AidData/William & Mary awarded two-year grant to study data on refugee, migrant and trafficked children

The two-year, nearly $500,000 grant funds research to improve the data needed for assistance programs seeking to help children on the move.

March 13, 2018

John Custer, Alex Wooley

Williamsburg, VA—There are more refugees and displaced children in the world today than at any other time in history. But without data on where they are, what they need, and what resources are currently reaching them, international organizations can’t effectively help. Today, AidData announced receipt of a two-year, nearly $500,000 grant from the Oak Foundation Children on the Move Fund of the Tides Foundation to improve the data needed for assistance programs seeking to help refugee, displaced, and trafficked children. The end result will see public, private, and civil society leaders equipped with a set of actionable recommendations and best practices regarding the collection and use of data about these children on the move.

Related: Minding the gap in data on refugee, migrant and trafficked children

Over the course of the two-year project, AidData and the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development at UMass Boston will consult with key stakeholders in the U.S., Europe, and three country case studies to identify existing data sources and barriers to use posed by information that’s missing, fragmented, or lacking adequate specificity.  

"There are alarming holes in what we know about children who are ‘on the move,’ either voluntarily migrating with their families or involuntarily fleeing war, famine and poverty, not to mention victims of trafficking. We are excited to join with others in an international campaign to close these data gaps and ensure that decision-makers are armed with the information they need to target resources to these vulnerable children and their families," said Samantha Custer, AidData’s Director of Policy Analysis.

The project will lay critical groundwork to ensure that decision-makers have the information they need for effective interventions, including a global review of how existing data is used, country studies to map existing interventions, and recommendations on best practices for scaling up data usage internationally. Analysis and recommendations from the project will appear at collaborative forums such as the International Forum on Migration Statistics, Global Compact meetings, and data working group meetings such as the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (of which AidData is a member) and the second UN World Data Forum in the summer of 2018.

Gaps in data coverage are a pressing issue for international organizations seeking to help vulnerable children. UNICEF notes that "massive data gaps leave refugee, migrant and displaced children in danger" and deprives these vulnerable children of the protection and services that they need. On February 15, in ‘A call to action:  Protecting children on the move start with better data’ five UN and partner agencies—UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, Eurostat, and OECD—warned that a lack of data and evidence hinders their understanding of how migration and forcible displacement affect children and their families.    

Although UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency) estimates that 28 million children were living in forced displacement in 2016, the agency concedes that the true figure is likely much higher, as age-related information is available for only 56% of the refugee population that they are mandated to track. Four in five countries with data on conflict-related internally displaced persons do not break their data down by age. In Africa, 43% of countries do not have age disaggregated data on migrants.  

For media inquiries, please contact Alex Wooley at or by phone at (757) 585-9875.

Syrian refugee students attend a class in an accelerated learning program at public school in Kamed Al Louz in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Photo by Shawn Baldwin/UNHCR, licensed under (CC BY-NC 2.0).

John Custer is AidData's Communications Manager.

Alex Wooley is AidData's Director of Partnerships and Communications.

The views expressed here are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the institutions to which the authors belong.