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Country Profiles photograph

Somalia Flag

Africa Equatorial Department
DFID, 1 Palace Street, London, SW1E 5HE
Tel: 020 7023 0411 | Fax: 020 7023 0826

Map courtesy of the FCO



Somalia occupies an important geopolitical position between sub-Saharan Africa and the countries of Arabia. Somalia, an almost totally Muslim country, has an estimated population of 7.7 million (population figures developed by the current Minister of Planning). Since 1991, regional and internal conflict and humanitarian crises have plagued Somalia. Somalia has not had an effective central government for over fifteen years.

There are no recent official figures for human development indicators. Somalia was ranked 161 out of 163 countries in 2001 on the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP's) Human Development Index, and Somalia is considered a low-income country with an estimated 45% of the population living on less than $1 a day. There are high levels of disease and hunger and poor social and economic indicators (on life expectancy, literacy and access to clean water).

Political and Economic overview

A peace conference held in Kenya to reconcile the warring factions in Somalia ended in 2004 and produced a Transitional Federal Charter. Following the signing of the Charter a Transitional Federal Parliament was selected and a President elected. In January 2005 external linkTransitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed. The TFG returned to Somalia in August 2005 to a temporary seat of government in Baidoa, 150 miles north west of Mogadishu, the capital. The Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) met for the first time inside Somalia for the first time in fifteen years in February 2006.

However, the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) do not have effective control over the whole of Somalia.

  • Somaliland, in the north west of the country, claimed independence from Somalia in 1994, but is not internationally recognised as a separate state.
  • Puntland (in north east Somalia) sees itself as part of the Democratic Republic of Somalia, but has its own governing institutions. It also continues to be in dispute with Somaliland over territory on the common “border”.

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) emerged during 2006 as a strong political/military force across many areas of the south and central zone, especially in Mogadishu. The UIC, demanding an Islamic state under Sharia law, fought and defeated the warlords who had previously controlled strategic towns. However, in December 2006, a combined force of Ethiopian and TFG troops reclaimed control of the south including Mogadishu. Whilst the UN Arms Embargo officially remains in place, the UN Security Council has authorised a Regional African-led Peace Support Mission for Somalia (excluding front line states such as Ethiopia). The swift deployment of this force and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops is intended to stabilise the situation. Approximately 1,500 Ugandan peacekeepers have now arrived in Somalia under the African Union’s “AMISOM”, but the TFG continue to face resistance from a small group of Islamic extremists and need to rapidly establish their credentials with the Somali people as the only effective means of renewing basic institutions in order to bring the country to democratic elections.

Somalia has a relatively vibrant economy based on livestock and trade, including telecommunications, and this has kept the country afloat during the long years of insecurity. The Somali community abroad is estimated to remit up to US$1 billion per year, and, as well as traditional donors, Muslim agencies provide substantial support to the social sectors.

If political stabilisation can be reached, Somalia has an opportunity to rebuild the state; achieve peace and security; achieve democratic governance and the re-establishment of the rule of law; begin recovery, reconstruction and development to start to make steady progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); and advance sustainable socio-economic development.

Progress against Millennium Development Goals

There are no recent official figures for Somalia and so it is impossible to forecast if Somalia will meet the MDGs by 2015, although the general consensus is that it will not. Only about 20% of primary age children attend school and the education and health care that exists is provided privately, by NGOs (non-governmental organisations) or by communities, often with support from the Somali community worldwide. UNICEF currently estimates that over 15% of Somali children die before the age of five, which is one of the worst indicators in the world. From recent surveys, the UN reports that 425,000 people are currently in a state of humanitarian emergency, compared to 900,000 at the beginning of 2006. This improvement is largely due to better rains since the beginning of 2006.

DFID activity in Somalia

There is no national plan for poverty reduction in Somalia; but a Reconstruction and Development Framework (RDF) is being prepared following a UNDP/World Bank-led External linkjoint needs assessment (JNA) with Somali authorities and civil society.

The main goal of The DFID Country Engagement Plan for Somaliapdf(52 kb) is 'a peaceful, politically stable, and economically viable Somalia leading to a sustainable reduction in poverty levels'. In order to reach this goal we are helping achieve a just and viable political settlement in Somalia; working with others to establish the basis for effective development assistance; focusing on improving governance and service delivery; and ensuring the adequate and timely provision of basic services through our humanitarian support. DFID does not have a presence in Somalia but works with national (NGOs) and international bodies, such as the United Nations (UN) and World Bank. The Somalia programme team is split between our offices in London and Nairobi. DFID with the EC and other EU member states of Norway is developing an EU/Norway Country Strategy which will be the basis for medium term support via a World Bank/UNDP led Recovery Development Plan.

Read more about DFID's activity in Somalia


Somalia receives support from various countries and organisations, including:

The World Bank/UNDP: external linkCountry Re-engagement Note (due to be renewed shortly).

The external linkSomali Support Secretariat (SSS) is an independent body that helps coordinate all partners’ (e.g. donors, UN agencies and NGOs) assistance to Somalia.

Further information

Last updated: 24 April 2007

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