© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
Public Files Contact · ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Iran Needs Help To Fight Coronavirus, But Delivering Aid Is A Challenge

In Tehran a member of the Revolutionary Guard disinfects a car on Wednesday, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Ebrahim Noroozi
In Tehran a member of the Revolutionary Guard disinfects a car on Wednesday, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Iran is dealing with one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus in the world, with a death toll surpassing 2,200 people. But getting help into the country is hindered both by a truculent Iranian leadership and strong U.S. sanctions.

On Sunday and Monday, two cargo planes chartered by Doctors Without Borders landed in Iran. On board was an emergency medical team, along with material to build a 50-bed inflatable treatment unit destined for Isfahan, the country's third-largest city. The international aid group, known by its French acronym MSF, had all the necessary documentation and says its team was initially welcomed by Iranian officials to help with the growing crisis.

On Tuesday, Iran's Ministry of Healthrevoked its approval, saying Isfahan did not need additional help. Michel Olivier Lacharité, who heads MSF's emergency response desk, says the aid organization was "very surprised" by the decision.

MSF is in talks with Iran's Ministry of Health about where additional beds could be used.

Lacharité says this is an emergency and MSF can't afford to wait weeks for an answer. "If there is no need, we are ready to go and to support any neighboring country or other location," he tells NPR.

There's little doubt that Iran needs help to combat the coronavirus crisis. Its health care system — and its economy — have been devastated by U.S. sanctions over the past two years. The country needs money for medicines, ventilators and food.

Even so, the Trump administration continues to add more sanctions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Iran still finds money for military purposes and there are exemptions to the sanctions for medicine and humanitarian aid.

The administration has offered aid to Iran to battle the coronavirus — "We want that humanitarian, medical health-care assistance to get to the people of Iran," Pompeo said last week — but has been turned down.

Mara Karlin, a former Pentagon official now at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, says despite Pompeo's assurances about humanitarian exemptions from sanctions, many countries — and businesses — are wary of helping Iran. They fear they could also face sanctions by the Trump administration and be cut off from the U.S. financial system.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.