Urban Internal Displacement: Data and Evidence

Vicente Anzellini and Clémence Leduc

Forced Migration Review, Issue 63, February 2020



This article discusses the challenges of collecting data on urban internal displacement, and how some of these challenges might be overcome. Key points:

There is a persistent lack of accurate estimates of the scale of urban displacement.

This reflects several challenges, including: (a) lack of consensus on what constitutes an urban area; (b) difficulties obtaining geo-located data on IDPs in urban areas (due to dynamic population movements, dispersal of IDPs, and the desire of many IDPs to remain anonymous); and (c) lack of longitudinal data.

There are some examples of detailed geo-located data on IDPs, e.g. IOM has collected geo-located data on all IDP sites in Iraq. The data reveals that 70 percent of IDPs are in urban areas and 90 percent of rural IDP sites are within 10 km of an urban center.

Alternative data sources and technologies (e.g. mobile phone data, satellite imagery analysis, community mapping) could help to overcome these challenges.  Profiling exercises can shed light on the impacts of displacement on urban IDPs and hosts, as well as the capacity of local authorities and other stakeholders to respond.

Sustaining data collection and analysis efforts over time can be challenging. Therefore, capacity development of local authorities and the participation of urban IDPs and host communities in data collection are essential, e.g. 2014-15 profiling of informal settlements in Mogadishu in collaboration with local authorities.