Yemen: Forced Displacement Monitoring Systems

Background and context

Yemen has been in the midst of a forced displacement crisis since the conflict expanded in 2015. There was a large surge in internal displacement at the onset of the violence, followed by continued displacement of new households roughly equal in aggregate to the number of households that have been returning over time. According to official statistics reported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 10 percent of the population has been displaced since the start of the conflict (IOM 2020).  However, other surveys (e.g., Gallup World Poll, World Food Programme (WFP) monitoring, etc.) suggest the figure could be as high as thirty percent of the population.[1],[2]

Given the magnitude of the problem and the fluidity of the crisis with households going in and out of displacement, the current data systems in the country are not equipped to fully gauge the needs of displaced populations in the country and a more robust data system needs to be developed. Currently, the most complete data sources addressing displacement are key informant interviews trying to identify the size and location of the displaced population (IOM)[3], and food security data sources that identify food needs by displacement status (e.g., WFP, Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC))[4].  However, more direct estimates of the scale of the displacement crisis, understanding of non-food dimensions of welfare, and a better understanding of regional differences in needs are vital to help displaced households and the communities supporting them.

There is a great urgency to better identify the needs of displaced households in the country.  Currently, there is approximately USD 4.5 billion of humanitarian assistance distributed annually,[5] in addition to the World Bank IDA (International Development Assistance) portfolio consisting of five projects, totaling USD 1.7 billion.  Displaced households are an important target of humanitarian assistance, but the efficacy of assistance on displaced households could be greatly improved with a much richer data system.

In particular, existing data sources need to be supplemented with a wide variety of other types of data. Data sources that would be particularly useful include high-frequency surveys of displaced households that collect information beyond food security, interviews with service providers and local governments across the entire country to understand the ways to better ensure access to key services for displaced households, and general economic conditions and availability of key commodities.[6],[7] Combining such information would help to better target the substantial assistance being distributed in the country. Furthermore, given limited ability to monitor World Bank projects in the field in Yemen, the United Nations (UN) has been an implementing partner for all World Bank projects.

Additionally, Yemen is not the only country in the region to face these issues.  Iraq, Libya, and Syria also face the prospect of large displacement crises and limited understanding of the needs of displaced households. The infrastructure of more robust monitoring systems in Yemen could further be part of a region-wide initiative to improve welfare monitoring in MENA countries engaged in conflict.

Activity description

This project seeks to build a more robust data collection system through three separate but related avenues. First, it is proposed to hire an experienced call center that will continuously perform a number of surveys[8]:

  • High-frequency tracking of displaced households addressing welfare dimensions in addition to food security.
  • Increase representation of underrepresented and especially vulnerable regions in existing high-frequency surveys.
  • Expand key informant interviews of local governments and sectors that are key to displaced households.
  • Collect prices of key commodities and whether they are currently available.
  • Collect information from local governments on changes in a wide variety of issues facing each region. For example, issues related to the provision of basic services (e.g., health, school, law and order, etc.).

Second, it is proposed to coordinate each of these activities with a geospatial team that is better able to map the availability of service provision across the country and to include additional remote sensing data sources. Third, the new data sources, described above, as well as the ongoing monthly mobile phone surveys of food security and some other limited welfare dimensions, being conducted by the WFP, will be jointly analyzed. In all surveys and analyses produced, there will be a thorough discussion of sampling issues and the populations to which the results are representative.

Overall objectives

The overall objective of JDC-supported data operations in Yemen is to help World Bank and humanitarian operations better address the many needs of displaced households in the country.  To ensure the data will have a direct influence on outcomes, the data needs from the largest ongoing operations will be sought out and information fed directly into project implementation and planning.

Informing World Bank and partner operations

All deliverables (the monthly bulletin, the lessons learned, and the summary of how well each project supports displaced households) will be disseminated widely among project teams.  Additionally, the team will embed itself within the project teams to ensure an ongoing dialog between the analytics and operations.

To further ensure the work will have the broadest impact on operations, the project will work through three avenues to engage partner organizations to broaden the use of data systems and to ensure their timely use. First, given the unique implementation arrangement the World Bank uses in Yemen where all projects are implemented through UN organizations and local non-profit organizations, the statistics will directly feed into the largest assistance programs in the country: Social Fund for Development (SFD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WFP, and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Importantly, these are the organizations that are delivering the vast majority of assistance in Yemen. Furthermore, the SFD is the most extensive Yemeni institution with which to engage and inform the data collection and analytics.

Second, direct coordination with the overall humanitarian response will be carried out through the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to more broadly disseminate the findings and seek feedback regarding the types of data that are most needed. Monthly calls coordinated by the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), which is an organization that coordinates all analytical work and data collection across the most important actors in Yemen (including OCHA, the World Bank, local organizations, and donors), will further serve as a way to disseminate findings and seek feedback in real time as conditions on the ground continually change.

Lastly, direct coordination with UNHCR and IOM will be carried out, and new data sources will be combined with other displacement surveys being conducted. The free flow of information across organizations can feed directly into survey modules and the types of information gathered and improve the overall quality of data collected.

In addition to the impact the team hopes to have on humanitarian and development operations, the team also hopes to contribute analytics that broaden the evidence base on the determinants of displacement, and the needs of displaced populations.  Analytic papers will be submitted for publication in high impact working papers series and academic journals.  Furthermore, the team will seek out opportunities to present results to academics, donors, and partner organizations to ensure the broadest dissemination possible.

Engagement with partners

As discussed above, the overall objective is to help World Bank and humanitarian operations better address the many needs of displaced households in Yemen.  As such, it is sought to have extensive partnerships with all operational teams, including the World Bank teams and humanitarian teams. Every effort will be made to embed the team in each of the project teams, and through this engagement, feed information from all deliverables directly into project implementation and planning. In particular, the information will be shared directly with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), SFD, UNICEF, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and WHO. Further, the team will coordinate directly with the overall humanitarian response through OCHA, and directly engage all the other teams producing analytical work through monthly calls coordinated by ACAPS.

Over the past three years, the World Bank’s Yemen Poverty Program has developed an extensive engagement with WFP.  This engagement will be used to coordinate activities with the WFP to ensure that the resulting monitoring systems will be used by WFP in informing food assistance needs. Importantly, WFP is delivering the largest share of humanitarian assistance in the country and poor access to food is one of the primary concerns of displaced households.

Lastly, the team will directly coordinate with UNHCR and IOM and combine these new data sources with other displacement surveys being conducted, including the key informant surveys that produce the official displacement figures, direct surveys of displaced households, and information obtained from beneficiaries. All emerging products will be shared with both organizations, who will also be invited to actively participate in all data collection and analysis activities.[9]


For further details on the JDC support for this activity, please contact:




[1] For this activity, to be consistent with the definition used by the Task Force for Population Movement, we are going to define internally displaced persons (IDP’s) as those who have been forced to leave their homes after March 2015 due to violence, rapidly deteriorating humanitarian conditions related to the conflict, or due to natural disasters.

[2] The last Gallup World Poll to which the team has access is from 2016; and the WFP monitoring is a monthly mobile phone survey conducted every month since the beginning of the conflict.

[3] The IOM estimates of displacement are used to weight the sample from the WFP household survey.  We will continue to use these estimates to weight households in all surveys, and we will further use the IOM sample to construct our sample in the high-frequency survey of displaced households

[4] The WFP data source to which we are referring to is the monthly mVAM survey, which does track displacement status.

[5] The distribution of most humanitarian assistance is being done by UN agencies, with large amounts of assistance being delivered by UNICEF, WFP, and WHO.

[6] These additional data sources would be designed to complement ongoing household assessments of IDP’s by UNHCR, and ongoing household surveys being done by all humanitarian partners in the country (e.g., UNICEF, WFP, etc.).

[7] High-frequency surveys are particularly important given the large number of conflict-related shocks to which the country is exposed and stand-alone assessments are difficult to identify how households respond separately to each of these important shocks.

[8] As an example, the team implementing this project have done a triangulation between similar types of data sources to help operations.  We used the household surveys to identify problems with access to education and changes over time, while we then use the local government surveys and key informant interviews to get much more detail on the mechanisms by which access are affected, and more granular data on differences between types of groups (e.g., younger children versus older, girls versus boys, etc.

[9] As discussed above, the project team will coordinate with IOM and UNHCR on key informant interviews to not replicate the information collected by each agency. 

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