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 2018.

Humanitarian overview

For the past 40 years, Iran has hosted one of the world’s largest displaced populations. Nearly one million Afghans are holders of renewable registration (Amayesh) cards, 450,000 are valid visa holders and between 1.5 and 2 million are undocumented. Recent progressive policies by Iran include granting access to universal public health insurance to Amayesh card holders and extending access to public schools to undocumented Afghan children.

Iran’s support for Afghan refugees far exceeds that of many aid organisations, yet Afghans face challenges finding and retaining a reliable income. This affects their ability to maintain safe accommodation, keep children in school, and potentially meet the costs of renewing civil documentation. Undocumented, vulnerable families may be at risk of deportation to Afghanistan, where conditions remain non-conducive for return. The re-imposition of US sanctions in 2018 has placed Iran’s economy under pressure, further increasing the challenges faced by Afghan communities.

Iran is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, including the widespread floods which affected 25 out of 31 provinces in March/April 2019.

People we helped in Iran in 2018

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

NRC Iran assists displaced Afghans in Iran as well as assisting their host communities. We work to improve access to basic humanitarian services across nine provinces. To ensure an overall regional response, we work closely with NRC operations in Afghanistan.

We have also provided emergency relief including shelter, sanitation and hygiene units to those affected by Kermanshah’s 2017 earthquake. Since April 2019, we have expanded our operations to include an additional province, Lorestan, providing assistance to those affected by the recent widespread floods.


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
  • 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 including school equipment and stationery
  • certified soft skills training for youth

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

Our ICLA team supports 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 and legal stay in Iran
  • unconditional cash assistance as a protection tool for obtaining individual rights and overcoming the obstacles that prevent the most vulnerable displaced Afghans from accessing legal residence, identity and civil documentation, as well as essential services
  • 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 explores 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 household needs
  • provide business grants and/or toolkits for eligible small business owners to initiate and/or expand their activities
  • collaborate with our education team to offer certified vocational and transferrable skills training including tailoring, construction, welding, electricity, hairdressing, plumbing and computer use
  • establish income generating workshops
  • 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.
  • supports the construction and rehabilitation of schools to provide safe educational spaces
  • constructs community centres designed to serve as hubs to deliver services to Afghan and host communities
  • provides training about basic construction practices and energy-saving techniques
  • supports our emergency response team in the case of an emergency notably through the provision of non-food items

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, including the recent floods in March/April 2019, by distributing hygiene kits as well as dignity kits for women and girls
NRC Iran is grateful for the generous support from our donors
  • Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA)
  • German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO)
  • Australian Direct Aid Program (DAP)
  • 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 Iran

International staff
Areas of operation
Tehran (Country Office), Kerman, Semnan, Qom, Alborz, Razavi Khorasan, Hormozgan, Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan, Lorestan.
Budget 2019
USD 8.1 million
National staff


Country Director

Nusret Osmanspahic


+98-21-86088356 / +98-21-88066173