JDC work program supports better data and evidence to fight COVID-19

Dear Colleagues,
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the central role of data in helping governments develop a strategy to tackle the health, social and economic consequences of this global phenomenon. As the number of infections grows, experts are calling for a much more extensive use of data and statistical methods to combat the spread of the virus. In recent contributions, researchers from the London Business School and University of Southern California suggest that appropriately tailored random sampling strategies for conducting infection tests can help identify the magnitude of the contagion in a population.

Importantly, however, designing appropriate policy responses that serve those most vulnerable to the pandemic will require deep knowledge of the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the population (age structure, female-to-male ratio, access to health facilities, health status, living conditions, etc.). The availability of relevant data on these characteristics for those forcibly displaced is often extremely limited.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the tremendous importance of access to detailed and relevant data on these populations in his inauguration speech at the Joint Data Center in October 2019. He asserted that “there are enormous amounts of situations in which we bring solutions for the problems we do not have simply because we do not have the data that clarifies what problems we really have.”.

The work of the Center aims to address this shortcoming. We are currently embarking on an ambitious work program for 2020, with 40 different projects worth up to USD 13.2 million to be conducted together with the World Bank, UNHCR, national governments and other partners (see attached overview for details).

Among these projects, the Center will finance and support several initiatives for making more data available, both through data collection exercises and by making existing data more widely accessible. This will include socio-economic data on representative samples of forcibly displaced populations in several developing countries, as well as developing tools to facilitate the collection of data in a more systematic manner. By illuminating the most relevant socio-economic characteristics of different regional and local contexts, such data collection exercises will allow us (collectively) to develop a broad range of tools for assessing the social, health and economic needs of the 70 million-plus displaced people and their hosts. Our work will hence not only help address the problems highlighted by Secretary-General, but also form the natural starting point for any attempt to evaluate how the current pandemic as well as future outbreaks can affect refugees and internally displaced people around the globe.

A large proportion of those forcibly displaced live in urban areas, where the risks associated with a fast spreading of the virus are magnified by population density and frequency of social interactions. Our latest edition of the Forced Displacement Literature Review – attached – focuses on issues of urban displacement. The review includes carefully selected studies prepared by leading academics, think tanks and civil society organizations. It also draws on material from our partners at Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre and their most recent issue of the Forced Migration Review. Topics include the socio-spatial impacts of urban displacement, security of housing arrangements, economic integration of refugees in cities, social cohesion and the integration of returned refugees in urban areas. Geographically it includes studies on Turkey, Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Colombia, Ecuador, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, among others places.

This month’s articles are being added to our compilation of over 300 summaries, categorized into 11 different topics. Find the full set here. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions for future issues, either to Zara Sarzin [email protected] or myself at [email protected].

Björn Gillsäter
Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement