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Refugees

For refugees, the average duration of exile is going down. Why is this bad news?

Xavier Devictor's picture
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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.

Doing things differently to help refugees and their host communities

Franck Bousquet's picture
Refugee children in Ethiopia © Milena Stefanova/World Bank
Refugee children in Ethiopia. © Milena Stefanova/World Bank


On World Refugee Day, we pause to reflect on the struggles of refugees around the world. Refugees are vulnerable, having lost their assets and livelihoods, and without the ability to plan their lives. They need help regaining their voice, becoming self-reliant and rebuilding their lives.

At the World Bank Group, we recognize that the refugee crisis is not only a humanitarian concern, but a formidable development challenge as well. Numbers help to tell this story: Over 90 percent of refugees now live in the developing world; more than half are displaced for more than four years; fifty one percent of refugees are children and are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children; and many refugees are hosted by communities that are also struggling with their own development challenges – weakened infrastructure, food insecurity and limited access to quality health care, among others. Consequently, these communities also need our support.  

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.

Empowering refugees and internally displaced persons through digital identity

Nicholas Oakeshott's picture
Oria Adamo, 72 years old and the mayor of a small town in Central African Republic shows his ID card in the village of Ndu, Bas Uele province, Democratic Republic of the Congo where thousands fled after fleeing a surge in violence that began in May 2017. © Simon Lubuku/UNHCR
Oria Adamo, 72 years old and the mayor of a small town in Central African Republic shows his ID card in the village of Ndu, Bas Uele province, Democratic Republic of the Congo where thousands fled after fleeing a surge in violence that began in May 2017. © Simon Lubuku/UNHCR

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.

In World Bank art exhibition, artists unpack displacement stories

Juliana J Biondo's picture
Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank

As the World Bank Group strengthens support for refugees, internationally displaced people, and their host communities, the World Bank Art Program curated a multi-dimensional art exhibition entitled, Uprooted: The Resilience of Refugees, Displaced People and Host Communities to contribute a unique perspective. This exhibition showcased the creative voices of those artists touched by the refugee crisis, or those artists who were refugees themselves.

Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. 

The Uprooted exhibition included a visual art exhibition and musical performances featuring over 30 artists from places such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Colombia, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Central African Republic, Burundi, and Guinea. The artists produced works that questioned the impact of transience in individual lives and entire communities of people.

One capstone of the exhibition was the construction of a shed intended to evoke the shelters found in places such as the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. For the exhibition, the shed was enhanced with murals on its sides. Each mural was done by the hand of a different artist – Suhaib Attar, an artist from Jordan and son of Palestinian refugee parents, Marina Jaber from Iraq, a country with millions internally displaced people, Diala Brisly, a refugee from Syria, and Didier Kassai from the Central African Republic, a country in which violence and war have forced hundreds of thousands into displacement. 

Working to make children’s dreams of quality education come true: Insights from Ethiopia

Teklu Tesfaye's picture
An existing classroom awaits an upgrade in Tigray.  Esayas Nigatu/World Bank


“I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I want to help people like the doctor at the hospital who helped my mother” said the little eight-year old girl, full of confidence. She was one of about 50 children attending a primary school in Tahtay Adiabo Woreda in Tigray. The little girl was talking to a World Bank team visiting the area and the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP).

Beyond no harm: Addressing gender-based violence in development responses to displacement impacts in Uganda

Margarita Puerto Gómez's picture
Inclusive education goes beyond merely increasing enrollment of girls in schools, but making sure that the school environment is conducive for them to thrive and stay in school longer. Photo: Rachel Mabala/World Bank


Do good intentions matter if they end up contributing to harm?

In 15 years of working in international development, I have asked myself this question many times, and the answer is always complicated. I learned working on the Uganda Development Responses to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) that even the most straightforward interventions – building a school, for example – can contribute to unintended consequences if they are not well thought-through. As Dr. Robert Limlim, DRDIP’s director, put it: “You build a school and it does not cause harm, but this school is built under social contradictions that impede equal access to education for boys and girls. If we want to transform social dynamics, doing good is not enough, we need to systematically address Gender Based Violence (GBV) in development responses to forced displacement.”

The Arab Spring – Unfinished Journeys

Juliana J Biondo's picture
Helen Zughaib, The Places They Will Go, 2015-2016, dimensions variable, individual children’s shoes, painted in acrylic gouache on adhesive photo installation. © Helen Zughaib
Helen Zughaib, The Places They Will Go, 2015-2016, dimensions variable, individual children’s shoes, painted in acrylic gouache on adhesive photo installation. © Helen Zughaib 

Each one is different - one has pink rims, and multi-sized dots, and hues of electric orange, deep fuchsia, and sea foam green. Another is donning pinstripes in red and orange, with mint green rims. And another – violet, blue, and red checkers with accents of lavender. We are looking at shoes, twenty-two shoes to be exact. They are all hand-painted by artist Helen Zughaib. These shoes, titled Oh The Places They Will Go, is part of the artists’ exhibition The Arab Spring – Unfinished Journeys, which premiered at the World Bank in Washington DC from January 28th to February 16th, 2018. The exhibition was hosted by the World Bank Art Program, in partnership with the Middle East and North Africa Regional Vice President Hafez Ghanem. The World Bank Art Program hosts regular exhibitions, domestically and internationally, that shed light on pressing development issues.

The Arab Spring – Unfinished Journeys stands as an important connection point between the growing global crisis of refugees and internally displaced people, and the Bank’s continuing efforts to engage in reconstruction and recovery and address the root causes of conflict and violence  - from new financing mechanisms in Jordan and Lebanon, to new cash transfer programs in Yemen allowing more refugees access to food.

Strong thirsts in fragile countries: walking the water scarce path of refugees

Amal Talbi's picture
A Syrian child in Zaatari Camp uses a water kiosk designed for hand washing and water collection. 
Photo: Oxfam International

Imagine that you must flee home at once. You may be fleeing violence, social tensions, poor environmental conditions, or even persecution. You and your loved ones may walk for several days to find safety, and may even go for periods without food.
 
What would you need to survive?
 
The answer is clean water. Finding drinkable water is one of the first steps in your journey to a new home. If you instead consume contaminated water, you risk exposure to several diseases. Drinking water unfit for consumption may not only harm your health in the short run -- drinking unclean water may cause life-long health problems. And of course, these problems multiply if entire communities, or even cities, face these health problems.
 
At the end of this leg of the journey, you may end up in a densely populated refugee camp. Many refugee camps quickly become quasi cities that suffer from poor planning, poor water supplies, and poor sanitation. Keeping these makeshift cities clean and safe is a herculean task. For many refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these water scarce cities, it is difficult to access water supply and sanitation facilities.
 
The situation is even more dire for refugees or IDPs in the water-scarce Mashreq subregion*. The demographic shock of mass migration compounds already complex challenges in the region -- from climate shocks to crumbling infrastructure. According to the World Bank report Turbulent Waters: Pursuing Water Security in Fragile Contexts, water security is more difficult to achieve in fragile contexts because of a range of factors, including weak institutions and information systems, strained human and financial resources, and degraded infrastructure.

Migration: The future depends on our actions today

Caglar Ozden's picture

Around 250 million migrants currently live outside their countries of birth, making up approximately 3.5 percent of the world population. Despite the widespread perception of a global migration crisis, this ratio has stayed remarkably stable since the end of the Second World War and lags well behind other major metrics of globalization – international trade, capital flows, tourism etc. A more remarkable statistic is that refugees, at around 15 million, account for 6 percent of the migrant population and only 0.2 percent of world population. In other words, we can fit all refugees in the world in a city with an area of 5000 square kilometers – roughly the size of metropolitan Istanbul or London or Paris – and still have some space left over.

Cities of Refuge: Bringing an urban lens to the forced displacement challenge

Axel Baeumler's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
Cities of Refuge
 Photo credit: Mohamed Azakir / World Bank

The Syrian conflict has reached the grim milestone of becoming the largest displacement crisis since World War II, with over half of the country’s pre-war population having left their homes since 2011—a particularly sobering statistic as we observe International Migrants Day on December 18, 2017 today.

For many of us, the Syrian crisis brings to mind images of refugee families blocked at European borders and sprawling humanitarian camps. Yet the majority of those fleeing the violence have remained in cities inside Syria and in neighboring countries, in the hopes of reaching safety, and accessing better services and jobs.

This shift from camps to cities and towns has critical implications for how to effectively deal with the forced displacement challenge—and it is not confined to Syria, but a reality across many countries affected by conflict in the Middle East and beyond.

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