What makes the IRCS one of the strongest humanitarian societies in the international community?
IRCS is one of the largest organizations in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The background of IRCS goes back to more than 94 years in Iran, although the role of the organization has changed over the last nine decades. Before the Islamic Revolution, the role of IRCS was to assist the Iranian society with medical treatment and services. After 1979, we needed to define new responsibilities, such as the disaster response and other emergency situations. Iran is located in a part of the world that is prone to natural disasters. Therefore, the role of IRCS is to respond as a leading agency to all kinds of disasters that take place in the country and also at the international level. Moreover, IRCS has one of the largest numbers of volunteers among global humanitarian national societies. We thank the 2 million volunteers who have helped us provide services to more than 700,000 people over the last three years. At the international level, on many occasions we are present or consulted by international organizations and also act as a key to society in the regional context.
What has been your contribution to the health system in Iran?
In order to respond to natural disasters, we needed to strengthen ourselves in human resources and logistics issues. This brings me to one of the other missions of IRCS, which is producing medicine and medical equipment. We provide health services both at the national and international levels. Domestically, we are mainly focused on providing rehabilitation services to the people in need with high quality and low prices. Now we are ready to render around 60% of the hemodialysis services in the country. IRCS needs to be presented in the areas where the most vulnerable people are and where the government and the private sectors are not present. Both in the production and distribution of medicines and medical equipment, we need to fill the gaps and shortages in order to be an independent and self-sufficient organization.
How do you assess the country's potential to become a health tourism hub in the region?
Because of the competent human resources available in Iran, we could be one of the main hubs for medical tourism in the world, providing services to international patients. Both the quality of the services provided and the low fees are the two main areas where we have competencies. Obviously, we can assist the country in this area with our capabilities and international relations. Over the next five years you will hear good news about our medical tourism services. At the same time, wherever we have a physical presence with medical centers, we aim to improve the development of the health system of those countries, especially in Asia and Africa. Moreover, these centers could serve as liaison offices for those patients who would like to be treated in Iran.
What are your expectations for the year ahead?
The main objective is to provide training and education in emergency situations and on people's lifestyles. In order to respond to disasters, public education is one of the key areas to save lives, also in prevention and reduction of risks. We are developing a 10-year strategic plan to become a modern learning organization focusing on the resiliency and the advocacy of Iranian society. One of the biggest killers in Iran is road accidents; therefore, we provide lifestyle education to people and increase our role in the health sector. At the same time, being an international organization we have great relations with our international counterparts and are a member of the Governing Board of the IFRC, and are ready to take more responsibility in this international organization.