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How can conflict-affected cities become better hosts to refugees? The case of Afghanistan

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Like many other developing countries, Afghanistan is urbanizing rapidly. Today, a quarter of the country’s over 30 million people live in urban areas, with many more moving to cities to find jobs and lead better lives.

Unlike many other places, though, cities in Afghanistan face an added, complex layer of challenge—conflict.

In Afghanistan, conflict is a major driver of migration into cities. Instability in large areas of the country is forcing refugees and internally displaced people into cities—particularly the capital city of Kabul. The thing is: Kabul doesn’t yet have adequate infrastructure and capacity to effectively host these “newcomers.”

What can be done?

To help Afghan cities better address the “3-way challenge” of urbanization, conflict, and forced displacement, the World Bank is working on a series of projects that aim to:
  • Provide basic services to selected—mostly informal—neighborhoods in Kabul, such as roads, sanitation, water, and lighting;
  • Support Kabul to improve its municipal finance management systems;
  • Support the institutional and policy framework for urban development in Afghanistan;
  • Strengthen city planning, management and service delivery in five provincial capital cities.

In this video, you will learn more from World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Practice Manager Catalina Marulanda on how cities and communities in Afghanistan are building up their capacity and resilience to better host refugees and other displaced populations.

Drought-stricken Somalia is at risk of famine (again). How can we help?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Somalia is on the brink of famine resulting primarily from severe drought. Half of the country’s population – an estimated 6.7 million people – are acutely food insecure and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. This comes only six years after a famine led to the death of more than a quarter of a million people – half of them were children.
The negative impacts of the drought don’t stop at the risk of famine: More than 680,000 people have been displaced from rural areas in the past six months. Approximately 1.4 million children will need treatment for acute malnutrition. The scarcity of safe drinking water has led to an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) and cholera in 13 out of 18 regions, resulting in 618 fatalities since January 2017, according to UNOCHA.

[Read report: Forcibly Displaced: Toward a Development Approach Supporting Refugees, the Internally Displaced, and Their Hosts]

So what is being done to help the people in Somalia cope with this crisis? Today, World Bank projects in the poorest countries contain a mechanism to redirect funds for immediate response and recovery. IDA’s “Crisis Response Window” provides additional resources to help countries respond to severe economic stress, major natural disasters, public health emergencies, and epidemics.

In May 2017, the Bank approved a US$50 million emergency project – Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project (SEDRP) –  to scale up the drought response and recovery effort in Somalia. Supported by funding and technical assistance from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the project aims to address, in the immediate term, the drought and food crisis, and also to finance activities that would promote resilient and sustainable drought recovery.

In the video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and SEDRP’s project leader Ayaz Parvez discuss in detail how the World Bank and its partners are working to help communities in Somalia build up their resilience in the face of the food and drought crisis. 


Using ICTs to Map the Future of Humanitarian Aid (part 2)

Dana Rawls's picture
Satellite image and analysis of damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Evan in Samoa. Credit: UNITAR-UNOSAT
With crisis mapping’s increasing profile, other organizations have joined the fray. Just this month, Facebook announced that it was partnering with UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and other partners to “share real-time data to help respond after natural disasters,” and the United Nations has also contributed to the field with its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) founding MicroMappers along with Meier, as well as creating UNOSAT, the UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

In a 2013 interview, UNOSAT Manager Dr. Einar Bjorgo described the work of his office.

“When a disaster strikes, the humanitarian community typically calls on UNOSAT to provide analysis of satellite imagery over the affected area… to have an updated global view of the situation on the ground. How many buildings have been destroyed after an earthquake and what access roads are available for providing emergency relief to the affected population? We get these answers by requiring the satellites to take new pictures and comparing them to pre-disaster imagery held in the archives to assess the situation objectively and efficiently.”

Four years later, UNOSAT’s work seems to have become even more important and has evolved from the early days when the group used mostly freely available imagery and only did maps.

Supporting development for peace to make a difference on the ground

Franck Bousquet's picture
Children walking along a road in a city in Gaza. Natalia Cieslik / World Bank

I had the opportunity recently to participate in the Third Edition of the World Reconstruction Conference, where I was reminded once again of a sobering reality – that we live in an increasingly interconnected world where multiple crises overlap in complex ways, from the impacts of climate change to a spike in violent conflict, historically high levels of forced displacement, and the worst famine in 70 years. 

At the same time, I was encouraged by how the international community is coming together, breaking silos to forge a comprehensive response. While the Conference focused on the role of post-crisis recovery and reconstruction for resilience building and disaster risk reduction, partners recognized the complexity of this effort. The joint communique noted that conflict and fragility require special attention as it can aggravate the impact of natural disasters and make the recovery process more challenging.

Using ICTs to Map the Future of Humanitarian Aid (part 1)

Dana Rawls's picture
Haiti map after the 2010 earthquake. Over 450 OpenStreetMap volunteers from an estimated 29 countries digitized roads, landmarks and buildings to assist with disaster response and reconstruction. OpenStreetMap/ITO World

The word “disruption” is frequently used to describe technology’s impact on every facet of human existence, including how people travel, learn, and even speak.

Now a growing cadre of digital humanitarians and technology enthusiasts are applying this disruption to the way humanitarian aid and disaster response are administered and monitored.

Humanitarian, or crisis, mapping refers to the real-time gathering and analysis of data during a crisis. Mapping projects allows people directly affected by humanitarian crises or physically located on the other side of the world to contribute information utilizing ICTs as diverse as mobile and web-based applications, aggregated data from social media, aerial and satellite imagery, and geospatial platforms such as geographic information systems (GIS).

Three countries show why culture matters for post-conflict and post-disaster reconstruction and recovery

Sameh Wahba's picture
In Mali, residents of Timbuktu take part in the maintenance of the Djingareyber Mosque, a World Heritage Site, applying traditional repair techniques. (Tiecoura Ndaou / UN Photo)
In Mali, residents of Timbuktu take part in the maintenance of the Djingareyber Mosque, a World Heritage Site, applying traditional repair techniques. (Tiecoura Ndaou / UN Photo)

Imagine a city destroyed by a natural disaster, killing people and wiping away infrastructure. For instance, an earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2010, killing over 200,000 people and displacing around 895,000.

Even worse, imagine a city demolished by a manmade disaster: conflict. Recent examples include Aleppo, Syria and Kabul, Afghanistan. Here conflict goes far beyond violence to include erasing a place’s culture, heritage, landmarks, and its traditions.

Now, imagine the enormous undertaking required to rebuild these places and the many stakeholders that need to be brought together. It would take an integrated, holistic approach to restore torn heritage, infrastructure, and service delivery systems after they have been wiped out by a natural or manmade disaster. Culture needs to underpin such a rebuilding approach.

Leveraging the urbanization dividend in Afghanistan

Sateh Chafic El-Arnaout's picture
With support provided by the KMDP, over one million people (about 73 percent women and children) have benefited from the construction of about 247 kilometers of neighborhood roads. Photo: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Afghanistan is undergoing a rapid urban transition. While the current share of its population living in cities is comparatively low (25.8 percent in 2014 compared to 32.6 percent across South Asia), Afghanistan’s urbanization rate is among the highest in the region. Its urban population is growing at 5 percent annually, more than twice the regional average.

The country’s urbanization transition is impacted by Afghanistan’s history of conflict and fragility, which presents additional challenges for urban areas. Cities are struggling to accommodate increasing numbers of persons seeking security, shelter, and jobs. These newcomers include internally displaced persons, returning refugees, as well as those leaving rural agricultural employment and seeking service-based jobs in urban areas. This migration will continue for a generation; by 2060, half of all Afghans will live in cities, which means that roughly 15 million people will be moving to cities in the next 40 years.[1]

Over the same time period, the country will also see a substantial increase in demand for employment as slightly more than half of the current population is aged 15 or younger and will soon be entering the workforce for years to come.

Against this background, Afghanistan will have to leverage and manage its urban transition to ensure that cities can provide job opportunities, housing, and improved quality of life to their citizens. Recognizing the important challenges, the Afghan government introduced the Urban National Priority Program (U-NPP) in 2016. It provides policy guidance and investments in support of municipal governance, improved access to basic services, and vibrant urban economies for the next 10 years.

World Refugee Day: What you need to know about the displaced and their host communities

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Today is World Refugee Day, a day for us all to remember how many people are moved or displaced from their homes—either within their own country or across borders.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) just announced that there were 22.5 million refugees and 40 million displaced internally due to conflicts last year, as well as many more forced to move due to natural disasters.  
Forced displacement is a crisis centered in developing countries, which host 89% of refugees and 99% of internally displaced persons. Watch a video below and learn how the crisis affects the displaced and their host communities alike around the world.


What’s in a number? Unpacking the 65 million-forced displacement crisis

Xavier Devictor's picture
(c) Dorte Verner
Regia, from Somalia, greets her friends and customers in her shop on the main street in the Nakivale refugee settlement, South West Uganda © Dorte Verner

Today on World Refugee Day, we hear once again that the number of people forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution has increased to 65.6 million by the end of 2016, according to UNHCR’s latest Global Trends report.

These numbers have served to galvanize attention to the severity of this crisis, providing momentum for the global community to take action. At the same time, these numbers have caused anxieties among many hosts, especially in OECD countries. Taking center stage in the political debate, it has raised questions over their ability to support all of those fleeing conflict, at times leading to fear and rising anti-refugee sentiments.

Have we really entered a “new world” where population movements are on a scale never experienced before, calling for extraordinary measures to stop the flow? To answer this question, it’s worth taking a closer look at the numbers.

“Papers please?”: The importance of refugees and other forcibly-displaced persons being able to prove identity

Bronwen Manby's picture
A refugee filling an application at the UNHCR registration center in Tripoli, Lebanon. © Mohamed Azakir / World Bank

If you were forced to run for your life, amidst falling bombs or as a hurricane approaches, what would you grab after your children and loved ones? You would be well advised to make your identity documents one of the first things to pack. Birth certificates, national ID cards, passports, residence permits, even a driver’s license—documents like these will be necessary to prove who you are to the authorities in the country to which you flee, and the authorities in your home country when it is safe to return.