Numbers of forcibly displaced are sky rocketing, who are the people behind the statistics?

By the end of 2023, an estimated 117.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced – a number that has risen every year for the last twelve. Six months later, by June 2024, UNHCR estimates that forced displacement is likely to have exceeded 120 million. Global Trends, UNHCR’s annual report on refugees, asylum-seeker, internally displaced and stateless statistics was released in June, and it also reveals that most refugees (75 percent) live in low- and middle-income countries, mainly neighboring their own, and children account for 40 percent of all forcibly displaced people. The increase over the last six months stems also from the conflict in Sudan which has forced 1.2 million refugees into neighboring countries. 

Aisha Asamusa (right) and her six children live in Maban, South Sudan, ever since they fled Sudan around a decade ago. Aisha Asamusa has a collective of women who save and lend money to each other.
© UNHCR/Melany Markham

Aisha Asamusa is one of these statistics, but she is much more than a number. “Only if peace comes, will we go back,” she says, voicing the aspirations of 70 percent of Sudanese refugees in the country who are either waiting for the situation to improve, or do not intend to return. Aisha Asamusa is also a businesswoman. She constructed an oven and rents it out to people nearby to cook bread. The money she earns not only helps to support her family, but also others in her community. She belongs to a group of women who often pool their savings to help others when they are in need. Aisha’s entrepreneurial activities indicate the potential that she and refugees around her have for self-reliance.

The findings of UNHCR’s Forced Displacement Survey in South Sudan offer a detailed picture of Aisha’s life. She is a single parent in a country where almost half of refugee households are headed by women, and half of her six children are under 15 – the median age of a refugee in South Sudan. The other thing that is sadly typical about Aisha Asamusa is that her displacement is driven by conflict.

Data from UNHCR’s Global Trends clearly identifies conflict (measured by conflict fatalities) as the main driver of forced displacement. While the causes of conflict might be difficult to address, data can help countries affected by forced displacement to include and support people like Aisha Asamusa.

To this end, the JDC is supporting the collection and analysis of socioeconomic data in around 30 conflict affected countries including Uganda, Central African Republic and Colombia. In these three countries, data has guided policy and programs that support forcibly displaced people. Removed from conflict, these people need development, and not just humanitarian aid. Socioeconomic data provides development actors and governments with the evidence they need to create programs and policies that are sustainable over the long-term.

The data produced by the FDS is aligned with international standards, making it comparable across countries and over time. It is the first time that UNHCR has produced this kind of data and, as such, it is a major step in providing the organization, its partners, governments and development organizations with the data they need to plan for people affected by forced displacement in the future. In addition to data collection, we also build capacity within national government to collect their own data.

The JDC is proud to support UNHCR in developing and implementing the FDS in South Sudan, Cameroon and Pakistan to achieve this, and is fully committed to the vision behind it.


Aissatou (Aisha) Dicko

Head of the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement