Iraqi refugee Moheyman works as a nurse on the frontline of the coronavirus emergency in Iran | Photo: UNHCR/Hassam Dezfouli
Iraqi refugee Moheyman works as a nurse on the frontline of the coronavirus emergency in Iran | Photo: UNHCR/Hassam Dezfouli

In Iran, refugee Moheyman Alkhatavi, 24, is working relentlessly to assist Iranians and fellow refugees in the current coronavirus emergency. Iran has been one of the countries worst-hit by COVID-19.

An Iraqi refugee who earned a nursing degree thanks to an UNHCR scholarship is working tirelessly to assist Iranian and refugee patients in the current COVID-19 crisis, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement published Tuesday, on World Health Day.

One the tasks Moheyman Alkhatavi, 24, is in charge of is administering coronavirus tests: He collects cell samples with a long cotton swab from the noses or mouths of patients. "When I administer the COVID-19 test, I pray and hope that it will come back negative," Alkhatavi told the UNHCR at the start of a 12-hour night shift. "The hardest part of my work is to inform families that their loved ones may not make it to the end of the week."

One of nearly a million refugees

Moheyman is an Iraqi refugee who works as a nurse at the in-patient ward of the Taleghani Hospital in Abadan, a city in Khuzestan, Iran's most south-westerly province, according to UNHCR. He is reportedly part of a team of nurses working tirelessly on rotation. They monitor new patients admitted to the hospital's quarantine unit while they await their test results.

"We are all scared, but I choose to still hope. Every day I start my shift hoping that all the required personal protective equipment will be available, but I put my patients first," Moheyman told UNHCR. "We had two patients who tested positive but recovered. This is a small ray of light in an otherwise very stressful time."

The nurse is one of nearly one million refugees in Iran, who hail mostly from Afghanistan as well as from Iraq, according to UNHCR.

'I wanted to make a difference'

Moheyman was born in Ahwaz, Iran, after his father fled the city of Ammareh in the south-eastern Maysan province of Iraq some forty years ago, due to insecurity, according to reporting from the UN refugee agency. After finishing high school, he was able to pursue a university degree in nursing through UNHCR's DAFI scholarship scheme.

"I remember people telling me that, because I was a refugee, I shouldn't dream to go to university and instead focus on learning an easier trade," he told UNHCR. "But I wanted to make a difference in people's lives." Moheyman said he feels proud to be able to help both people in the host community and his fellow refugees during the public health emergency in Iran.