Refugees and Displaced People

Climate change, natural disasters, conflicts and wars force people to move internally and internationally. The Center’s several research projects in this area analyze the impact of refugees on receiving economies and societies, in rich and developing countries and how to support the physical and mental health of refugees. 

November 7th, 2019

Patrick Marius Koga, Research on Refugees’ Health

Refugee Health Electronic Information System

Working with the Sacramento County Refugee Health Clinic, Marius Koga conducted in-depth mental health evaluation of newly arrived refugees (including asylees, victims of human trafficking, and other eligible populations) who have been identified with potential mental health conditions. He assisted with the development, implementation and pilot testing, of the Refugee Health Electronic Information System (RHEIS) enhancing its ability to detect infectious diseases and bioterrorism- related health conditions and also in emerging health risks such as pandemic influenza, malaria, etc. Dr. Koga helped develop RHEIS modifications aimed to improve the effectiveness of public health surveillance, outreach, and intervention through data collection and analysis. He continues the provision of mental health status reports of newly arrived populations, and the coordination of outreach and trainings for refugee health programs, community-based organizations, resettlement agencies, and mutual assistance agencies, to respond to public health emergencies that may affect refugee populations throughout California. Dr. Koga assists also with implementing the ORH Refugee Health School Program to improve refugee student acculturation and mitigate the negative psychological impacts of resettlement. 

Opportunities for UCD students with the Office of Refugee Health (ORH)

Marius Koga assists the ORH in conducting profiles on the health status of arriving refugee via the UC Davis Master of Public Health (MPH) program.  Fourteen MPH students have thus far completed their Practicum Project with Dr. Koga conducting epidemiological surveys in Northern California. At the direction of ORH management, MPH and/or other graduate or postgraduate UCD students recruited by Dr. Koga will assist with the analysis of ORH health assessment data. Students will provide a report to ORH on the health status of new refugee populations arriving in California. Contact Dr. Koga at or ORH/CDPH at

Transforming Refugee Mental Health (TRMH)

With PI Professor Suad Joseph, and a team of researchers at UCD, American University of Beirut, the American University in Cairo, the Birzeit University, the Lebanese American University, and the Ulysses Research Team, Marius Koga has launched in 2017 a multi-pronged project in Arab countries affected directly by the Syrian refugee crisis. The project develops gendered and culturally competent training programs in refugee mental health, telemedicine, health informatics, and mobile health for primary care doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, medical, nursing, and public health students, and refugee community health workers. Focusing initially on Northern California, (with co-PI Law Professor Raquel Aldana) the project has the longer view of enhancing mental health research and clinical service capacity in Lebanon, West Bank/Palestine, and Egypt, for traumatized Arab refugee populations. A First Forum on Refugee Legal- Mental Health Intersectionality,, had eight focus groups of experts who came together to identify interprofessional education and practice gaps in the asylum adjudication and treatment of trauma associated with all stages of the forced migration journey. A Second Forum held on October 25, 2019, included panel discussion with refugees, immigration lawyers, clinicians, and neuroscientists to inform legal and health frameworks and policies to reduce malpractice, suffering, ovemedicalization, treatment gaps and mental health disparities in Arab refugees in California and in the Arab Region.

Opportunities for UCD students with TRMH/UCDAR:

UCD students can seek involvement with any of the UCDAR’s TRMH projects. Contact Dr. Koga at or Professor Suad at

November 4, 2019

Ed Taylor analyzes the Economic impacts of refugees on host-country economies

In this research project several PI’s directed by Affiliate Ed Taylor (Professor ARE) assess the impacts of cash and voucher food assistance programs on the welfare of refugees and the host-country economies surrounding refugee camps.

As method of analysis they use Quasi-experiments, local economy-wide impact evaluation, Monte Carlo methods.

They first surveyed a random sample of refugee households and businesses inside three Congolese refugee camps in Rwanda, as well as a random sample of host-country households out to a 10 kilometer radius around each camp. Then they used these data to econometrically estimate the parameters of a local economy-wide impact evaluation (LEWIE) model for each camp. The model was used to measure total economic impacts of refugees and refugee assistance, including the indirect spillovers they generate. Monte Carlo methods make it possible to construct confidence bounds around simulation results. They also used quasi-experimental methods to assess impacts of cash vs. in-kind food assistance and giving land to refugees.

The key findings are as follow: Receiving food assistance in the form of cash on cell phones improves refugee welfare and stimulates local incomes by more than the cost of this assistance. In-kind food assistance creates smaller benefits and competes with local crop production. Providing refugees with plots of land benefits both refugees and local economies in and around refugee settlements.

Findings appear in:

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 2016

Harvard Business Review 2017

World Development 2017

The World Food Program funded a second study to examine impacts of refugee assistance on local economies around two settlements in Uganda—including the impacts of the Uganda government’s policy of giving land to refugees. Findings were featured in The Economist magazine and available to download here.