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An Analysis of Displacement During the 2011 Somalia Famine

  • Special Report
  • Somalia
  • February 9, 2014
An Analysis of Displacement During the 2011 Somalia Famine

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  • Summary

  • Summary
    For well over two decades, large numbers of the Somali population have been in flight—-internally and externally—from violence and conflict, famine and severe food insecurity, and the impoverishment and uncertainty these bring in their wake. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia have averaged over 1 million per year since at least 2007 (with numbers spiking to nearly 2 million during the early 1990s). The number of refugees averaged nearly 600,000 per year since 1990. As of 2012, about 1 million Somali refugees lived in 124 countries worldwide, with the largest numbers by far in Ethiopia (223,000) and Kenya (512,000). The world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab in Northeastern Kenya, is home to the largest concentration of Somalis outside of Mogadishu. In recent years, the situation in Somalia has been described as among the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Between late 2010 and early 2012, southern and central Somalia experienced severe food insecurity and malnutrition precipitated by a prolonged period of drought, resulting in the poorest harvests since the 1992-1993 famine. The effects of the drought were compounded by various factors including decreased humanitarian assistance and increasing food prices. This emergency occurred against a backdrop of heightened insecurity and persistent high levels of acute malnutrition, particularly affecting populations whose resilience mechanisms had already been weakened by protracted conflict, natural disasters, and adverse economic conditions. By July 2011, based on globally-accepted criteria established in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification 2.0 (IPC 2.0) system, the United Nations declared famine in selected regions of Somalia. Based on further data and information collected on food security, nutritional status, disease, and mortality, additional regions were designated as famine-affected over the subsequent two months. As a result of the emergency, large numbers of people were forced in 2011 to move within Somalia or to migrate to already overcrowded refugee camp complexes in Dollo Ado (Ethiopia) and Dadaab (Kenya). In this report, we refer to the 2010-2012 events as “severe food insecurity and famine,” which encompasses famine, while also capturing regions and periods of time that were not classified as being in a state of famine, but nonetheless experienced extraordinary stress due to food insecurity and other adverse conditions, such as reduced access to humanitarian assistance. A companion study of famine-related mortality in central and southern Somalia provided estimates of excess mortality over a period of 19 months between October 2010 and April 2012, the time when severe food insecurity and famine conditions prevailed. That study estimated that 258,000 (between 244,000 to 273,000) excess deaths attributable to the emergency occurred in southern and central Somalia between October 2010 and April 2012. Of these, some 52 percent, or 133,000 deaths, were children under 5 years old. This report examines the monthly displacement patterns of Somali IDPs and refugees during a 24-month period, August 2010 to July 2012, including the 19-month reference period of the severe food insecurity and famine.
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