IOM-GIST Research Provides New Insights on the Movement Trends for the Displaced in Somalia

Mogadishu – The availability of humanitarian assistance and geographical presence of aid actors in Somalia guides internal displacement, according to a new GIST research study commissioned by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  

The study, published in January, aimed at understanding the push, pull, and identity factors that have influenced displacement patterns in Somalia’s Bay region during the current drought - an area at imminent risk of famine by April/June 2023 and one of the most impacted by displacement. While the research targeted Bay region, the results provided broad and comprehensive insights into displacement dynamics in Somalia at large. 

Full research study is available here

Through a total of 40 key informant interviews and four focus group discussions, the study concluded that humanitarian assistance and emergency relief are an integral part of Somalia’s socio political and economic fabric and it shapes how towns develop and where people move, intended or not.  

The central findings from the research indicate that humanitarian actors work in reaction to past and present displacement patterns, whereas displaced persons state upon arrival that they came because of the humanitarian assistance available on site.  

As highlighted in the report, “displaced persons reach out to their social networks to learn where humanitarian relief is available and settle in certain places based on the ongoing emergency programmes and the potential long-term opportunities for employment.” 

Most of those newly displaced are heading to major cities and towns across the country such as Baidoa, Mogadishu, Dollow, Kismayo or Galkayo. These cities have a large presence of humanitarian actors working to provide relief to displaced persons, including water, cash, shelter or health and nutrition services.  

According to the study, a household’s wealth and kinship determine whether they will settle in a displacement site or join host communities. The study found that those from marginalized communities are more likely to end up living in precarious conditions in informal settlements as opposed to members from major clans that can seamlessly integrate into host communities in urban centres. 

“Last year, the country recorded the highest numbers of displacement since aid partners started collecting data in 2015,” said Frantz Celestin, IOM Somalia Chief of Mission. “The rapid population growth in these cities due to the increased number of arrivals are posing new challenges to humanitarian actors and local administrations who are unable to provide adequate services for everyone and want to prevent perpetuating dependency on aid.” 

Somalia has one of the highest numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world due to years of conflict, climatic shocks, disease, and economic crises. Close to 3 million IDPs are living in protracted displacement across the country’s displacement sites, in addition to 1.4 million people newly displaced by drought since 2021 and another half a million displaced by conflict in 2022 alone.    

“With the drought worsening and the ongoing military operation against non-state armed actors, we are concerned tens of thousands of people will be further displaced this year,” said Celestin. “It is vital to conduct research to get more insights about displacement dynamics as it helps us adapt the response and design better programmes that can contribute ending protracted displacement through the provision of more longer-term solutions that can foster the resilience of communities impacted by climate change and conflict.” 

IOM is currently working with the Federal Government of Somalia, UN partners, and other stakeholders to provide durable and long-term solutions for displaced populations through the Danwadaag Durable Solutions Consortium, and projects like Saameynta and the Somalia Urban Resilience.  

Simultaneously, IOM is providing immediate humanitarian assistance such as water, shelter, health care services and cash to those most affected by the drought, including displaced persons and vulnerable host communities. The Organization has reached almost 2 million people so far with this relief since early 2021 and needs more funding to sustain the assistance.  


Full research study is available here

The report was made possible thanks to generous funding from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office 

For more information: Claudia Rosel, IOM Somalia Media and Communications Officer,  

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