Bursting with Refugees

The Islamic Republic of Iran, a lower-middle-income country, is hosting one of the largest and most protracted refugee populations in the world. Iran has hosted at least 1 million refugees – mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan – for the past 40 years, straining the country’s food and social systems.

Most refugees across Iran live in urban areas, with roughly 4 percent of the most vulnerable living in 20 settlements across the country.


refugees live in settlements, the rest in urban areas


displaced people of different statuses need our help


total population

displaced & hungry

The massive displaced and refugee population in Iran strains the countries resources. And limited job opportunities, no access to farming land and a ban on keeping livestock mean that refugees living in settlements are unable to fully meet their food needs. Poorly diversified diets and harmful practices – such as skipping meals or eating cheap, unhealthy foods or too much sugar – often lead to chronic health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

WFP’s Work in Iran

WFP has been providing food assistance to refugees in Iran since 1987. And since 2018, we’ve started helping displaced families with cash assistance. Although we mainly focus on helping refugees, we also have the operational capacity to support the Government in emergency response.


Through a combination of cash and in-kind assistance, we covers80 percent of the daily food needs for food-insecure, male-headed households and 100 percent for female-headed households, through ATM debit cards. The cash component gives refugees both purchasing power and freedom of choice in buying food. This in turn boosts the economy of settlements, as the majority of the shops where people buy their food are also run by refugees. The cash is supplemented by wheat flour/bread distributions, ensuring refugees have access to this staple diet at all times.

School Meals

Iran’s nutritious school snacks programme consists of daily milk, biscuits and date bars, targeting 8,000 refugee girls and boys and 600 teachers at primary and secondary schools throughout the nine months of each school year. The program not only helps the education and nutrition of children but also boosts families’ finances, freeing up money to be spent on other needs.


And WFP supports a variety of livelihood and income generating activities for refugees. Tailoring workshops, greenhouses, welding workshops, bakeries and fish farming are among the livelihood opportunities WFP has made available to refugee women and men.