U.S. Sanctions Hinder Relief Efforts To Iranian Floods

Devastating floods have been on-going in Iran since mid-March, which have already claimed the lives of 70 people by the 10th of April, and injured another 1,076. 24 out of Iran’s 31 provinces have been affected, suffering significant damage to roads and infrastructure, including water services and agricultural lands. Rains had initially flooded the Golestan Province in the north-east of the country, and subsequently spread north and east. Fresh downpours in April in the southwest province of Khuzestan caused further devastation, with tens of thousands displaced, and thousands of houses destroyed.

The province has now been declared in a state of emergency. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage is thought to have been suffered. Extensive rescue operations are being undertaken by the International Federation of Red Cross and the Iranian Red Crescent to evacuate those in villages thought to be most at risk. 500,000 people reported to have been displaced from their homes, while up to 2 million are in need of assistance.

CNN reports, “Red Crescent volunteers and staff have evacuated hundreds of people to safety, and have distributed food and items such as tents, blankets and health kits to tens of thousands of people,” stated the organization’s Middle East and North Africa regional director of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Sayed Hashem. The Middle East Eye quoted further comments by Hashem, which he made to the NYT, “Iran is under water… The scale of this crisis means that more help is needed.”

Indeed, the Red Crescent divulged in a statement, “No foreign cash help has been given to the Iranian Red Crescent society. With attention to the inhuman American sanctions, there is no way to send this cash assistance.”

More cash aid has been prevented from arriving however, by the harsh U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration. International donors have attempted to help by sending physical supplies. The German Red Cross sent 40 inflatable boats and rescue equipment, while Kuwait supplied emergency food, medicine and water pumps, as reported by the Middle East Eye. Other contributors include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, and Norway. The U.N. has announced the opening of a special financial channel to help donations reach the bank accounts of the Iranian Red Crescent and by-pass U.S. sanctions.

However, alongside the sanctions, a lack of preparedness by the Iranian regime has stalled relief efforts. No national insurance fund currently exists, which stops those affected being able to mitigate the damage caused. A similar situation had been highlighted by the 2017 earthquake, when calls had been made to establish an emergency fund for relief. The Governor for Golestan Province had been fired for failing to return from holiday to help coordinate relief efforts. Reuters reports that Iranian infrastructure has resulted in the aftereffects of floods to be worse than it could be, with a lack of maintenance of flood relief channels.

Al Jazeera reported comments made by Gholamreza Soleimani, head of Central Insurance of Iran, who stated, “I call on all relating entities to regard the bill to establish a natural disasters insurance fund much more seriously as it can be very consequential.” The U.S. should relax sanctions on Iran and allow financial aid to help those affected by the natural disaster, as it is not only those in power who are at risk, but also the average citizen. Similarly, Iran must work to better administer water infrastructure in the country to prevent the impact of these natural disasters from spiralling out of control.

George Gale