Somalia: More than 1m people displaced since beginning of 2023

Drought, floods and conflict have created ‘one of the world’s most complex humanitarian crises’

More than one million people have been displaced in Somalia since the beginning of 2023, new figures released by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) show.

The report shows that more than 408,000 people were displaced by floods and 312,000 by drought. The majority fled to Hiraan in central Somalia and Gedo in the south.

In total more than 3.8 million Somalis are displaced inside the Horn of Africa country of roughly 17 million people. Amid a historically long drought, along with domestic conflict and nationwide security problems, an estimated 6.7 million people are going hungry and more than 500,000 Somali children are seriously malnourished, the organisations say.

Karl Schembri, a regional adviser with the NRC humanitarian organisation, said that the situation in Somalia “is best described as one of the world’s most complex humanitarian crises”.


“What makes Somalia’s crisis different from others is the combination of climate change, global impact of Covid-19, conflict, and a weak governance, all in which is contributing to the endless suffering,” he told The Irish Times. “While Somalia may have always experienced crises, the number of people who are desperate for life-saving assistance has increased over the last decade ... The majority of Somalia’s displacement remains internal, leading to overcrowded urban centres and displacement camps that are struggling for basic resources like water.”

By moving from rural to urban areas, Somalis in need often hope to find work or access assistance by charitable Somalis or aid organisations.

Last December The Irish Times investigated whether the situation in certain parts of Somalia could be described as a famine.

At the time Daniel Molla, chief Somalia technical adviser at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, said that while other technical thresholds have not been met, the mortality thresholds for the numbers of children dying, which are required for a famine declaration, had been reached among displaced people in areas in the capital Mogadishu and Baidoa, the largest city in Somalia’s southwest state.

More than four children were dying per day per 10,000 people, he said, including an average of 4.86 each day in Baidoa and 4.19 a day in Mogadishu.

The next report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) organisation, which assesses the level of severity of food insecurity, is expected next month.

So far, a famine has not been declared in Somalia, and Mr Schembri said he thinks it is unlikely that it will happen soon. “Regardless of this, the condition of famine remains and people are dying of hunger daily,” he said.

“We’re nowhere near the funding and resources needed to reverse this catastrophic march towards death and destruction,” he said. “Aid agencies have so far received only 22 per cent of the $2.6 billion [€2.43 billion] required to deliver much-needed assistance this year,” he said.

On Wednesday international donors at a UN-backed event pledged $2.4 billion towards humanitarian assistance targeted at nearly 32 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that more than 30 million people had received assistance in the three countries, during the five consecutive poor rainy seasons, “but the emergency is far from over, and additional resources are urgently required to prevent a return to the worst-case scenario”.

It said the region is “facing the combined impacts of a historic drought, conflict and economic shocks” and the humanitarian community requires $7 billion for humanitarian response and protection for drought- and conflict-affected people in the region this year.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa