Bringing rigor and evidence to the forced displacement narrative


Dear Colleagues,
COVID-19 is spurring a great interest in data among experts and the broader public, especially for real-time information about the incidence of cases and deaths. This attention has unearthed some weaknesses in our collection systems, with a potential severe under-reporting of deaths in many countries. It has also put the spotlight on the importance of strengthening and applying internationally agreed statistical standards and protocols in the area of health, akin to those governing economic statistics.

Such strengthening of data systems for the collection and harmonization of data is at the core of the Joint Data Center’s mandate, the focus being on those who are forcibly displaced. The development and implementation of global standards will lead to enhanced quality and comparability of data and statistics, in turn allowing for more impactful policy-making and programming.

Find our latest review of academic articles and major (data-driven) books and studies on forcibly displaced here.

Among the 12 articles summarized, let me highlight one – a joint World Bank-UNHCR study on the Kalobeyei Refugee Settlement in Kenya. For full disclosure, it was supported by the Center.

The Kalobeyei study demonstrates how evidence can paint a holistic picture, allowing for comparisons of the socio-economic status between Kenyan averages, refugees’ situation and those of the host community. The data from the study are neatly summarized in the following infographic:

While it is heartening to see that some of the figures for refugees are not too far behind national Kenyan averages – and in the case of access to improved drinking water even exceed the average – there are areas where refugees are considerably worse off: for example, unemployment among refugees is 16 percentage points higher than for nationals, both for Kenya as a whole and compared to local levels.

Another point of concern is that the residents in Turkana County – the host community – often lag much behind both national averages and refugees. The difference in average poverty rates is one example: while the refugees are 14 percentage points behind the national average, the host community faces a 35 points higher poverty rate than the national average. The figures are even starker for sanitation levels: the residents of Turkana County have only half the access to improved sanitation than their fellow Kenyans. Their access levels also lag far behind the refugees.

The next step is to make sure that we act upon the facts – will we do things differently as a consequence? We were pleased to hear the Governor of Turkana County quote this study during the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva in December last year, saying that the information will guide his resource-allocation decisions, and that it provides him with the evidence he needs to make the case with the national government and the development partners.

At the Joint Data Center, our mission is to support the collection, analysis and dissemination of primary microdata that enables policymaking and programming, through implementation principles of partnerships, capacity building, and innovation. After all, as the famous W. Edwards Deming once said, “without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” We are very proud to see how well the Kalobeyei study aligns with this mission objective.

As always, please do not hesitate to share your feedback on the Literature Review and the Newsletter, either to Zara on [email protected] or myself on [email protected], and sign up to JDC’s Newsletter and the Review here.

Best regards,

Björn Gillsäter
Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement