Iran has a long record of hosting Iraqi refugees, and currently shelters more than 202,000 Iraqis – half the world’s recognised Iraqi refugee population. The UNHCR plans to support the Iranian government and the Iranian Red Crescent. As part of its regional planning effort, the refugee agency is currently shipping relief items to Ahwaz. It says that with other stockpiles in Aqaba, Jordan and Iskenderun in Turkey, the UNHCR now has sufficient stocks for some 200,000 people, and expects to have supplies for more than 300,000 pre-positioned by the end of March.

The International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, together with the national Red Crescent societies in the region, already have stockpiles for 300,000 in the six neighbouring countries, the UNHCR says.

The UNHCR is appealing for more contributions from donor countries. Its contingency plan for up to 600,000 refugees costs $60 million, but it has only received $16.6 million. Iranian President Khatami told Lubbers in a meeting in Tehran on 5 March that it would need support to help pay for the cost of accommodating a new wave of Iraqi refugees. Lubbers returned to Geneva on 7 March following a 10-day tour of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.