Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Somalia

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Somalia, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Quick facts
Number of IDPs1,460,000
Percentage of total population16%
Start of current displacement situation1988
Peak number of IDPs (Year)1,500,000 (2007)
New displacement100,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index

In 2011 the humanitarian crisis in Somalia continued to worsen due to a combination of generalised violence, conflict between the government and its allies and insurgent groups, and drought across the Horn of Africa that contributed to famine conditions in south and central Somalia.

The famine threatened the lives of many of the 1.5 million people displaced within Somalia by the conflict, and forced many more to flee again in search of life-saving assistance. By August, malnutrition rates among internally displaced populations in the capital Mogadishu and the nearby "Afgooye corridor" were up to three times the critical emergency threshold. At the end of 2011, despite the arrival of the short rainy season, IDPs across southern and central areas still faced severe food security and protection problems.

The ongoing conflict also caused new displacement. In July, Al-Shabaab withdrew thousands of fighters from areas in and around Mogadishu. However, in October, renewed fighting forced people to flee once more from the capital. Meanwhile, conflict continued across south and central Somalia: fighting between the Al-Shabaab insurgents and the Transitional Federal Government supported by the AU Mission in Somalia forced people to flee in Lower Shabelle, Benadir, Gedo and Middle Juba. Meanwhile, alongside the conflict, fighting between different insurgent groups and factions and localised violence over water and pasture resources were continuing to cause displacement.

The number of IDPs has remained between 1.4 and 1.5 million since 2007. UNHCR and its partners have collected information on the movement of populations in Somalia through the Population Movement Tracking system. Most of the populations identified as displaced are believed to have fled their homes because of the conflict or violence, and many have been displaced a number of times.

The majority of IDPs are from Mogadishu and its environs, and many have taken refuge in informal settlements around Afgooye. These settlements reportedly host some 500,000 IDPs, in the largest concentration of IDPs in the world. Large numbers of IDPs have also taken shelter in the towns of Bosaso, Garowe and Galkayo in the north-eastern region of Puntland.

In 2011, IDPs in Somalia faced severe risks to their security and dignity due to their living conditions and the ongoing conflict. Parties to the conflict reportedly attacked IDP camps, perpetrated widespread sexual and other gender-based violence, forcibly recruited internally displaced children and fought each other near camps. The fighting and deliberate obstruction by some parties to the conflict severely limited the access to urgently needed protection and assistance of IDPs and others, and prevented the return of IDPs to their places of origin.

In October, the entry of Kenyan forces into southern Somalia reportedly led to displacement, as people fled in fear of confrontation between the Kenyan army and Al-Shabaab forces. Shortly afterwards, up to five IDPs were killed and some 45 injured when a Kenyan armed forces plane bombed their settlement in the town of Jilib. Although the Kenyan army denied it had happened, both Médecins Sans Frontières and ICRC reported treating injured civilians. The Kenyan army also warned residents of ten other towns in southern Somalia to leave, prior to an imminent attack to flush out Al-Shabaab members.

The health situation of IDPs deteriorated in 2011 as a result of the continuing conflict and famine. The country faced outbreaks of cholera, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and pneumonia, most of them in the IDP hosting areas in the south.

With the drought destroying crops, reducing livestock levels and exhausting people's resources, and much of the food assistance allowed into the country diverted by parties to the conflict, IDPs were also the group most affected by the food crisis, as they lacked money to buy food.

Somalia has signed but not ratified the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance to IDPs. In any case, its implementation will remain a major challenge for many years to come given the prevailing insecurity, weak government institutions and the country's limited resources. Assistance to IDPs in south and central Somalia is mostly provided by local businesses and civil society organisations, while further north in Somaliland and Puntland there is wider access and the responses of local actors have also been mostly positive.

Somalia has long presented a challenging operating environment for aid agencies. Nonetheless, they made significant life-saving interventions during the first half of 2011; one million people received food assistance and emergency health care activities reached nearly 40 per cent of the two million people in need. In November, Al-Shabaab announced a ban on the operations of 16 aid agencies in areas under its control. Despite such barriers and the ongoing insecurity, it will continue to be necessary to seek ways of engaging with groups obstructing access to IDPs.

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