Globally, around 68.5 million people have fled their homes from conflict or persecution either as refugees, internally displaced persons, or asylum seekers. Contrary to what some may think, most of the displaced people don’t live in camps. In fact, it’s estimated that about 60%–80% of the world’s forcibly displaced population lives in urban areas.
The “urban story” of forced displacement is often compounded by its hidden nature. Compared to those displaced in camps, it is more difficult to track the living conditions of those displaced in urban areas, obtain precise numbers, and many are not recipients of humanitarian assistance.
To design effective and durable relief programs for refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), it is essential to understand the nature and context of the challenges the people living in these situations face. That’s why we have recently started to measure consumption and estimate rates of poverty among displaced populations. Through understanding the most acute challenges that vulnerable populations face, relief can be targeted to where support is needed most.
The Triple Threat, as it is referred to in South African policy circles, remains a key policy priority for the government; namely, inequality, poverty and unemployment. The latter – unemployment – was 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018 and at such high rates, it is a critical development issue in contemporary South Africa.
As one of the most urbanized African countries and the largest economy in Southern Africa, South Africa is a popular and important destination for migrants and refugees from all over Africa, and increasingly, from parts of Asia.
Across the world, the movement of people is an increasingly urban phenomenon. As such, researchers are beginning to recognize that the developmental consequences of migration are often felt most acutely at the municipal or provincial level. A newly published study Mixed Migration, Forced Displacement and Job Outcomes in South Africa, adds to the growing body of research on movement to cities by highlighting the important urban dimensions of these movements into and within South Africa.
I visited Jordan in 2014 and 2016 and was struck by the generosity and hospitality of this small, middle-income country, which accepted the influx of more than 740,000 refugees of the Syrian war and other conflicts (and that only counts the number officially registered by the UN Refugee Agency!) In 2017, Jordan had 89 refugees per 1,000 people –the second-highest concentration in the world. Its services and economy were under tremendous strain. The refugees themselves were frustrated by lack of opportunity to support themselves.
Two years ago, we published a blog estimating the global average of the duration of exile for refugees, based on data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Our methodology is described in a peer-reviewed working paper.
This is why the Bank Group, a development institution, is broadening its support for refugees and their host communities in a way that complements – not replaces – the work of others, especially humanitarian partners. We are approaching the problem from a development perspective, addressing social and economic challenges in the medium-term. The goal is to enable refugees to go beyond simply meeting their basic needs to getting an education, accessing health care, working, traveling and opening businesses – so that they can live as ‘normal’ a life as possible, and contribute to their local economy. Including refugees in development planning and national systems is a key part of this approach.
Fardowsa, a 20-year old Somali refugee in Uganda, knows the vital importance of identity documents to refugees. She and her family were forced to flee her homeland in 2001 without any official documentation. The refugee ID card she was issued by the Government of Uganda not only provides her with protection and access to humanitarian assistance, but it has also given her the opportunity to study at university and open a mobile money account. With this foundation, Fardowsa is planning to start her own business to further improve her and her family’s new life. In the process, she will also be contributing to Uganda’s economy while realizing her potential as a young female refugee.