0548 GMT February 23, 2020
An estimated two million people need humanitarian assistance as a result of massive floods that have swept across Iran, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Monday.
The Geneva-based organization said it had launched an international emergency appeal seeking 5.1 million Swiss francs ($5.1 million) to expand support by Iran’s Red Crescent to an additional 30,000 families – equivalent to about 150,000 people.
The IFRC-supported part of the operation will focus on providing unconditional cash grants to each of these families.
Sayed Hashem, the IFRC’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, who is in Iran to support local response efforts, called for urgent international support.
“The needs caused by this disaster are very real, and the response of the Red Crescent and other local actors has been remarkable. But this emergency is so severe that international support is absolutely needed. We urge our partners around the world to support our appeal,” Hashem said according to the IFRC’ website
“For the Red Crescent, this is one of the largest humanitarian relief efforts in our history. We are making every single resource we have available to save and support people. But it is not enough,” Zahra Falahat, the Iranian Red Crescent’s Deputy Director for International Affairs said.
Iran has received aid from neighboring countries and further afield, with France on Saturday donating 210 tents and 114 pumps.
Fund for flood aftermath
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei approved drawing up to $2 billion from the country’s sovereign wealth fund for relief and reconstruction after the devastating floods.
“Using the National Development Fund is authorized if no other sources are available,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in a letter to President Hassan Rouhani read out on Monday on national television.
However, he urged the government to explore other budgetary measures to finance the relief efforts before tapping the national fund.
The fund, established in 2000, collects some of the country’s foreign revenue and uses it for emergency needs.
The Leader’s letter did give an amount but Morteza Shahidzadeh, the head of the sovereign wealth fund, said earlier that Rouhani had asked to withdraw $2 billion and the Leader had in principle agreed.
On Sunday, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said heavy rain across the country since March 19 had caused 350 trillion rials ($8.3 billion at the official rate set by the government) in damage to roads, bridges, homes and farmland.
"Twenty-five provinces and more than 4,400 villages across the country were affected by the floods," Fazli told Parliament.
Transport Minister Mohammad Eslami told lawmakers "725 bridges have been totally destroyed."
"More than 14,000km of roads have been damaged," he said
Iran’s worst floods in 70 years had killed at least 76 people and forced more than 220,000 into emergency shelters, officials said.
Officials have again issued flood warnings for the east of Iran with heavy rains that began on Saturday forecasted to continue.
Reuters, AFP and AP contributed to this report.