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Read caption Two girls painted each other as part of the NRC project Colours in Displacement. Photo: NRC/Afsaneh Moghayeri

NRC in Iran

For more than 30 years, Iran has provided a sanctuary to Afghan refugees. Many have grown up in exile. Iran is the only home they have ever known.


A total of


people in need received our assistance in 2017.

Humanitarian overview

For the past three decades, Iran has hosted one of the world's largest, most long-term populations of displaced people, with around 3.6 million Afghans and over 28,000 Iraqis.

Just under half of the Afghan population in Iran is documented – either registered as refugees or with valid visas. But it's difficult for them to maintain their legal status. Rising annual renewal fees makes it costly, while job opportunities are scarce. Meanwhile, undocumented and newly arrived Afghans are at risk of deportation and prone to fall victim to abuses.

The Iranian government's support for Afghan refugees has outweighed that of many aid organisations. It has granted access to some public health services and education for all Afghan children, including those without civil documentation. Undocumented families with children in full-time education are not subject to deportation.

Iran is a disaster-prone country, struck by frequent earthquakes and floods. In November 2017, a major earthquake affected the lives of 270.000 people.

People we helped in Iran in 2017

people benefited from our education programme
people benefited from our food security programme
people benefited from our shelter programme
people benefited from our ICLA programme
people benefited from our WASH programme

NRC's operation

We aid, protect and provide durable solutions to displaced Afghans in Iran, where we work to preserve and expand the asylum space and improve their access to basic humanitarian services. We collaborate with our Afghanistan operation to close gaps in the overall regional response.

In the aftermath of the earthquake in the Kermanshah province, we provided emergency relief like shelter and cash assistance to help people survive through extreme weather conditions.

NRC EducationEducation

By law, all Afghan children must have access to school, irrespective of their legal status. However, many socio-economic and cultural barriers remain. Our teams:

  • offer accelerated learning programmes to out-of-school children so that they can join their peers in the formal education system
  • offer literacy and numeracy courses to children and adults
  • offer extracurricular activities, like art classes and game-based education
  • support the formal education system by building and rehabilitating schools and classrooms including water sanitation and health facilities
  • equip classrooms with essential education materials
  • offer certified training for youth in life skills, English, computer technology and photography


NRC Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)

Our ICLA teams support displaced Afghans living in Iran with exercisisng their rights and overcoming obstacles related to legal residency, identity and civil documentation. Our experts:

  • provide information and counselling
  • provide cash assistance as a protection tool to enable greater access to available services
  • inform Afghans who want to return to Afghanistan about how to access identity and civil documentation and available services, so that they can make informed decisions


NRC Livelihoods and food securityLivelihoods and food security

Our livelihoods and food security teams explore ways to improve refugee and displaced families' livelihoods, fostering their social and economic status in Iran. We also provide emergency cash assistance to people affected by natural disasters. Our specialists:

  • distribute cash cards to cover basic household needs
  • offer trainings in nutrition and home economics
  • collaborate with our education teams to offer certified vocational training for young refugees in tailoring, construction, vehicle repair, and office administration
  • run workshops on income generation and distribute toolkits and grants
  • conduct labour market assessments to design new projects and maximise our impact


NRC Shelter and settlementsShelter and settlements

We want displaced Afghans, as well as people affected by natural disasters, to live in safe and suitable conditions. We focus our work to address housing deficiencies. Our shelter teams:

  • enhance earthquake safety standards and preparedness
  • construct and rehabilitate shelters and public infrastructure, including playgrounds, power supply networks, and community centres
  • construct and upgrade houses and latrines,along with our WASH teams
  • distribute household items and prepare people for winter
  • provide training on basic construction practises and energy saving techniques


NRC Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) promotion

It's vital that displaced people have access to potable water and can practise proper sanitation and hygiene routines. Our WASH teams:

  • distribute hygiene kits and provide training on good hygiene practices
  • collaborate with our shelter teams to construct and upgrade latrines and hand-washing facilities in public spaces, as well as in shelters
  • provide semi-public shower-latrine units in remote, deprived areas with high concentrations of people
  • collect and drain standing water in communities to improve sanitation conditions
  • provide and maintain sewage treatment plants
  • improve access to safe and drinkable water for refugee host communities and those affected by natural disasters


NRC Iran is grateful for the generous support from our donors


  • Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs UN refugee agency (UNHCR)
  • German Federal Foreign Office
  • Australian Direct Aid
  • Program Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)
  • European Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
  • SIDA Rapid Response
  • Mechanism (RRM)

About NRC in (country)

International staff
Areas of operation
Tehran (Country office), Kerman, Semnan, Qom, Alborz, Tehran, Razavi Khorasan, Hormozgan, Kermanshah
Budget 2017
USD 5.5 million
National staff


Country Director

Olivier Vandecasteele


+98 21 2614 0941