Ethiopia: Expanding National Poverty Survey to Include Refugees 

Drafted in collaboration with the Ethiopian Statistics Service and the World Bank.


Ethiopia is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in Africa, with over 860,000 refugees and asylum seekers, largely coming from Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea [1]. In recent years, Ethiopia has made significant efforts to strengthen their refugee response, including the 2019 Refugee Proclamation which created an enabling environment to promote self-reliance for refugees and the development of a 10-year National Comprehensive Refugee Response Strategy (NCRRS) [2]. However, refugees still face challenges to access services and fully integrate into society putting unnecessary pressure on host communities where high levels of poverty and low socioeconomic conditions are already common.  

In addition, comprehensive data on the poverty levels and socioeconomic situation of refugees in Ethiopia is either missing or scarce which hinders progress on implementing the Strategy in practice. To address this gap and help inform programmatic responses to advance the integration of refugees, the Ethiopian Statistics Service (ESS), in collaboration with Ethiopia’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS), UNHCR, the World Bank, and the JDC [3], is currently conducting a socio-economic survey, partially integrated into the Household Welfare Statistics Survey (HoWStat), informed by recommendations from the IRRS. 



Socio-Economic Survey of Refugees in Ethiopia (SESRE) 

The SESRE aims to fill data gaps on the socioeconomic conditions of refugees and host communities in Ethiopia. This survey is conducted as a separate but partially integrated survey aligned to the national poverty survey (HoWStat), and thus acts as a pilot for expanding national poverty surveys to include refugee populations. The survey will facilitate a systematic comparison between refugees and host populations in terms of socioeconomic and welfare outcomes and provide data and analytics (e.g., on economic activity, livelihoods, and consumption patterns) for policymaking on better integrating refugees into host communities.  

Data collection for the SESRE was finalised in early 2023 and data processing and analytical work is currently ongoing, with an expected completion date in August 2023. Though the producer of official national statistics, ESS surveyed refugee populations for the first time and gained valuable skills and knowledge on the sensitivities and challenges of collecting data from refugees. Effective engagement with partners such as RRS and UNHCR were essential to successfully complete data collection in refugee camps and valuable lessons have been learned for integrating refugees in future HoWStat survey rounds. In particular, given the significant logistical burden of administering both surveys simultaneously a key lesson learnt from this process is to more fully integrate the refugee strata into the main survey in future iterations. 


The Use of the International Recommendations 

As a pilot activity to test the inclusion of refugees in Ethiopia’s national poverty survey, the very implementation of this activity is understood as an example of implementation of the IRRS. If the process is successful it could lead to a more systematic inclusion in future iterations of national poverty and other surveys.

More specifically, the SESRE questionnaire was informed by and covers the IRRS recommended variables for identifying refugees, namely country of origin, country of citizenship, date of arrival, reason for international migration (including forced displacement). Criteria-based identification is complemented by pre-identification through the sampling frame used for the refugee strata (UNHCR’s recently verified refugee registration database). In addition, as the majority of the SESRE questionnaire’s modules are fully aligned to the HoWStat, survey results will also produce many of the recommendations on measuring characteristics from Chapter 5 of the IRRS as well as the 12 priority SDG indicators recommended for disaggregation by forced displacement [4]. 


The SESRE represents an important case study in EGRISS’ collective, growing experience implementing the IRRS and furthering the inclusion of forcibly displaced persons in national statistical systems. Although several delays for the project’s implementation were experienced due to insecurity in some parts of the country and institutional restructuring processes, the process and results will surely provide valuable learning and analysis in the context of Ethiopia and beyond. 

[1] See: UNHCR – Refugee Statistics 

[2] See UNHCR Briefing note: Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) 

[3] See the more information on the national household survey of Ethiopia: Ethiopia: Including refugees in a national socioeconomic household survey – Joint Data Center. 

[4] See: IAEG-SDGs — SDG Indicators (