New efforts for evidence on forced displacement

Dear Colleague,

In the last weeks we have increased our efforts to produce Newsletters and Literature Updates which can more closely respond to your needs. To this aim, we have designed this anonymous survey – please fill it out at your earliest convenience. We are keen to hear from you!

One of the questions currently investigated by researchers and practitioners around the globe is: “How is COVID-19 affecting those forcibly displaced?” The answer is extremely complicated as it must rely on detailed information – not least because Forcibly Displaced People (FDPs) form such a diverse and heterogeneous group – and by-and-large, the data does not exist. Only with up-to-date and robust evidence can we assess whether COVID-19 is exerting a different impact on forcibly displaced people compared to their host communities; or evaluate the magnitude of the shock, which is important not least because these communities often suffered from considerable pre-existing socioeconomic deficiencies.

However, some preliminary results from early studies are starting to emerge. For example, evidence from Bangladesh was presented in a recent workshop that the JDC organized together with UC Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). Based on data from Cox’s Bazar, employment among the host population was not sharply affected by COVID-19, although there are reports that two-thirds of those already employed have temporarily been absent from work. At the same time, the Rohingya people hosted in Cox’s Bazar faced a sharp deterioration in labor market outcomes, such as employment. But the bulk of the impacts preceded COVID-19 and were due to a ban on the use of cash in camps. Relative to the baseline, employment among the Rohingya dropped to one-third of its original rate, which was already very low. The refugees’ plight was compounded when humanitarian assistance was scaled back due to pandemic-related restrictions.

These findings clearly show how COVID-19 (as well as other emergencies) can exert different effects on different populations. This complexity calls for greater efforts. Currently, to our knowledge, there are at least some 20 high-frequency phone surveys collecting data on how FDPs are impacted by COVID-19 around the world (half of which are supported by JDC). Such data collection exercises will be critical in complementing and expanding the information already available from the existing surveys.

COVID-19 is certainly the most recent exogenous chock affecting the lives of displaced populations, as indicated also by two reports included in our Monthly Literature Update. Nonetheless, other important dimensions which can shape the socioeconomic trajectories of those forcibly displaced should not be neglected, even during the pandemic. Education, social cohesion, labour market integrations, are just a few examples of such dimensions, and they are discussed in the articles summarised in our Literature Update.

Finally, we would like to signal a very interesting job opportunity: UNHCR is looking for a Senior Statistics Coordinator to coordinate the work of the Expert Group on Refugee and IDP Statistics (EGRIS). Interested candidates should apply at this page.

As always, please do not hesitate to share any additional feedback on the Literature Review Updates and the Newsletter either to Zara on [email protected] or myself on [email protected].

Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter
Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement