Ethiopia: Including refugees in a national socioeconomic household survey

Background and context

Ethiopia hosts over 800,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers, making it the third largest refugee-hosting country in Africa[1]. Most refugees are from South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan[2], which have experienced some combination of long-running domestic conflict, border disputes with Ethiopia, recurrent drought, and other climate shocks.

Despite efforts by the government and the international community, refugees face various challenges in terms of accessing services and socioeconomic outcomes and primarily live in camp settings. Refugees may also put pressure on host communities which are poor to begin with. Therefore, a conscious effort and policy interventions are necessary to better integrate refugees in a way that improves the wellbeing of both refugees and host communities.

Ethiopia made significant progress over the past few years in articulating more progressive and comprehensive refugee responses. In February 2019, the Government passed a new Refugee Proclamation creating an enabling legal and protection environment to promote self-reliance for refugees. It is further finalizing a 10-year National Comprehensive Refugee Response Strategy (NCRRS). The proposed refugee household survey is therefore pertinent to systematically collect data that will inform the GoE’s roadmap and programs responding to the development needs of refugees and hosts.

The national household survey of Ethiopia – Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) – currently excludes the majority of displaced populations (Internally Displaced People (IDPs) or refugees) from its sample of households and therefore little information is available on their socioeconomic outcomes and poverty levels compared to Ethiopians. It is therefore proposed to undertake a refugee survey, which will be separate from but partially integrated with the HCES, to improve available information on refugees and their host communities.

Activity description

The activity included under this proposal aims at solving two existing problems: (i) gaps in data on socioeconomic dimensions of refugees and (ii) gaps in analytical studies, presenting socioeconomic outcomes of refugees and hosts in Ethiopia.

The data on refugees and host communities, that will be  collected as part of this pilot (i.e. first three months of the HCES), will provide the necessary data to fill the current analysis gap on profiles, socioeconomic characteristics, and perception of refugees and host communities. Analysis will focus on aspects such as economic activity, livelihoods, consumption patterns, as well as on the social dynamics and longer-term socioeconomic viability of refugee hosting areas. By focusing on the (i) social impact of refugees on host communities, (ii) socioeconomic interaction, (iii) social inclusion, and (iv) social relations among refugees and between refugees and host communities, this work aims at providing useful information to policymakers and operational teams (humanitarian actors, development partners, and government alike) to inform policies aimed at facilitating refugees’ integration and improving the lives of refugees and refugee hosting communities.

Due to an ongoing conflict in the regional state of Tigray, the regional state in which roughly 60 percent of sampled refugee households are located, necessitates the postponement of the survey start date (originally planned for March 2021). Moreover, CSA will include a break in data collection for all ongoing data collection efforts during the period of national elections (planned for the beginning of June). The SESRE data collection will therefore start after the national elections with a tentative start date of July 2021.

Overall objectives

The study has two main objectives:

  1. The refugee survey will serve as a pilot and learning experience to include refugees as part of future rounds of the official national household survey (HCES). The Central Statistics Agency (CSA) is keen to pursue this goal. During the preparation stage, CSA staff will develop capacity on conducting refugee surveys by not only working closely with experienced World Bank staff. The refugee survey will provide CSA with practical experience of collecting data from refugees as well as knowledge on how to define a refugee stratum and draw an appropriate sample for refugees living within camps and among host communities.
  2. The study will help bridge the acute data gap that exists around refugees and their interactions with host communities. The team will prepare an analytical report that will not only provide a socioeconomic profile of major refugee groups but also document their social relationship with their host communities among other things. This will provide useful information to inform policies, operations and programs aimed at facilitating refugees’ integration and improving the wellbeing of refugees and host communities.

These objectives are timely given the current policy environment for refugees in Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) has shifted from its encampment policy toward its commitment to gradual socioeconomic integration of refugees. The new legislation creates an enabling legal and protection environment to promote self-reliance for refugees, including freedom of movement, rights to work, and access to basic services such as education and health. To further promote a whole-of-government approach to implement the Proclamation, the GoE is finalizing a 10-year National Comprehensive Refugee Response Strategy (NCRRS). Ongoing policy dialogue with the GoE, particularly with the Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), is on devising a clear roadmap to roll out freedom of movement and socioeconomic integration. The roadmap will require a solid understanding of refugees’ aspirations and motivation toward socioeconomic integration and other relevant data to inform their decisions. On this basis, the proposed refugee household survey is pertinent to inform this process and provide a crucial data and evidence base for programs of other humanitarian and development partners.

Engagement with partners

The World Bank team leading this activity will work closely with the Government of Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and Central Statistics Agency (CSA) throughout the process. UNHCR will also be a critical partner for the implementation of the survey. Survey results will inform World Bank supported operations and, in this regard, close collaboration with the FCV team is being pursued. Moreover, the work will serve as a crucial data and evidence base for programs of other humanitarian and development partners. To enable this, engagement with partners and effective dissemination strategies are foreseen.


For further details on this activity, please contact:



[1] UNHCR 2020, UNHCR Ethiopia Fact Sheet, UNHCR, viewed 25 March 2021 .

[2] There are four main groups of refugees, each of whom are residing in the border regions of Ethiopia, mostly in camp settings: 360,000 South Sudanese refugees in the poor Gambella region to the southwest of Ethiopia; 201,000 Somali refugees in the Somali region of Ethiopia in the East; 180,000 Eritrean refugees are in the ethnically homogeneous Afar and Tigray regions along the northern border of the country; and 44,000 Sudanese refugees are in the multi-ethnic Beneshangul-Gumuz region in the west of Ethiopia. In addition to the Eritrean refugees settled in Afar and Tigray, some Eritrean refugees are also settled in Addis Ababa.


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