Read caption Photo: Marjan Jesmi/NRC

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 almost 4 decades, Iran has hosted one of the world’s largest displaced populations, including around 3.6 million Afghans and 28,000 Iraqis.

Just under half the Afghan population in Iran is documented, holding either renewable registration cards or valid visas. Rising annual renewal fees are costly, notably for larger families. Undocumented and newly arrived Afghans face issues accessing basic services and are at risk of deportation.

Recent progressive policies by the Iranian government include granting documented Afghans access to universal public health insurance. By opening public schools to all Afghan children, undocumented families with children attending public schools are no longer subject to deportation. While Iran’s support for Afghan refugees exceeds that of many aid organisations, Afghans’ ability to secure reliable and regular income remains a challenge.

Iran is disaster-prone, struck by frequent earthquakes and floods. In 2017, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake occurred in Kermanshah Province in western Iran, leaving 270,000 people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

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 work to improve the access of displaced Afghans in Iran to basic humanitarian services. We deliver services in 9 provinces across the country and work closely with our operations in Afghanistan to ensure an overall regional response. Through our support to UNHCR’s Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR) we advocate for improved coordination in response to Afghans’ needs.

Since November 2017, we have also been providing emergency relief including shelter and sanitation and hygiene units to those affected by Kermanshah’s earthquake.


NRC EducationEducation

In 2015, the Supreme Leader issued a decree through which all Afghan children are given access to education irrespective of their legal status.  However, socio-economic and cultural barriers to the implementation of this decree remain. Our team offers:

  • literacy and numeracy courses through Accelerated Education Programmes for out-of-school children to help them bridge the gap and enter school at the appropriate level;
  • extracurricular activities, like art therapy and game-based education
  • life skill courses for school students and out-of-school children
  • life skills and positive parenting courses for parents
  • support to the formal education system by building and rehabilitating schools and classrooms, including Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities, and providing essential education materials
  • certified soft skills training for youth

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

Our ICLA team support Iran’s displaced Afghan population in exercising their rights and making informed decisions. Our experts provide:

  • information and counselling to improve access to essential services;
  • unconditional cash assistance as a protection tool, to enable greater access to available services including education and civil documentation;
  • reliable information to Afghans considering a return to Afghanistan, on how to access identity and civil documentation and available services upon return, so that they can make informed decisions.

NRC Livelihoods and food securityLivelihoods and food security

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

  • distribute multi-purpose cash through bank cards to cover basic needs
  • offer trainings in nutrition and home economics to enhance and encourage optimised consumption choices
  • collaborate with our education team to offer certified vocational and transferrable skills training including photography, tailoring, construction, welding, electricity, welding and computer use
  • establish income generating workshops and distribute toolkits
  • conduct labour market assessments to design new projects and maximise their impact

NRC Shelter and settlementsShelter and settlements

Our shelter team works towards providing displaced Afghans and those affected by emergencies with safe and suitable living conditions and addresses housing deficiencies in settlements, urban, peri-urban and rural areas. Our team:

  • constructs/rehabilitates shelters and public infrastructure, including playgrounds, power supply networks, sport courts etc.
  • constructs and rehabilitates schools and related water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure to provide safe educational space
  • constructs community centres designed to serve as hubs to deliver community services
  • builds and upgrades latrines and showers, together with our WASH team
  • distributes household items and winterisation kits
  • provides training about basic construction practices and energy-saving techniques
  • supports our emergency response team in the case of an emergency

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

It is crucial that displaced Afghans in Iran as well as those affected by emergencies have access to potable water and adequate sanitation facilities. To ensure this, our WASH team:

  • collaborates with our shelter team to construct and upgrade latrines, showers and handwashing facilities in public spaces such as settlements and schools, as well as in refugees’ shelters; 
  • provides and maintains sewage treatment plants (STPs);
  • offers Hygiene Promotion Training, for students and adults;
  • distributes hygiene kits to students and households, to reinforce training and ensure behaviour change;
  • improves access to safe and drinkable water for refugees through provision of water purifiers or water trucking;
  • provides WASH infrastructure including aerial water reservoirs and surface-water collection systems;
  • supports our Emergency Response team in the case of an emergency.
NRC Iran is grateful for the generous support from our donors
  • Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA)
  • German Federal Foreign Office (FFO)
  • 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)
  • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
  • Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)

About NRC in (country)

International staff
Areas of operation
Tehran (Country Office), Kerman, Semnan, Qom, Alborz, Tehran, Razavi Khorasan, Hormozgan, Kermanshah, and Sistan and Baluchistan
Budget 2018
USD 9 million
National staff


Country Director

Olivier Vandecasteele


+98 21 8806 6173