Displacement Profiling in Urban Areas: Methodological Approaches for Collecting and Analysing Data on Internal Displacement in Cities

Melissa Weihmayer, Margharita Lundkvist-Houndoumadi, Laura Kivelä

Joint IDP Profiling Service Background paper for the Global Report on Internal Displacement 2019



Evidence on the experience of displaced populations in cities remains sparse, due in part to the difficulties of collecting and analyzing information on urban populations. This paper discusses how to overcome certain methodological challenges of analyzing internal displacement in urban settings, drawing on lessons learned from profiling exercises carried out in: Mogadishu, Somalia (2015 – 2016); Erbil, Iraq (2015 – 2016); and various cities in Syria (2018 – 2019). The objective of a profiling exercise is to create an agreed-upon evidence base to inform policies and programs in support of durable solutions for displaced populations. Profiling exercises typically include: a detailed review of existing data on population statistics in order to establish a baseline on the magnitude of displacement in a given area; and further data collection such as an enumeration, a sample-based household survey, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and a review and triangulation of secondary data. Profiling exercises should cover both displaced and non-displaced households living in the same areas in order to identify unique/shared challenges and vulnerabilities. They also need to be adapted to the local circumstances.

  • Case study 1: Informal Settlements with Mixed Populations in Mogadishu, Somalia. Since most urban residents have been displaced, the profiling exercise focused on IDPs in settlement areas. There was no comprehensive, up-to-date information on the locations and delineations of the settlements, no agreement on population estimates, and settlements also accommodated economic migrants, refugees, and non-displaced people. Therefore, the settlements were mapped, populations were enumerated, and migration histories were collected to categorize residents based on agreed definitions. From this data, a representative sample was drawn, and data were gathered on access to services, tenure security, livelihoods, perceptions of safety and security among other topics. The survey found that: all residents were at risk of evictions, with slightly more (37 percent) of IDPs expecting to be evicted within the next six months compared to economic migrants and local populations; and if evicted, the majority of IDP expected that they would move to another settlement with likely the same risks and potentially worsening conditions. This case study demonstrates the benefits of an extensive mapping and enumeration when baseline population estimates of the displaced are required, including the identification of displaced persons based on their migration history. A major limitation was that it was not possible to analyze spatial and social links between informal settlements and surrounding urban areas.
  • Case study 2: Informing area-based approaches in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq: The challenge was to capture differences across areas, as well as differences between population groups. Therefore, the methodology stratified the analysis by population groups (IDPs, refugees and non-displaced) and area types. However, identifying the most relevant way of including the area-based stratification in the household survey proved challenging. The need for urban planning expertise, as well as dedicated time and resources, were crucial for working out relevant area classifications and demarcations. Classification based on distance to the urban center (as opposed to combined indicators related to standards of living or quality of housing) proved not only more feasible, but also more relevant to governorate actors, who planned their work by area in the city. Leadership by the local authorities was critical to ensuring that the exercise was more useful/relevant. A major limitation was that it was not possible to analyze pressure on city services affected by displacement.
  • Case study 3: Understanding Displacement in the Context of Damaged Cities in Syria: Syrian cities differ from the other two case studies because of the heavy damage to urban infrastructure, widespread displacement, minimal access to populations, and restrictions on data collection methods due to security risks and government policies. IDPs living in Syrian cities were likely to be facing similar and similarly acute challenges as those of the local residents that remained in those areas. Therefore, the analysis first aimed to establish what services the city was able to provide given the impact of the conflict, and then assess whether services were reaching areas of the city and populations equitably. The methodology borrowed techniques for data collection from damage assessments and conflict analysis. A key lesson learned is the need for a comprehensive analytical framework to guide the different types of information needed in a conflict context that has sustained heavy damage. Due to restricted access to populations, the profiling exercise could not produce data on population needs disaggregated by displacement status.

Profiling methodologies need to reveal both how displaced populations get by in cities and how cities cope with their arrival, i.e. an analysis of the capacities and needs of the population groups coping with internal displacement, combined with a broader analysis of the city, which requires specialized technical expertise and forging stronger partnerships and joint planning by humanitarian responders and urban technical experts.



Iraq | Somalia | Syria