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Forced Displacement Survey

The Forced Displacement Survey (FDS) is a programme designed to streamline and standardize surveys that collect data on forcibly displaced people.

Currently, UNHCR has two primary data sources: registration systems and household surveys. Surveys can be dispersed, ad-hoc and sectoral and might not comply with international statistical standards. The FDS aims to address these challenges by building a standardized and compatible survey programme that produces multi-topic, high-quality, and timely data on people forced to flee. 

See the Forced Displacement Survey flyer: English version | French version

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Explore the first Forced Displacement Survey (FDS) – South Sudan 2023

The first Forced Displacement Survey was conducted in South Sudan in 2023 and published in July 2024. South Sudan has hosted refugees since its independence in 2011, despite facing multiple social challenges and internal conflicts. The survey aims to develop a better understanding of the lives of those forced to flee by presenting a broad overview of the legal and socioeconomic situation of refugee and host community populations in South Sudan, delivering insights to improve programming and policies.

View the South Sudan survey 


Understanding the living conditions of forcibly displaced

The FDS collects multi-topic data on the socioeconomic and living conditions of refugees, asylum-seekers and nationals who live in proximity (host communities).  

The main topics covered by the FDS can be broadly classified into four areas: demographics and legal status, socio-cultural, economic and civil-political. Each thematic area covers various topics:

Demographic and legal status

  • household composition;
  • gender and age, disabilities;
  • education;
  • origin;
  • movement and history of displacement;
  • legal status;
  • documentation.
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Civil political

  • access to information;
  • access to justice;
  • trust and political participation;
  • safety and security;
  • freedom of thought;
  • freedom of movement;
  • attitudes towards others;
  • victimization;
  • discrimination.
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  • access to labour market;
  • livelihood occupation and skills;
  • access to land and property;
  • access to financial solutions;
  • social protection;
  • access to food and nutrition;
  • access to clean energy;
  • objective and subjective and mental well-being;
  • remittances;
  • child labour;
  • experience of shocks.
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  • access to health;
  • child nutrition and vaccination status;
  • maternal health;
  • access to housing;
  • access to water sanitation and hygiene.
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While data will be collected using the same data collection instrument in every country, each question is classified as core or non-core, and the non-core questions are included or excluded depending on the relevance of specific topics in each country. 

Conducting interviews

Survey questions are designed to collect information about both households as a whole and about people who are part of it.

In each household, interviews are conducted with the head of the household or someone who is knowledgeable about the household as a whole. Interviews are also conducted with a randomly selected household member aged 15 years or above who provides information about individual life experiences. FDS interviews also collect data on a randomly selected child under five years of age and a randomly selected woman who gave birth in the last two years.  

Open data access

The data produced will be publicly available (in compliance with UNHCR’s data protection policy) and can be used to inform the operations, programmes and research of donors, humanitarians and development institutions as well as forcibly displaced persons themselves.

While reducing the burden to provide information on affected populations, the FDS is comparable across countries and, over time, in alignment with international statistical standards. Following international standards makes FDS data comparable with other international and national surveys. 

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Target population and sampling

Refugees, asylum-seekers, refugee returnees and host community households constitute the primary populations of interest to the FDS in its initial phase. Expansion to other displaced populations is foreseen over time.

Nationally representative samples of these target populations are used to produce country-level statistics and evidence. Selected sample sizes and sample allocations allow the production of results for certain subgroups of the target population and to respond to the countries’ information needs and priorities. 


Launching the survey

The FDS aims to cover most of the refugees and asylum-seekers hosted in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The first FDS pilots are planned in Cameroon, Pakistan and South Sudan.

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Coordination and support

The FDS is entirely managed and implemented by UNHCR’s Global Data Service with technical and financial support from the World Bank-UNHCR Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement (JDC) and UNHCR’s Division of Resilience and Solutions.

The work of the FDS is guided by recommendations and best practices developed by established international survey programmes, and other interagency and inter-secretariat working groups and expert groups (i.e. DHS, LFS, LSMS, MICS, EGRISS, Inter-secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys).

Contact: [email protected]