Development environment


Mid-year update 2017 (January - June)

New displacements (Conflict and violence) IDMC (1 January - 30 June 2017)

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Country Information

Population UN Population Division (as of 2017)
Total number of IDPs (Conflict and violence) IDMC (as of 31 December 2017)
New displacements (Conflict and violence) IDMC (1 January - 31 December 2017)
New displacements (Disasters) IDMC (1 January - 31 December 2016)
Refugees UNHCR (as of 2016)

Conflict and violence displacement figures

Latest GRID confidence assessment

Displacement type IDPs (Stock) New Displacement (Flow)
Reporting units People
Methodology Key informants
Key informants
Geographical disaggregation Admin 2 or more Admin 2 or more
Geographical coverage No No
Frequency of reporting Other Other
Disaggregation on sex Yes No
Disaggregation on age Yes No
Data triangulation No Triangulation No Triangulation
Data on settlement elsewhere No No
Data on returns No Yes
Data on local integration No No
Data on deaths No No
Data on births No No

Latest GRID figures analysis

The stock figure was produced through calculations based on IOM DTM assessments. It is a significant underestimate because it covers only half of the country. New displacements were produced through UNHCR-led Protection and Return Monitoring Network. Monitoring displacement in Somalia is particularly challenging because it’s a complex crisis where slow-onset disasters and violence overlap and it is difficult to disaggregate different causes of displacement. Therefore, these estimates reflect IDMC’s best effort to capture internal displacement purely triggered by conflict and insecurity.

Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 36 KB)

Latest GRID stock figure by year of data update

Disaster displacement figures

New displacements

Events timeline


Insecurity, weak governance and extremely low levels of socio-economic development make the population of Somalia highly fragile and vulnerable to recurrent shocks, both human-made and natural. The drivers of displacement risk, the impacts of displacement and the obstacles to durable solutions are complex and intertwined. Conflict and violence, slow and sudden-onset natural and environmental hazards, food and livelihood insecurity, weak governance and underdevelopment have all played a significant part in past and current displacement in the country.

Drivers of displacement

New and protracted internal displacement in Somalia is linked to multiple drivers, including recurrent or persistent exposure to internal conflict and climate-related hazards, chronic and acute food and livelihood insecurity, human rights violations, and the limited ability and political willingness of the state to protect and assist IDPs and support durable solutions for them. The country is severely fragile and impoverished, with half of the population living below the poverty line (51.6%). Domestic revenue is still insufficient to allow the government to deliver services to citizens, and the country remains dependent on international assistance. As of March 2017, over half the Somalian population (6.2 million) were acutely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance.

Multiple periods of large-scale displacement were driven by the need for safe shelter and the lack of secure tenure in places of settlement, and by the search for pasture for livestock and food and water to survive. Following the collapse of the authoritarian socialist government in January 1991, Somalia descended into cycles of clan-based internal conflict and displacement that fragmented the country over two and a half decades. Much of the country’s governance structure, economic infrastructure and institutions broke down.

In combination with the impacts of severe, recurrent drought and other natural hazards on food and livelihood security and health, certain areas of the country faced two periods of famine, the first one from 1991 to 1992, the second in 2011. As a result of restrictions imposed by Al-Shabaab on trade and freedom of movement, access restrictions and the limited humanitarian funding and response, famine spread across all regions of the south in 2011, and an estimated  260,000 people died.

An internationally backed federal government was installed in 2012 and a compact was made with the international community. Fighting has continued, however, between armed groups, and between the militant group Al-Shabaab and the country’s armed forces, backed by troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia. In the second smooth transfer of power since Somalia’s first direct elections in 1960, a new president was elected by parliament in February 2017 amid concerns in the central government and international community about violence perpetrated by Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia. In addition to the violence, the imposition of taxes on households, farms and livestock by Al-Shabaab has also caused displacements.

Two consecutive years of severe drought drove rapidly deteriorating food security and declining levels of nutrition and health towards the end of 2016. Warnings of potential famine in Somalia were issued by the UN in February 2017, with over half the population – around 6 million people – facing acute food insecurity. Many thousands of families who depend on livestock and agriculture for survival have been forced to abandon their homes and normal migration patterns to seek grazing land, water, work or life-saving assistance elsewhere.

In addition to this mix of displacement drivers, the exposed and vulnerable population are also impacted by floods and storms almost every year, accounting for over 224,000 new displacements between 2008 and 2016. Recurrent flooding affects communities living along rivers where embankments have not been maintained. At the same time, Somalia’s precarious reliance on rainfall makes it highly vulnerable to climate change.

Voluntarily or forcibly returning Somali refugees without a solution to their displacement within Somalia have also added to the internally displaced population. More than 24,600 Somalis were repatriated from Kenya between January and October 2016 under an agreement between the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Kenyan and Somali governments.

IDPs’ insecure tenure over the buildings or land where they seek to settle temporarily or more permanently makes them highly vulnerable to secondary displacement through forced evictions when government institutions and private landlords seek to reclaim their property. Nearly 130,000 cases of forced evictions of IDPs and other urban settlers were reported in Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa and Luuq in 2015.

Patterns of displacement

Patterns of new and ongoing internal displacement are triggered by recurring shocks related to conflict, natural hazard events and human rights violations, and are influenced by livelihood mobility (around half of the population are nomadic pastoralists), urbanisation and access to information and external assistance. The majority of IDPs settle in informal and unplanned settlements where the conditions are very poor and forced eviction is a common threat, and where newly displaced people join those whose displacement has become protracted. Many are displaced multiple times. Communities of IDPs are often marginalised and discriminated against because they often belong to minorities or are separated from the protection of their clans.

Protracted displacement tends to be urban in nature. In 2015, an estimated 85 per cent of the 80,000 households living in 486 informal settlements were thought to be IDPs. As of April 2016, the largest concentration of IDPs was in Mogadishu, followed by other urban centres; most were driven there by conflict and drought and eviction from their former homes or shelters seeking security, basic services and the means to a livelihood. IDP settlements transform into urban slums such as the one in Hargeisa, where most people staying in 14 settlements were economic migrants mixed with IDPs, mostly from areas within Somaliland affected by drought and from areas affected by conflict, as well as returnees and refugees. IDPs in Puntland were also concentrated in the main cities with most originating from southern and central Somalia, and some local people displaced under drought conditions.

In 2016 and 2017, displacement has continued to rise as food security and access to basic needs has deteriorated in areas affected by drought. As of late November 2016, the central area of rural eastern Somaliland was largely deserted.Most of those displaced are children. Between November 2016 and April 2017, the number of displacements rose to around 615,000. The 2011 famine led to mass displacements to areas where assistance was more easily accessible, such as refugee camps and urban settlements.

At the same time, new conflict related displacements have continued in smaller numbers than in the past, including up to 90,000 displaced in Gaalkacyo in November 2016, 29,000 people displaced in Lower Shabelle, 27,500 in Qandala, and 5,000 across Bakool and Hiraan in December. Most refugees repatriated in 2016 returned to Baidoa, Kismayo, Luuq and Mogadishu, where they continued to live in internal displacement, without a durable solution to their situation. Although most returnees indicated they wished to settle in Kismayo, fewer than half of them were originally from the city.

Priority needs and vulnerabilities

The highest poverty levels in Somalia are found in IDP settlements (71 per cent), and IDPs displaced under near-famine conditions have acute needs for humanitarian assistance and protection, including access to food and nutrition, water and sanitation, life-saving health services, shelter and basic services such as education; mitigation of further exposure to violence and the impact of natural hazards; and support for livelihood recovery. Many women displaced by conflict and famine have had to endure violence and abuse both inside and outside IDP camps, while many children have dropped out of school.

The attainment of durable solutions through return, local integration or relocation will require robust, strategic and collective approaches by the relevant stakeholders. Forty-seven per cent of IDPs surveyed in Mogadishu intended to stay there, while 37 per cent would like to return to their areas of origin. This requires security in settlement areas in relation to both human-made and natural hazards, climate-resilient livelihoods, and secure housing and land tenure. Most forced evictions of IDPs take place without warning, and alternative land or housing is rarely provided, pushing those affected toward remote districts where livelihoods are a struggle.

At the same time, supporting mobility is key to both immediate coping mechanisms and longer-term solutions: some farming IDPs move between urban and rural locations to combine access to assistance with livelihood activities in their areas of origin, while pastoralists’ livelihoods are dependent on both internal and cross-border movements to access grazing land.

Selected references

UNOCHA, Somalia Operational Plan for Famine Prevention, January-June 2017, February 2017

Africa Report on Internal Displacement, IDMC 2016

Somalia solutions initiative for IDPs, mission to Nairobi and Somalia by Walter Kälin, special advisor on IDPs to the deputy special representative of the secretary-general, resident and humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, 2016

Puntland guidelines on the implementation of Somalia’s national policy on IDPs, 2015

Policy framework on internal displacement in Somaliland, 2015

IDMC, Adopting and implementing Somaliland’s draft policy framework on internal displacement, April 2015