A tale of high expectations, promising results and a long road ahead

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by Jasper Tjaden, Andres Arau, Muertizha Nuermaimaiti, Imge Cetin, Eduardo Acostamadiedo, Marzia Rango.

Act 1 — High Expectations

“Data is the new oil,” they say. ‘Big Data’ is even bigger than that. The “data revolution” will contribute to solving societies’ problems and help governments adopt better policies and run more effective programs. In the migration field, digital trace data are seen as a potentially powerful tool to improve migration management processes (visa applications; asylum decision and geographic allocation of asylum seeker, facilitating integration, “smart borders” etc.).1

Forecasting migration is one particular area where big data seems to excite data nerds (like us) and policymakers alike. If there is one way big data has already made a difference, it is its ability to bring different actors together — data scientists, business people and policy makers — to sit through countless slides with numbers, tables and graphs. Traditional migration data sources, like censuses, administrative data and surveys, have never quite managed to generate the same level of excitement. …


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IOM conducts a needs assessment in Dollow to find out what are the most urgent needs for IDPs living in the area. Credit: Muse Mohammed / IOM

Baidoa — Baidoa, a major economic centre in southwestern Somalia, has seen rapid population growth as displacement driven by conflict and climate change has greatly accelerated in recent years. In just the last decade, it is estimated that Baidoa’s population has doubled.

The increased influx of forcibly displaced people arriving to the urban area has made it challenging for humanitarian partners to reach all those who need support. Most displaced families continue to live in makeshift shelters (“buuls”) made from discarded clothes, cartons, and sticks, which offer little protection against heavy rainfall or sweltering heat.

In comparison to the rest of the country, humanitarian needs in Baidoa are overwhelmingly high. To meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable, IOM Somalia implemented a cash-based intervention (CBI) programme which benefited 2,500 families in Baidoa in December 2020. …


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Credit: Muse Mohammed / IOM

Mogadishu- Three years ago, 67-year-old Omar made the difficult decision to leave his home in Ethiopia after his family’s livestock perished following a prolonged drought. His situation was made worse by inter clan clashes, which continue to plague the Somalia region of Ethiopia.

Omar arrived in Somalia in 2017, crossing the border on foot. Today, he lives with his daughter and her four children at Kabasa, one of the most impoverished camps for displaced persons in in Doolow, a small town in Gedo region in the southern part of Somalia at the border with Ethiopia.

He is forced to spend the nights in the open as the makeshift shelter he shares with his daughter and her children is too small to accommodate all of them. His daughter works tirelessly to provide for the family. The little she gets from doing menial jobs is never enough. …


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In 1951, IOM, — known back then as the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe — started providing vaccines as part of its pre-migration health activities. (1951). © IOM

Since its inception, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been working to improve immunization coverage for migrants and forcibly displaced persons across the world.

“Vaccines are one of our most important and cost-effective tools to prevent outbreaks, protect individuals, and therefore keep entire communities safe and healthy,” says IOM Director General António Vitorino. …


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In August, nearly 150 Nigeriens stranded in Côte d’Ivoire were assisted with voluntary return home via a humanitarian corridor set up by the Ivorian and Nigerian governments. Photo: Mohamed DIabaté/IOM Côte d’Ivoire

An estimated 30,000 migrants in vulnerable situations were stranded in West and Central Africa in May, as COVID-19 began to spread in the region.

“Migrant in vulnerable situations” is a term often used, but is the meaning really understood? Why are they considered vulnerable? Why do they need immediate assistance?

Based on its unique field experience, IOM recognizes operational challenges and protection gaps in identifying, protecting and assisting migrants who are not entitled to international protection as refugees, stateless persons or victims of human trafficking, but who nonetheless require protection and assistance. In order to respond to this challenge, IOM has developed a Determinants of Migrant Vulnerability model, an innovative tool to holistically assess migrants’ vulnerabilities and capabilities. This approach looks beyond individuals. It analyses factors at the household/family, community and structural levels that contribute to vulnerability or, conversely, those that contribute to resilience, mitigate vulnerability, reduce harm and inform comprehensive and sustainable solutions. …


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Virtual support and counseling enable family members of returnees to share experiences, and draw support from each other to care for their relatives during the lockdown. Credit: Jorge Galindo / IOM

In Nigeria, COVID-19 has posed great challenges to returnees. Among those worst affected are people with mental health and psychosocial needs.

Movement restrictions imposed by the Nigerian government have made assistance to returnees and their families particularly challenging. Due to these restrictions, returnees with psychological concerns face challenges in accessing dedicated mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services. Moreover, as economic activities came to a halt, caregivers observed symptoms of relapse and deterioration of their beneficiaries’ psychosocial wellbeing.

Under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, a COVID-19 assessment was conducted via phone in the West and Central Africa region. In Nigeria, responses from over 100 returnees were collected in Edo and Delta States, and more than 90 per cent reported that their emotional wellbeing had deteriorated since the crisis began. …


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Volunteers make a difference in the lives of others, without asking for anything in return. Read about these three IOM volunteers and how they reach others in time of need.

Standing up for peace by Jacob Gnammou


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Women participate in a focus group discussion conducted by Marica Rasau after the ‘Build Back Safer’ training in Vusuya Settlement, Tailevu District, Central Division, Fiji. Photo: IOM/Daniel Noriega

Tropical Cyclone Harold caused extensive destruction after making landfall as a category 4 storm in the Republic of Fiji on 8 April 2020.

Since then, International Organization for Migration’s partnership with the Fijian NGO Live and Learn has supported the ongoing rebuilding efforts by responding to the shelter needs of some of the most vulnerable households affected by Tropical Cyclone Harold (‘TC Harold’) in Vatulele island and Tailevu province (Western and Central Divisions respectively).

To address the shelter, water and sanitation and food security needs of 200,000 people affected, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) contributed USD 100,000 to the IOM’s response. …


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“People may think problems are only to be shared with family, but strangers sometimes become family.” — Ferdjani. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac

Organizing a basketball camp at a time when COVID-19 has forced the suspension of so many sporting activities across the globe was no easy feat.

In early October however, players from across Niger and ten migrants hosted at IOM’s transit centers, aged 13 to 19, took on the challenge and participated in this year’s edition of Hoops4Kids, in Niamey.

In 1993, Yacouba Sangaré was playing for Niger’s national basketball team, which gave him the opportunity to relocate to the Unites States. From his new home, he founded the non-profit organization Hoops4Kids as a means of giving back to his community. Hoops4Kids has since sought to provide at-risk youth the opportunity to develop their athletic and life skills through its basketball programs in both the U.S. …


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Credit: Angela Wells / IOM

Migrants and mobile populations face many obstacles in accessing essential healthcare services. These include language barriers, a dearth of migrant-inclusive health policies, inaccessibility of services or irregular immigration status. In addition, many migrants live in overcrowded spaces or makeshift shelters, with poor sanitation and hygiene services, which increases their vulnerability to poor health outcomes. These challenges affect the well- being of migrants, and undermine societies by limiting the positive contribution of migrants and migration to our societies, and towards the realisation of global health, social and economic development goals. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid this bare in the starkest terms.

Since its inception, the International Organization for Migration has considered health a core component of all migration or population mobility issues, from migration and development, climate and environmental change, and disease control and prevention, to global health security, occupational safety, disaster risk reduction and foreign policy. In 2019, 1,300 IOM staff members across 110 country offices implemented nearly 200 health-related projects. They conducted over 3.6 …

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Official account of IOM, the UN Migration Agency.

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