Providing evidence on the forcibly displaced during the pandemic


Dear colleagues,

For many, late August means a return to professional life and this year perhaps a return to a “new normal”. To set you up for a productive second part of 2021, we have compiled some of the most relevant recent readings on forced displacement.

First, two flagship publications. Figures from UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center global reports indicate that the number of those forcibly displaced around the world increased in 2020, reaching new records. This happened despite the emergence of COVID-19, and the related limitations in mobility within and across countries. The new figures show that by end of last year, more than 82 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced, or more than one percent of the world population. Among those displaced, Internally Displaced People (as a result of conflict and violence) represent the largest group, with more than 48 million people, followed by refugees, asylum seekers, and Venezuelans displaced abroad.

The latest update of our Literature Review summarizes the findings of these two reports, highlighting also how the pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn have hit hard those forcibly displaced. Throughout the past year, these populations have faced heightened food and economic insecurity, increased financial difficulties and increased barriers to education, among other effects.

Second, two of the other articles presented in the Review focus on the different livelihood experiences of refugees who reside in camps and out of camps. The articles focus on two very different countries (Jordan and Kenya) and show how these groups often experience living standards and life satisfaction rates below those of the host communities. Moreover, at times they also face considerable regulatory obstacles in the development of economic activities.

Third, the different living conditions in and out of camps constitute a theme that is attracting considerable attention. This is due to the potentially different ways in which these two groups might have coped with both the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent policy interventions. An example of these differences emerges in a very recent working paper published by the JDC. Among numerous findings, the analysis shows how in Iraq unemployment rose for both IDPs and host communities during the pandemic, but IDPs in camps are those who experienced the highest increase in unemployment rate.

The paper, titled “Answering the Call: Forcibly Displaced during the Pandemic”, provides – among other things – a first comprehensive summary of the results from the High Frequency Phone Surveys that the JDC, the World Bank and UNHCR have conducted in eight countries between March 2020 and March 2021. Overall, some 90,000 interviews were conducted, including refugees, IDPs, host communities and returnees, depending on the specific sample interviewed in each country. The paper, therefore, offers JDC’s first response to the call for up-to-date evidence to inform policy making on some of the most vulnerable, and often neglected, populations in the world and how they have fared during the pandemic.

For each country, policy briefs are being released to allow for a deeper analysis of the specific evolution of the socioeconomic conditions of those forcibly displaced. Some of these briefs have already been released and can be accessed on our website. The paper, the briefs, and the data themselves constitute a relevant body of material that the JDC team, together with the World Bank and UNHCR, offer to all interested practitioners and researchers. Thanks to the work of a large group of colleagues across the three institutions, this material will expand over the course of the next months, including a harmonization of the survey results to allow for cross-country comparisons.

Finally, for those interested, we are pleased to announce that there will be internship opportunities with JDC coming up; please monitor the website for upcoming vacancy announcements.

As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions on the Newsletter, for future editions of the Quarterly Digest or papers to be included in the Literature Review Update. Please don’t hesitate to contact Zara Sarzin ([email protected]) or Domenico Tabasso ([email protected]) directly.


Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter

Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement