstacles on measures to respond adequately to the people living in dire situation.

Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani said the US Administration proved it lacks the minimum sense of humanitarian values to suspend the sanctions for a single year providing the Iranian government with a moratorium to save the victims from contagious diseases.

In the meantime, Former Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi reacted to US blocking of humanitarian aid to affected Iranian people, saying the US act which happened on the occasion of the anniversary of its withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an indication of US officials’ anti-popular approach which is in contrast with their ridiculous slogans and claims saying sanctions are not against the Iranian people, but in favor of them.

Normally, all banking systems will not be blocked even in difficult and emergency conditions and sending humanitarian aids will be possible through International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Qasemi said, adding that the US in an inhumane and cruel approach has blocked all humanitarian assistance to flood-hit people.

Meanwhile, the UN bodies started rendering humanitarian assistance to flood survivors.

For example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) airlifted goods and emergency supplies to Iranian flood-stricken population on April 11.

The goods included blanket, mattress, kitchen set and suitcases for emergency occasions for Iranian population affected in heavy rain and flooding in western Iran and southwest of the country.

Most importantly, as UN family moral support, Mrs. Ugochi Daniels said earlier: 'From the early hours of the floods, we have mobilized our capacities and resources to support the emergency relief operation and are making our best efforts to support the recovery and long-term risk reductions efforts of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.'

The full text of IRNA exclusive interview with UN representative in Tehran follows:

IRNA: What are the measures taken by the UN office in Tehran in line with rendering cash aid to Iranian flood survivors?

Ugochi Daniels : I wish to start off by reiterating our condolences on the loss of life and wish a speedy recovery for the injured.

The UN Family in Iran’s goal has been to support the government-led rescue efforts since the very beginning when this disaster struck, in order to reach and support those most-affected and in need.

We have not provided direct cash assistance to the flood victims. All UN aids have been in-kind contributions in support of the most-affected population. Our response plan targets 115,000 of the people most affected by the floods in four provinces.

In early stages, agencies were able to mobilize USD 1.4 Million from their internal emergency funds in order to purchase humanitarian supplies that were urgently needed as per the government’s request. In addition to this, in late-April we received an additional USD 1.4 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for the implementation of our response plan which can be accessed on UN Iran’s website (www.un.org.ir), and also agencies were granted USD 600,000 to restock their supplies.

Therefore, all our contribution has thus far been to provide in-kind support.

IRNA: What are the measures taken by UN to give services to flood-hit people on site of the accident?

Ugochi Daniels: As mentioned earlier, the UN has been supporting the Government and the people of Iran right from the beginning of this disaster.

We visited the affected provinces of Lorestan, Golestan, Ilam, and Khuzestan. Loss and damage is significant.

I must emphasize the exceptional coordination and support that we have had from the government, International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), line ministries and the international community, for which we are extremely grateful.

The UN and the Government are conducting a livelihood needs assessment. The UN and the Government are initiating the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will be supporting these efforts by assigning a Recovery Advisor and a PDNA Coordinator.

So far, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and World Food Programme (WFP) have provided relief aid.

UNHCR took an early decision, in coordination with the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs of the Ministry of Interior (BAFIA), to use existing in-country resources including blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans and kitchen sets to assist government-led relief efforts. Drawing on additional HQ reserves, UNHCR also dispatched 1,000 tents and other relief items from its global stockpile, which landed in Iran by air freight on 10 April. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize that Iran has been generously hosting refugees, mainly Afghans, for four decades. It is heart-warming to see how the needs of these groups have been responded to.

The next day, WHO’s essential medical supplies to respond to the growing health needs of thousands of people who have been displaced arrived in Iran. The supplies included trauma, health, cholera and non-communicable disease kits and other commodities requested by the Ministry of Health and Medical Education.

UNICEF’s first batch of supplies for flood-affected children which included 200 vaccine carriers and 100 cold boxes arrived in Iran on 18 April. This equipment will help restore essential immunization services for affected children and prevent the spread of diseases. UNICEF’s second batch of supplies including 80 vaccines refrigerators arrived in Iran on 7th May to help restore essential immunization services for children in the Public Health Centres of the flood-affected provinces.

UNFPA’s first cargo including reproductive health kits for affected women and girls arrived in Iran on 5th May. The kits contained lifesaving equipment and medicines in order to meet the reproductive health needs of 120,000 to 150,000 of flood-affected population for a period of six months.

WFP family food packages were handed over to Iranian Red Crescent Society for distribution in flood-affected areas of Khuzestan on 12 May. WFP will provide 12,000 family food packages for 50,000 people. These packages will be distributed during the holy month of Ramadan.

The UN is also providing technical assistance to the Government, including on the framing of short, medium- and long-term interventions to address early recovery and livelihoods.

After immediate life-saving assistance, the UN with the support of the international community, will continue to support government-led efforts for mid-term and long-term strategies to prevent and mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

The “UN response plan” is targeting 115,000 of the people most affected by the floods in four provinces. I must emphasize, that the response plan is a very small targeted portion of the overall recovery effort. Iran is a disaster-prone upper middle-income country with strong capacity and experience in responding to disasters and therefore the UN plays a very targeted role addressing the most critical needs in a much larger government response effort but will support the government through the whole disaster management cycle and using development cooperation instruments.

Our top priorities are the following sectors:

1. Shelter
2. Health
3. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
4. Recovery
5. Protection
6. Education
7. Food

However, I wish to mention that the CERF funds we have received – which I referred to earlier – to implement our response plan represents only 8% of the total needs. We call on the international community for their generous support for the full implementation of this response plan.

Whilst on one hand we hope to see more funds for implementing the response plan, which is our focus and priority, on the emergency response phase, focus should increasingly shift towards recovery especially of livelihoods.

We are strongly committed to multilateralism and the UN will continue to engage with the international community to support the Government of Iran and people in need.

IRNA: The volume of cash aids provided by the UN office as regard construction affairs.

Ugochi Daniels: The United Nations has not yet provided cash regarding construction affairs. As mentioned earlier after immediate life-saving assistance, the UN will continue to support government-led efforts for mid-term and long-term strategies.

IRNA: What were the main road-blocks on sending humanitarian assistance and also services to affected people?

Ugochi Daniels: The UN has taken necessary actions to ensure that it's operations and work in Iran continue. We will continue to work closely with government counterparts and the international community to meet the needs of those affected by this disaster.

The main challenge we face is receiving funding for implementing our UN response plan. This is the main hindrance to delivery of services. If we have the funding, we will be able to deliver all the activities mentioned in our response plan.

IRNA: Damages have been inflicted on schools and educational centers, what measures have been taken by UN related bodies to address this issue?

Ugochi Daniels: Based on data and requests from the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and UNESCO are finalizing their assistance package to ensure flood-affected students can continue their schooling and receive psychosocial support.

Interview by: Ali Izadi
Edited by: Safar Sarabi
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