Towards an Improved Understanding of Vulnerability and Resilience in Somalia

The 2011 famine and 2016 severe drought conditions in Somalia drew the attention of development actors to issues and options for addressing recurrent shocks and the roles that different people can play. This paper summarises the key lessons drawn from a study that examined how different people responded to and survived the recurrent shocks during the 2011–2016 period; the drivers of marginalisation or exclusion and how these are maintained; the influence that external actors had on the coping strategies used by different communities; and the apparent effectiveness of chosen strategies. The study sought to understand how livelihood and coping strategies are changing as a result of the frequency and severity of local conditions in Somalia, and local community perspectives on vulnerability and livelihood objectives. It also explored how access to aid and other external resources influenced livelihood and coping strategies, and how local communities’ resilience and livelihood strategies related to the objectives and practices of humanitarian agencies. The study reveals that many Somalis became more vulnerable especially during the 2011 famine and different population groups suffered varying negative impacts. Boys as young as 12 years conscripted by Al Shabaab and other militia missed out on education and formative parenting; girls forced into early marriage or used as sex slaves suffered negative health, social and psychological long-term impacts; the socio-economic status of widowed women left as heads of households or single parents declined; and unaccompanied or displaced children, older people, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities were either abandoned or became destitute.