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publication November 14, 2019

Informing Durable Solutions for Internal Displacement

With nearly 71 million refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), and asylum-seekers as of 2018, forced displacement is a developing world crisis. However, evidence-based planning for IDPs is challenging because of a lack of data on their numbers, locations and socioeconomic characteristics. A new World Bank study aims to help close data gaps by using micro-level data to profile IDP populations and host communities in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan, as well as refugees in Ethiopia.

The report — Informing Durable Solutions for Internal Displacement in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan — analyzes the demographic structure of IDPs and resident populations and draws on factors that trigger displacement. The study introduces socioeconomic profiles of displaced people and fills the data gaps by providing inputs for targeted program and policy interventions for long-lasting solutions to end displacement.

“By relying on micro-data collected through household surveys carried out in four countries, this report aims to bridge the critical data gaps that stand in the way of helping better understand the forced displacement crisis,” said Utz Pape, senior economist in the Poverty and Equity Global Practice. “To overcome vulnerabilities among IDPs and to end displacement, evidence-based targeted policy interventions are needed that will ensure durable solutions.”

Report findings:

IDPs are young, poorer than resident populations, and face risks differentiated by sex. A majority of the IDPs in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan are children under the age of 15. High percentages of children reveal large household sizes among the displaced and high dependency rates — especially among female-headed households. Ensuring adequate nutrition, access to health care services, and education for children and youth are critical to maintain and enhance long-term human capital, which will have a bearing on the future of the nations’ productivity, poverty, and workforce.

IDPs and refugees are poorer and more vulnerable than host communities, but rural hosts are nearly as poor as IDPs. More than 8 out of 10 IDPs in the four countries live in extreme poverty. Poverty is widespread among IDPs and also among residents in rural areas.

"To overcome vulnerabilities among IDPs and to end displacement, evidence-based targeted policy interventions are needed that will ensure durable solutions."
Utz Pape
Senior Economist, Poverty & Equity Global Practice

IDPs in South Sudan and South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia are mostly women. More than 9 out of 10 South Sudanese refugee households in Ethiopia are headed by women. In Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria, the proportion of men and women is nearly equal, but women still face particular risks. For instance, displaced women are more food-insecure than displaced men, and IDP women tend to have worse education and labor outcomes than men. 

To implement effective, long-lasting solutions requires tailoring policies to each country’s context. In northeast Nigeria, solutions for internal displacement need to prioritize security and better living conditions in host areas. In Somalia, policies must focus on human capital to prevent lifelong gaps in social and economic development. In South Sudan, durable solutions for displacement need to look at preserving human capital by strengthening food security and improving living conditions and access to education and employment opportunities for young adult IDPs. Finally, Sudan needs to prioritize security in return areas, reduce gender-based vulnerabilities, and improve living conditions in host and return areas.

Cross-cutting policies for successful solutions must address employment opportunities, inequality in host communities, security issues in return areas, and sustainable solutions for permanent settlement. Conflict, violence, and natural shocks often drive IDPs away from rural areas. Having poverty reduction programs integrated with livelihood opportunities and transferable skills programs can be instrumental in helping agricultural IDPs find a stable exit from poverty in urban areas. A high level of income inequality in host communities is linked to a worse perception of IDPs. By focusing on income-generating opportunities to reduce inequality in host communities, countries could achieve more successful integration of IDPs. Improving the security situation and increasing economic opportunities in return and host communities are crucial elements. A security-focused approach along with increasing self-reliance among the displaced are needed.

A man carries containers in South Sudan
A man carries water in rural South Sudan. © Melissa Grant/The Human Geographic/World Bank

Key Facts

  • Armed conflict, violence and insecurity are the main causes of displacement — almost 8 in 10 displaced households in Nigeria, 9 in 10 displaced households in Sudan, 8 in 10 displaced households in South Sudan, and 6 in 10 in Somalia (4 out of 10 fled due to drought, famine, or floods)
  • Nearly half of the IDPs and more than half of refugees are children under the age of 15
  • While refugees are 38 percentage points poorer than host communities, IDPs and rural hosts are nearly equally poor
  • Over 50% of female IDPs and nearly 75% of women refugees face food insecurity. IDPs in South Sudan and South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia are mostly women
  • IDPs in Northeast Nigeria: 87% poverty, 61% food insecurity, 25% poor housing, and 20% unemployed
  • IDPs in Somalia: 75% poverty, 52% adult literacy rate, 35% school enrollment rate, 42% unemployed, and 75% live in urban centers
  • IDPs in South Sudan: 91% poverty, literacy rate of 53%, and 41% unemployed
  • IDPs in Sudan: 83% poverty, 64% food security, 91% no electricity, over 50% of IDPs want to remain in camps due to security conditions