Four Challenges Facing Displaced Persons in Somalia

Somalia – After three decades of protracted conflict and humanitarian crises, Somalia has one of the highest numbers of displacement globally. The humanitarian community estimates that there are 2.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the country – this is on top of the over 1 million who have been displaced since 2021 due to drought. Armed conflict and climate hazards remain the top drivers of displacement, with increasing climate-related crises placing additional strains on communities.  

Here are four challenges facing displaced people in Somalia, and ways in which the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is responding.  

Forced evictions

When people become displaced, they usually head to large cities that lack the capacity to absorb the growing population. Upon arrival, IDPs have no choice but to set up housing structures on vacant private land where they are constantly threatened with eviction. Only since 2017, over 1.1 million people, the majority IDPs, were evicted from the places they have settled all across Somalia according to the NRC eviction tracking dashboard. Most often, IDPs are given no prior notice before their shelters are destroyed and are left to find a new place to live on their own.  

How does IOM help? Durable Solutions to Displacement

Enabling communities to access more permanent housing is one of IOM’s core missions. The Organization has been leading efforts to provide more durable solutions to displacement through three flagship initiatives. 

Saaymeynta (2022 – 2025), funded by the Netherlands and Switzerland 

IOM is leading the implementation of the Saameynta programme to improve the living conditions of more than 75,000 displaced persons living in the cities of Baidoa, Bossaso and Beletweyne.  

Meaning ”impact” in Somali, the Saameynta project, through its various interventions, enhances the integration of IDPs in their new communities,  diversifies their livelihood opportunities and provides them with more permanent housing and employment opportunities.  

During the first year of the project, IOM has supported the review and update of the Integrated Baidoa District Community Action Plan (CAP) to identify priorities aimed to promote services such as water, sanitation, and hygiene, city extension planning, and cost-effective durable housing solutions. Through the plan, partners from Saameynta will also work with communities to find new livelihood opportunities, including developing of irrigation systems in the Baidoa district.  

Baidoa Relocation Project (2017 – 2020), with funding contributions from Japan, the United Kingdom, United States, and  the European Union

Baidoa, a major city in South West State in Somalia, currently accommodates one of the largest populations of IDPs within the country.  

To provide a longer-term solution to displacement and mitigate the growing risk of eviction in Baidoa, in early 2018, the government of South West State allocated public land to relocate displaced families facing the highest risk of eviction.  

Through the project, IOM, together with different partners, coordinated the development of the site, involving the community from the beginning to ensure they took part in the design and planning of what was meant to be their new home. 

As of August 2022, around 12,000 people have been relocated. Each family received cash assistance and a plot of land to rebuild their lives in a safe and secure environment.  

Learn more about the project here.

Danwadaag Durable Solution Consortium (2018 – 2022), funded by the United Kingdom 

The Danwadaag* Consortium enhanced progress towards durable solutions and (re)integration for targeted displacement-affected communities in South West State, Banadir and Jubaland.  

The Consortium activities focused on developing an enabling environment for long-term solutions to displacement through capacity building of the government, the delivery of integrated sustainable basic services, land tenure security and housing, land and property (HLP) and targeted livelihoods programming for the most vulnerable.  

Learn more about the project’s activities and its impact here.

Climate change  

Recurrent droughts and floods displace high numbers of people in Somalia each year.  

These climatic events are also accelerating the environmental degradation of the land and further reducing scarce natural resources, not only affecting the coping mechanism of agro-pastoralist communities but also forcing them to migrate and confront one another for control over diminishing ecological yields.  

Many of those affected are more vulnerable to being recruited by terrorist or armed groups, especially the youth. 

How does IOM help? Climate-adaptative Programming 

IOM integrates climate mitigation and adaptation approaches in most of its projects to ensure IDPs, migrants and vulnerable communities are better prepared to face the impacts of climate change and prevent further displacement. 

These environmental approaches aim to address humanitarian and development needs aggravated by recurrent floods and drought. The interventions cut across the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus (HDPN), addressing both the immediate effects of natural hazards through life-saving support, while at the same time implementing longer-term projects that can contribute to increasing the resilience of communities to climate change. 

Deegaan Bile: Breaking the Climate-Conflict Cycle in Galmudug and Hirshabelle (2022 – 2023), funded by the European Union 

Breaking the Climate-Conflict Cycle aims to reduce climate change-induced displacement and conflict over resources in Galmudug and Hirshabelle, two states in central Somalia where the adverse impacts of climate change are contributing to the increasing risk of violent conflict. The project provides lasting solutions to build the resilience of Somali communities and prepare them against climatic shocks. It also aims to enhance stability in an area where communities have historically confronted one another for control over diminishing natural resources.

Addressing Drivers and Facilitating Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (2021 – 2023), funded by Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund 

The objective of this regional project is to support governments in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region to address climate change as a driver of migration and facilitate mobility as a means of adaptation to climate change. 

Identifying Climate Adaptive Solutions to Displacement in Somalia (2019 – 2021), funded by IOM Development Fund 

The objective of the project was to contribute to an enhanced evidence and knowledge base of climate-sensitive, long-term resolution of displacement and increased resilience to climate change in Somalia. IOM Somalia supported the Government of Somalia and international partners to identify climate-adaptive solutions related to the long-term resolution of urban displacement through the assessment recommendations for policy development and community-based interventions.

 The final report and recommendations can be found here

Lack of access to water, shelter and health care 

Displaced populations in Somalia predominantly reside in over 2,400 highly congested informal settlements where access to basic services like health, water, shelter, and food is a big challenge. IDPs have historically faced discrimination and exclusion to equitable services in these settlements, particularly women, girls and people living with disabilities. Moreover, most displaced people won´t come back to their places of origin and they struggle to integrate into their new communities.  

How does IOM help? Infrastructure, Cash, Information and Capacity Building 

IOM teams are present in cities and towns hosting and receiving large numbers of displaced populations. For years, IOM has worked closely with local authorities to expand displaced persons' access to water, hygiene, sanitation, shelter, and health care services.  

Humanitarian and emergency response programmes, with funding contributions from CERF, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union

Through its different emergency programmes, IOM provides displaced populations with life-saving humanitarian assistance such as water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and health care. 

IOM´s humanitarian programmes are also focused on the long-term access of these communities to critical services. Working together with communities and local partners, IOM constructs and rehabilitates water and health infrastructure whilst promoting livelihoods opportunities through skill and capacity training. The projects are implemented together with the communities, to respond to their priorities and needs. Once the project ends, the maintenance of infrastructure and systems created are handed over to the communities to ensure further sustainability.  

Minimum Response Package (2022 - present), funded by the United Kingdom 

In April, IOM launched a Minimum Response Package (MRP) in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and other partners to address the most urgent water, sanitation, health, shelter, and food needs of households displaced by drought.  

The MRP is also expanding community level access to water, latrines, and health services through an area-based approach. Learn more here.  

Kismayo-Baidoa Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project (2019 – 2023), funded by the African Development Bank 

The project aims to reduce the economic and social exclusion of the most vulnerable groups by improving access to water for host and displacement communities. In addition, it aims to strengthen national knowledge on the availability and quality of both surface and groundwater resources, providing the opportunity for regulated and sustainable water use in fragile contexts. 

Kismayo and Baidoa – where the project is implemented – are two urban hubs in the south of Somalia experiencing high urbanization due to rural to urban displacement.  

Protection challenges and increased gender-based violence  

Displaced women and girls are at high risk in Somalia, often living with no permanent shelter; they face rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence. When crises hit, they are the most vulnerable to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and early and forced marriage. Perpetrators often exploit their vulnerabilities, targeting them when they leave camps to perform domestic chores or fetch water from distant boreholes.  

How does IOM help? Protection, Awareness and Services for Women and Girls 

IOM is committed to enhancing the availability of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services to communities and understanding how to better report and respond to GBV cases.  

IOM is also conducting workshops and awareness-raising activities in areas of displacements to invite women and men to discuss Gender-Based Violence and ways to eliminate it.

Women’s Empowerment, Leadership, and Economic Development

IOM has supported the establishment and development of women’s committees and groups containing hundreds of members across areas of Somalia affected by drought-related displacement. Over the years, at the request of the members, activities have ranged from trainings and workshops on rights, roles, and women in leadership positions, to focus more directly on economic empowerment, training women on craft development and basic numeracy skills, whilst also providing them materials and in-kind support to benefit their business growth.  

Mapping of services for victims and populations at risk

IOM is deploying teams in displacement sites to map the availability of MHPSS and GBV services. Through this mapping, IOM aims to have a better understanding on how victims are assisted in the sites and improve the services availability for women and girls. In periods of drought, there is an increased in GBV cases, especially in sites that receive high numbers of people but don´t grow in land size.  

IOM has recently been voted to be the co-chairing UN agency for the Community Engagement and Accountability Taskforce in Somalia and will lead on the efforts to ensure more direct and innovative engagement with communities to prevent GBV against women and girls.  

Services tailored to the needs of women and girls

Lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) disproportionately impacts women and girls. From their time spent collecting water, to their unique needs, women significantly benefit from efforts to strengthen water and sanitation systems.

To respond to the current drought, IOM enhanced access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene promotion services for communities living in the most affected districts.  Notably, the rehabilitation and construction of water sources reduced the widespread fear of violence among women and young girls. Less time spent reaching the water source mitigates the risk of violence. 

Efforts have also been made to address the menstrual hygiene needs of women and girls living in the sites. For instance, menstrual hygiene materials, such as reusable pads and disposable pads are now being provided to women and girls. Latrines are gender segregated and internally lockable to reduce the risk of GBV.  

IOM is also conducting workshops and awareness-raising activities in areas of displacements to invite women and men to discuss Gender-Based Violence and ways to eliminate it.


SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions