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Limited Foreign Assistance Reaching Iran More Than Two Weeks After Floods Began

IRAN -- A man watches as floodwaters hit the city of Khorramabad in the western province of Lorestan, April 1, 2019
IRAN -- A man watches as floodwaters hit the city of Khorramabad in the western province of Lorestan, April 1, 2019

After Iranian authorities were caught by surprise by unprecedented floods and reacted slowly to the disaster, foreign countries and international organizations also initially paid little attention to the humanitarian situation.

Foreign relief is now trickling into Iran in limited fashion. In a statement on April 5, the French Foreign Ministry said Paris would airlift 12 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including 114 water draining pumps, 300 packages of kitchen equipment, and 5,000 blankets, to flood-hit regions in Iran.

The first consignments of French aid are expected to reach Iran in the next few days, the statement noted, adding that Iranian authorities had requested the assistance.

This marks the first time Tehran has openly called for foreign assistance in tackling the consequences of a natural disaster.

During previous natural catastrophes in Iran, all foreign relief aid was voluntarily donated.

On December 26, 2003, when a 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit the city of Bam in Kerman Province, southern Iran, the United States was at the spearhead of countries rushing to send aid to the quake-stricken areas. Dozens of other governments followed suit.

Iran's president at the time, Mohammad Khatami, thanked the United States for the aid but played down talk that Washington’s contribution would thaw frosty relations.

Nevertheless, Washington, showing a much cooler attitude this time, has now decided to assist flood-hit Iranians through the International Red Cross.

Unprecedented heavy rains since March 19 have flooded nearly 2,000 cities and villages, killing 70 people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to Iranian agriculture, and perhaps more to infrastructure and industry, leaving aid agencies struggling to cope.

In the meantime, the number of foreign countries volunteering for assisting flood-hit people in Iran has been limited so far.

Besides Turkey, which declared its readiness to send relief aid to Iran, Kuwait’s ruler Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Sabah has called on his Foreign Ministry and the Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society to organize assistance to be sent as soon as possible.

Kuwait’s first humanitarian aid package arrived at Imam Khomeini International Airport near Tehran late on April 5, Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reported.

The package includes strong water drainage pumps, pharmaceuticals, foodstuff, and other items.

German Ambassador to Iran Michael Klor-Berchtold wrote on Twitter on April 4 that a charter plane with German humanitarian assistance for flood victims has landed in Tehran.

Earlier in the week, he had expressed sympathy with those affected by the floods, saying the German Red Cross would provide humanitarian assistance, including boats and safety equipment, to victims.

The local office of UNICEF also tweeted that it was providing assistance in coordination with the Iranian government. UNICEF and other UN agencies are reportedly assessing what the needs are in terms of health, education, water, and sanitation in affected areas.

The Swiss government is reportedly also sending water purifiers.

The European Commission announced an initial amount of 1.2 million euros in response to the recent floods in Iran. Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “We stand in full solidarity with the Iranian people at this difficult time. Our thoughts are with the thousands of families affected by the deadly floods as well as with the brave responders on the ground. The EU will help deliver essential support in the impacted areas.”

According to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)-run news agency, Tasnim, the new funding will support humanitarian partners, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in delivering relief assistance, which will allow those most affected to cover their urgent needs.

Russia and China, considered allies by Tehran, have so far preferred only to relay messages of condolences regarding the floods.

Record spring rainfall in Iran over the past two weeks caused severe flooding in many areas, mainly the provinces of Golestan, Lorestan, Khuzestan, Fars, and Ilam, forcing thousands to leave their homes. The death toll in the disaster has reached 67.