Afghanistan + 10 more

UNHCR Asia and the Pacific COVID-19 External Update (13 May 2021)


Highlights by country

South-West Asia


  • As of 22 April, more than 240,000 persons have been vaccinated, including 89,000 health workers, 38,000 teachers, 13,000 persons with comorbidities and 13,000 prisoners. The UN and INGO have received 5,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

  • The Afghan border remained open and enabled the implementation of activities under the Voluntary Repatriation programme. There were no reported incidents related to access to territory attributed to COVID-19. As of 28 April, 754 Afghan refugees returned through the Voluntary Repatriation programme from Iran (522), Pakistan (220), India (11), and Kazakhstan (1). The figure is higher than that in 2020, when only 302 Afghan refugees returned during the same period.

  • Regular population movements across borders continued through the Torkham and Spin Boldak crossing points, despite the requirement to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test to cross the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan through Torkham. The requirement to present a negative PCR test is not applicable for those crossing through Spin Boldak, Islam Qala and Zaranj border crossing points.

Islamic Republic of Iran

  • The Government re-confirmed its commitment to include foreigners including refugees and undocumented Afghans in the national COVID-19 vaccination drive and response. According to the Ministry of Health, some 80 foreign individuals (Afghans and Iraqis) with certain medical conditions have received their first dose of the vaccine.

  • On 29 April, Iran closed its borders with Afghanistan over fears of the spread of COVID-19 variants. Foreign nationals are also barred from entering Iran via its Sistan and Baluchistan border crossing.  

  • Considering the current limitations to use cash for transferring money due to the pandemic, the Central Bank of Iran announced that debit cards can be issued for foreign nationals, including refugees (Amayesh cardholders).


  • The Government approved the inclusion of foreigners including Afghan refugees in its vaccination programme. Afghan refugees with Proof of Registration (PoR) cards have begun to register for the vaccines, and some of them have received the shots since 4 May.

  • UNHCR in Pakistan received USD 1.2 million from Australia for the COVID-19 emergency response which will be channelled towards WASH programmes including in school settings.