Millions of lives are at risk in Iran because western economic sanctions are hitting the importing of medicines and hospital equipment, the country's top medical charity has warned, the Guardian reported.
Fatemeh Hashemi, head of the Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, a non-government organisation supporting six million patients in Iran, has complained about a serious shortage of medicines for a number of diseases such as haemophilia, multiple sclerosis and cancer.
Sanctions over Tehran's nuclear programme are not directly targeting hospitals but measures imposed on banks and trade restrictions have made life difficult for patients, according to Hashemi, the daughter of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
"More than anything else, we have a lack of medicines for patients suffering from cancer and multiple sclerosis," Hashemi told the Tabnak news website.
"Those with thalassaemia or in need of dialysis are facing difficulties too - all because of sanctions against banks or problems with transferring foreign currency."
Iran's central bank, the only official channel for Iranians to transfer money abroad, is a major target of the sanctions. Ordinary Iranians, including academics thereforehave no way of paying for services overseas, such as booking a hotel or subscribing to international journals.
Although foreign providers are not legally bound to refuse services to Iranians, they err on the safe side for fear of getting into trouble.
Many Iranian Britons or Iranian Americans living in the west have complained they have had their credit accounts closed even though they have no connection with the Iranian regime or, in some cases, when they are allied with the opposition.
In midsummer, Hashemi wrote to United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon calling on him to intervene for the health of Iranian patients who, she said, have had "their basic human right" taken away from them because of sanctions.
Earlier this month, it emerged Ban had warned the UN in a report that humanitarian operations in Iran were being harmed because of sanctions.
"The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine," he said.
"The sanctions also appear to be affecting humanitarian operations in the country," he wrote. "Even companies that have obtained the requisite licence to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions."
Western sanctions targeting sectors from banking to trade and energy are aimed at forcing Iran's leaders to comply with their international obligations on nuclear activities.
Iran on its part denies all accusations, claiming its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes and medical research.
Edited by: S. Isayev