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Internal displacement costs countries at least $20 billion a year

12.01.2021, Geneva - New estimates reveal the economic impact of internal displacement caused by conflict, violence or disasters around the world.

With nearly 51 million people living in internal displacement, and an average cost per person of $390, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimates that the total global economic impact of internal displacement has reached $20 billion for each year of displacement.

This estimate has increased from $13 billion, or $310 per person, in the two-year period since IDMC’s last assessment. It is based on an original methodology which measures the loss of income when people are forced to flee their homes and the cost of meeting their basic needs in security, housing, health and education.

“With more people internally displaced around the world than ever before, responding to their needs places an immense financial burden on overstretched humanitarian budgets and fragile national economies that are already suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Alexandra Bilak, Director of IDMC.

“Investing in preventing and reducing internal displacement and its impacts is, therefore, not only beneficial for security and wellbeing but also helps the economy at large.”

IDMC analysed 22 countries affected by significant internal displacement associated with conflict and violence, disasters, or a combination of both. The average cost and loss per internally displaced person (IDP) ranged from $114 per year in Colombia to $869 per year in Syria.

Syria had the highest annual economic impact at $5.6 billion, or 14% of the country’s GDP. After ten years of civil war, 6.5 million people have been uprooted. In Somalia, persistent insecurity has displaced 2.6 million people. The cost of meeting their needs, just over $1 billion, represents over 20% of GDP.

The economic impact of internal displacement in the DRC, Yemen and Iraq were also among the highest of the countries analysed, totalling $1.8 billion, $1.3 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively. This shows that large-scale, protracted crises can have a huge impact on the entire national economy.

The greatest financial burden associated with internal displacement across the 22 countries analysed stemmed from loss of livelihoods and health costs, which together accounted for two-thirds of the total economic impact.

“Most of the countries included in our analysis have been repeatedly affected by displacement crises and continue to be at risk of protracted or cyclical displacement. This highlights an urgent need to refocus our response from short-term humanitarian reaction to longer-term prevention and national development planning,” adds Alexandra Bilak.

These estimates are conservative and limited by the data available. They do not account for the economic impacts associated with longer-term consequences of internal displacement, or the financial impacts on host communities or communities of origin. They do, however, offer insight on the areas of greatest need for IDPs, so that governments and aid providers can tailor their interventions accordingly.



  • IDMC first published estimates on the annual economic cost of internal displacement at the global level in February 2019. Based on data from 2017 from eight countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe which had recently suffered significant displacement crises, IDMC estimated the global cost to be $13 billion, or $310 per IDP.
  • This report applies the same methodology to assess the economic impact of internal displacement in 2019 for 22 countries. The selection was determined by countries which have OCHA Humanitarian Response Plans, the main source of data used for this analysis.
  • Included in this study are the ten countries that reported the highest number of people living in internal displacement as a result of conflict and violence in 2019 – Syria, Colombia, the DRC, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, Iraq and Ethiopia – and six out of ten countries that recorded the highest number as a result of disasters in 2019 – Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, the DRC and Nigeria.
  • The increase in global financial impact from 2017 to 2019 can be explained by a rise in the number of people living in internal displacement, which hit a record high at the end of 2019. For the first time, IDMC was also able to include an estimate for the number of people displaced by disasters.
  • The cost per IDP has also increased due to worsening, therefore more costly, displacement crises in places like Yemen and the inclusion of country’s with relatively high incomes, such as Syria and Colombia, where the costs and losses are higher.
  • For more information on the methodology, limitations and more detailed country-level estimates, download the report: Unveiling the cost of internal displacement.

For interviews please contact:
Dawn Vout, Head of External Relations, IDMC
Mobile: +41 78 656 4622