Integrating forcibly displaced populations into COVID-19 High Frequency Phone Surveys


Background and context

The COVID-19 pandemic has torn through lives and livelihoods across the globe with alarming pace and impartiality. There is reason to believe that the most vulnerable populations may be the most affected, but without sufficient data it is difficult to understand the gravity of the challenge or design countermeasures to alleviate suffering. In particular, the lower livelihoods and often crowded and poor living conditions of populations affected by forced displacement likely makes them more susceptible to both the health and economic effects of the pandemic. Indeed, at a recent high-level workshop on data anonymization and de-identification hosted by the JDC, UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi noted the imperative to “make the case of the economic effects of COVID-19 and how it is affecting refugees,” asserting that “COVID-19 made our open data agenda even more urgent,” and asked the JDC to support that effort.
The timely data and evidence will be critical to help monitor and mitigate the social and economic effects of the crisis on these specific vulnerable groups and support the inclusion of Forcibly Displaced Populations (FDPs) in national COVID-19 responses.

Activity description

The World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice and Development Economics Data Group have jointly engaged in fielding high frequency phone surveys (HFPS) in some 100 countries worldwide[1] to understand welfare needs and changes in socioeconomic outlooks during the pandemic. The JDC will support booster samples in 5-7 countries to include representative samples of forcibly displaced populations to complement the sample of nationals (hosts) in the HFPS. The JDC conducted an assessment of opportunities to support data collection exercises that are meaningful for JDC’s stakeholders and are technically and politically feasible. To date, the six selected countries are Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Jordan, Iraq and Burkina Faso.

The activities planned (data collection and analysis) will help answer questions on the changes in welfare, vulnerabilities and prospects during the COVID-19 pandemic of the forcibly displaced. The funding will also facilitate further analytical work for each country and a cross-country analysis of the experience of displaced populations and their hosts in the selected countries. Specific elements of the data collection including sample size, questionnaire design, and implementation arrangements for the countries anticipated to be included are found in the country Annexes below. There may be changes to the countries and their details as some countries may be added later, and others may drop out if execution of these plans becomes infeasible or the resulting data would be of low quality.

Overall objectives

In the absence of data on the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on FDPs, the JDC will support extensions of planned and existing high frequency phone-based COVID-19 surveys to include FDPs in these activities. This data will inform the policy dialogue for country and global-level planning to identify, raise awareness of, and counter negative socioeconomic outcomes of COVID-19 on FDPs.

Engagement with partners

UNHCR is a crucial partner and the team will work to bridge relations between the World Bank (WB) and UNHCR both at the global and country levels. In all cases, UNHCR country and extended teams will be consulted to inform them of the data collection schedule and content and will be invited to suggest a small set of items that could be added to the questionnaire which would be particularly relevant to their operations. In some countries, the team will engage with UNHCR for support in developing the sampling strategy and sampling frames, seeking comments on intermediate and final deliverables, and defining possible joint data collection and analysis where opportune. Engagement with other partners may follow a similar pattern.


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The COVID-19 pandemic and its negative economic effects create a need for timely data and evidence to help monitor and mitigate the social and economic impacts of the crisis and protect the welfare of the least well-off in Ethiopia’s society. To monitor the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ethiopia’s economy and people, the WB Ethiopia team, in collaboration with the government, designed and implemented a HFPS to monitor the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on households’ welfare in Ethiopia. The HFPS-HH data collection started at the end of April 2020 and households are called back every three to four weeks for a total of seven survey rounds to track the impact of the pandemic as it unfolds and inform government action. With the support of the JDC, the team will include a survey stratum of refugees in two rounds of the survey in late Fall of 2020. Data collection for the refugee stratum will take place simultaneously to rounds 6 and 7 of the national survey. The sample for the refugee stratum will be drawn in collaboration with UNHCR based on UNHCR’s proGRES database. The simple random sample will include refugees with access to a phone for those camps (or countries of origin) with a relatively high phone penetration rate. The sample size for the full sample of the HFPS-HH is around 3,300 households and the sample size for the refugee sample will be around 1,650-2,000 households. This activity complements an existing JDC-funded activity of refugee data collection between the WB and UNHCR, the Ethiopia Socio-Economic Study of Refugees. The Ethiopia Socio-Economic Study of Refugees integrates data collection of a refugee stratum as part of the national household survey on a pilot basis. Moreover, data collected under the refugee sample of the HFPS can inform the pilot of integrating refugees under the safety net activities of the Urban Productive Safety Net and Jobs Project (UPSNJP), financed by the World Bank.


The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have significant short- and long-term impacts on Chadian households’ welfare. Most of these impacts are related to both the direct health effect and the containment measures that systematically altered socio-economic activities, resulting in a reduction of income across the board. The World Bank and the National Institute of Statistics, Economic and Demographic Studies (INSEED) partnered to implement a HFPS to monitor the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on households, leveraging the available household phone numbers from the 2018/19 Enquete sur les conditions de vie des ménages et le secteur informel (ECOSIT 4). Working INSEED, UNHCR, and WB, the JDC expanded the sample of the HFPS to cover refugees. The target sample size is to have a least 1,000 refugee households in two rounds of the HFPS, aiming to match the third and fourth round of the main national sample. Going forward, the team plans to seek inputs/feedback from relevant counterparts, including UNHCR, at various stages of implementation, and the results and findings of the survey will be shared with all relevant partners.



To understand and monitor the short and medium-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on Djiboutian households, the World Bank is planning planned to conduct four HFPS rounds. Data collection will be carried out by the National Institute of Statistics of Djibouti (INSD). A random sub-sample was drawn from the list of households in the social registry data collected by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity (MASS) that reported telephone numbers. For the FDP sample, the team intends to combine data collection with that planned for host communities in the last two rounds and the team intends to use the same sample of households interviewed in the 2019/20 survey implemented by INSD. This sample was drawn from UNHCR’s proGres database which has information on the entire set of refugees and asylum seekers in Djibouti. The team worked closely with UNHCR to develop the sampling framework, and will continue to engage in the analysis phase and preparation of briefs with key findings.


The World Food Program (WFP) in Iraq started a mobile phone survey (mVAM) in April 2020 to acquire information on food consumption and access to basic services during the pandemic. In September 2020, this was expanded to a technical collaboration between the WFP and the World Bank, expanding the WFP’s current data collection with five activities. With JDC support, the fourth includes an expansion of the household survey to interview 800 IDPs, and the fifth expands the smaple to also include 600 returnee households. The IDP sample includes households that were forcibly displaced by the 2014 ISIS conflict and are still living in places other than their places of habitual residence; the returnee sample will consist of those who were forcibly displaced by the crisis and have now returned to their places of origin. The team will work with the JDC to develop an approach to allow identification of returnees and IDPs that adheres to EGRIS guidelines. This joint effort aims to (i) inform the planning of WB and WFP operations and emergency responses to the pandemic in Iraq and (ii) inform both organizations and the government about the socio-economic changes, market functionality and level of economic activities in the country.



The WB, UNICEF and academic collaborators at UC Berkeley and Harvard are conducting a multiple wave high frequency face-to-face and phone surveys on the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis on both Jordanian and Syrian refugees. Two waves of face-to-face panel surveys are planned for Jordanian households with a sample of 1,700 households drawn from the National Unified Registry in collaboration of the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD). Of these 1,700 households, three sub-samples will be defined[2]. In addition, a phone survey of 500 Jordanians randomly drawn from the registry will also be conducted with the same instrument, to both compare results under different interview modalities and to the Syrian refugee sample, and will run for three rounds. Against this backdrop and integrated into these efforts, JDC funding will support a second survey of 800 Syrian refugees planned over three panel waves.  The sample will be randomly drawn from a from the UNHCR database of registered refugees.  The phone surveys of refugees and Jordanians will be paired with a simultaneous, identical face-to-face survey of a comparable sample to test the modality effects of phone versus in person and displaced versus non-displaced. The activity supports the WB Social Protection team’s monitoring and evaluation of the Jordan emergency cash response operation. The data and findings will be incorporated into the upcoming Jordan Poverty Assessment (being conducted by the Poverty GP).  The findings of the refugee targeting study are being done to inform the operations of UNHCR Jordan’s Basic Needs Unit and the refugee sampling frame is being drawn from UNHCR’s proGres database.

Burkina Faso

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have significant short- and long-term impact on Burkinabe households’ welfare, impacting households through at least three broad channels: (i) the income/employment channel, (ii) the price channel, and (iii) the long-term human capital channel. The World Bank and the National Institute of Statistics and Demography are implementing a HFPS to monitor the negative effects of COVID-19 on households, leveraging the available household phone number in the 2018/19 Enquete Harmonisée sur les Conditions de Vie des Ménages (EHCVM). The HPFS is set to be conducted monthly for one year. After further discussions between the NSO, JDC, UNHCR, and WB, a decision was taken to further expand the HFPS sample to include a large sample of Forcibly Displaced Populations. With the technical and financial support of development partners, including UNHCR, IOM and OCHA, the government has put in place a data base of refugees and IDPs called the CONASUR. This CONASUR database will serve as a sample frame for the additional sub-sample to be added in the HFPS. The target is to have about 1,500 FDPs households in the HFPS.  Due to delays and challenges in timing, the HFPS will include the FDP sample for the last three rounds. Going forward, the World Bank team plans to seek inputs/feedback from relevant counterparts, including UNHCR, at various stages of the implementation.



[2] The first is a nationally representative sub-sample stratified across the income distribution to understand the impact of the crisis on different households across Jordan. The second and third sub-samples are of households receiving the government’s emergency cash assistance response and those close to the targeting criteria but not included to understand the effectiveness of the response.