Former Iranian Welfare Official Warns Of Looming 'Catastrophe' Over Malnutrition

A former official from Iran's Ministry of Social Welfare has issued a stark warning about a looming "humanitarian catastrophe" after fresh data showed more than half of all Iranians are suffering from malnutrition.

Hadi Mousavi Nik, the former director-general of the Social Welfare Studies Department at the ministry, said that 57 percent of Iran's population is malnourished and does not receive at least 2,100 calories per day, the amount set by the World Bank as the minimum daily requirement for refugees in camps.

Among the malnourished population, 14.5 million are children, including 10 million under the age of 12, she said, far above previous official estimates that said the figure for children was less than 1 million.

Iran's economy has been wracked by Western sanctions over its human rights record and nuclear program, along with a lack of rainfall that has hit the agriculture sector hard.

That combination of factors has driven up prices, especially on protein-rich foods such as red meat.

A report from the Labor Ministry indicated a significant increase in Iran's poverty rate to around 50 percent in 2021 compared with the previous year.

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into the demonstrations, which officials across the country have tried to quell with harsh measures.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda