Forced displacement, poverty and financing: How much does our data tell us?


What evidence and data are available on people affected by forced displacement? Where are resources allocated? What funding mechanisms are available? Where must data be strengthened for an effective and sustainable response? Development Initiatives' newly published factsheet Forced displacement, poverty and financing shows that to answer these questions, there are two key areas where currently collected data needs to be strengthened.

1. National poverty surveys in countries hosting the most refugees are largely out of date

Understanding the levels of poverty in refugee-hosting countries is important to know the impact on host communities and to be able to appropriately address needs within a development framework rather than in emergency response cycles. However, as per currently available data, only 10 of the 20 countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees have conducted internationally comparable national poverty surveys in the last five years (since 2011), and some – Lebanon and South Sudan – have never had internationally comparable surveys. For most countries, the poverty and crisis context has changed dramatically since the latest national poverty survey was undertaken, meaning that there is a lack of up-to-date information on people’s needs, undermining the potential to plan appropriate support and target available resources effectively. And while poverty data on host communities is limited, data on poverty among refugee populations in these countries is even more challenging.


Image: DI.

2. Refugees are not systematically included in national poverty surveys and development frameworks

Most refugee situations are protracted and it is estimated that on average, refugees are displaced for 17 years.Yet, little is known about the poverty of refugees in their host communities as they are not systematically included in national poverty surveys. So the longer term livelihood needs of refugees are not addressed through national development planning. Instead, these are left to be counted in humanitarian terms and therefore funded through shorter-term emergency assistance. Better data on the poverty of refugees is critical to ensuring that they are not ‘left behind’ in action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Of the 20 countries hosting the most refugees in 2015, only 7 included refugees in their most recent internationally comparable national poverty survey. Of these, five countries only included refugees living in permanent residences outside camps, and hence the surveys do not provide a complete picture of the longer-term livelihood needs of all refugees. What counts as a ‘permanent residence’ outside of camps is often not stated in methodological documents, making it difficult to compare between countries, and risking excluding refugees residing outside camps but not on a ‘permanent’ basis. For poverty surveys undertaken in seven of the countries, whether or not refugees had been included was not explicitly stated in methodologies. There is a need for a clearer and more systematic approach to including refugees in poverty surveys.

In the absence of such national survey data, other studies are beginning to give a picture of refugees’ poverty, to understand their long-term needs and the economic opportunities and development support required. The first poverty and welfare assessment by the World Bank and UN High Commissioner for Refugees of a refugee population took place in 2014–2015 in Jordan and Lebanon, using an approach that can be adapted for other countries.


Image: DI.

For more information on forced displacement, poverty and financing, check out the full factsheet here.

Image: UNHCR.