Crisis 101

Somalia Refugee Crisis Explained

map of SomaliaOver the last 30 years, hundreds of thousands of people have fled Somalia because of political instability and a dangerous civil war that broke out in the 1990s. Today over 650,000 Somali refugees remain in neighboring countries and over 2.97 million Somalis are internally displaced (IDPs) in Somalia.

Here's What You Need to Know:

1. Where have Somali refugees fled to?

2. How has the drought in the Horn of Africa impacted the people of Somalia?

3. How long do most Somali refugees live in refugee camps?

4. What is happening to the next generation of Somalis born in refugee camps?

5. How are Somali refugees changing Americans' perceptions of refugees?

Where have Somali refugees fled to?

The vast majority of Somali refugees are living in neighboring countries Kenya (279,200), Ethiopia (249,573), Yemen (69,230) and Uganda (60,394). Despite having internal displacement and refugee crises of their own, countries like Yemen and Ethiopia have a long-standing history of welcoming refugees from Somalia. 

Somali mother sitting on bus with her baby

How has the drought in the Horn of Africa impacted the people of Somalia?

The Horn of Africa is facing a catastrophic drought, the worst experienced in 40 years, following poor rainfall patterns and changing climatic conditions. The drought is severely affecting millions of refugees, IDPs and their host communities primarily in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. More than 755,000 people have been internally displaced in Somalia because of the severe drought this year, bringing the total figure to 1 million people since January 2021 when the drought began.

With water sources drying up, livelihoods decimated and prices of food and basic goods rising due to a mix of conflict and climate shocks, there is new displacement – both internally and across borders; as well as drought-specific impacts on existing refugee camps and settlements and host communities in all three countries.

These populations are already suffering a dramatic reduction in food assistance due to funding shortfalls and the global economic crisis, which has caused increases in food and commodity prices. The cost of a food basket has risen by 36% in Somalia, leaving many refugees and IDP families unable to afford even basic items.

old Somali man with beard

How long do most Somali refugees live in refugee camps?

Refugees from Somalia have been living in refugee camps for nearly 30 years. Many have lived most or all of their lives in these camps. This is called a protracted refugee situation. UNHCR defines a protracted refugee situation as one in which 25,000 or more refugees from the same nationality have been in exile for five consecutive years or more in a given host country. An estimated 78% of all refugees live in protracted refugee situations like this.

Somali girl in refugee camp

What is happening to the next generation of Somalis born in refugee camps?

Because Somalis have been displaced for generations, many Somali children have been born in refugee camps. These children have never known a life free from exile, but UNHCR is working to ensure they still have the brightest future possible. Somali refugee children attend school and have the opportunity to go to college. And new laws and agreements, like those established with the government of Ethiopia, are allowing Somali refugees to have livelihoods and better integrate with their local communities.

Somali school girls

How are Somali refugees changing Americans' perceptions of refugees?

Somali refugees, like Mustafa and Fatima, who have been resettled in the United States are changing the way Americans think about refugees. Mustafa is helping breakdown barriers by bringing resettled refugees and their neighbors together for family dinners, where families often discover they have more in common than they thought. Fatima is a dedicated civil servant who is giving back to the community that gave her a second chance, showing that former refugees can be successful, contributing members of society.

Displaced people from Somalia need your help...

Monthly giving is the most effective way to help people living in exile and returning to their homes after years of displacement. Start making a lifesaving difference today. Please become USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.

Aug 10 2022
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