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Using data to aid displaced people during the COVID Pandemic

Tue 28 Sep 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted disparities across different populations worldwide, while putting people that were already at risk in an even more vulnerable position. One group that was impacted by the pandemic are Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs).

Understanding the changing situation for FDPs, and addressing the increased vulnerabilities that the pandemic has caused requires accurate, reliable socioeconomic data and thorough data analytics.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges for FDP’s across a number of related areas, including health care, employment, education, and the ability to move across borders. The fact that these issues are interrelated makes it difficult to draw a straight line between cause and effect. But complex analytics of a variety of interrelated factors are exactly the situations that lend themselves to analytical insights.

Approaching the hypothesis that the pandemic worsened the situation for FDP’s from a data analytics perspective helps NGOs and aid organizations build effective, targeted solutions.

According to a study published by the Joint Data Centre on Forced Displacement, “More and better data are needed to design policies and interventions to improve the lives of forcibly displaced people (FDPs) and their host communities. Such data can also improve our understanding of risk factors and the implications of COVID-19 for nationals and the forcibly displaced.”

To begin gathering the data needed to accurately understand the plight of FDPs, the Joint Data Centre conducted high-frequency phone surveys in countries and regions with high numbers of displaced persons, including Iraq, Chad, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya.

These surveys found support for the hypothesis that the pandemic caused income loss among FDPs. Income decreased for 89% of refugees in Uganda and 75% of refugees in Chad. This was exacerbated by the global economic slowdown and the reduction in international assistance as the result of the pandemic. Moreover, FDPs are often employed in jobs and industries that are more vulnerable to economic disruption.

And even though COVID caused disruption to nationals and FDPs alike, it had a greater impact on FTPs. In Ethiopia, less than 20% of refugees were employed by October 2020, compared to over 90% of nationals.

Displaced nationals also experienced a more drastic worsening in access to healthcare than the nationals of the countries where they were located.

“The surveys showed that although trajectories of improving or deteriorating access to medical care differ from country to country, displaced households typically faced greater challenges than their hosts when looking to access medical care in Chad, Djibouti, Iraq, and Kenya—frequently citing financial constraints. “

The Joint Data Centre on Forced Displacement is an initiative between the World Bank and UNHCR, created to make quality socioeconomic data for Forcibly Displaced Persons that can be used to inform decisions about policies and programs. Because the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding, and likely will continue over the long term, the JDC recommends that data gathering and analysis continues, so that the situations of FDPs can be monitored and managed.

In most countries affected by forced displacement, national statistics do not account for FDPs. The JDC recommends that nations take additional steps to include FDPs in regular surveys and that support organizations and NGOs also gather data on their own. “Targeted support and capacity building from the humanitarian and development community, working more closely with national statistical offices, will allow for greater visibility of FDPs in socioeconomic data.”

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