The EU's development work in Somalia

Somalia has suffered two decades of conflict, worsening droughts and heavy flooding.

Militia groups control significant parts of the country, which makes it difficult for aid workers to bring help in these areas.

Whilst a humanitarian response continues to be vital in order to save lives, long term, sustainable solutions are key to addressing Somalia’s endemic political, security and socio-economic challenges.

The EU is the world's biggest donor to Somalia. Its aim is to fight poverty and promote sustainable development. Over the past decade, the EU has helped to improve security, peace and governance in the country. There is still a long way to go but the EU's continuous efforts have already benefited many Somali people.

European development aid is designed to put in place the minimum conditions for a functioning state, peace and security, as well as to provide basic services to the population. Support to the Somali people covers agriculture, livestock, basic infrastructure, vocational training, health and the private sector. Poverty and 50% unemployment are of primary concern in Somalia, with the average life expectancy at 45 years, support to the education sector and vocational training play an important role; not only in poverty alleviation, but also in fighting piracy by giving the young Somalis alternative means of income through jobs.

In parallel, the EU strengthens resilience and prevents the impact of droughts, which are a recurrent phenomenon in the Horn of Africa (only recently the famine affected 750,000 people); thanks to EU support more than 2 million people benefit from humanitarian aid.

Facts & figures

-Access to safe water for up to 700,000 people and to basic sanitation for over 80,000 -Continuing EU support will allow the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to reach its maximum strength of 17,731 uniformed personnel -50,000 households directly benefited from support to the rehabilitation of irrigation and flood control infrastructure in 2010 -Treatment and immunization for 6.7 million sheep and goats, against diseases that limit productivity and trade

Addressing the security situation

The EU is one of the biggest donors to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which was launched in January 2007 to create the necessary conditions for reconstruction, reconciliation and the sustainable development of Somalia. Current troops' numbers have reached nearly 17,000.

Since 2007, the EU has provided €444 million. The role of AMISOM remains crucial in providing the security space necessary for the functioning of governance by the Transitional Federal Institutions and the build-up of the Somali Security Forces so that they can gradually take over the tasks currently performed by AMISOM. So far, AMISOM's mission was successful in creating the minimum security pre-conditions for continuing the peace process.

EU aid focuses on better governance, education and more economic opportunities

Between 2008-2013, the EU is allocating approximately €415 million to hundreds of development projects in Somalia. The EU's efforts achieved substantial results:

1. Governance

EU support to governance includes support to institution building, reconciliation, rule of law, human rights and support to Somali civil society.

It helped for instance to conduct free and fair elections in June 2010 in Somaliland, and to support district councils which created village markets (that allowed people to access food and to trade, which in turn increase their income), health posts and community centres reaching over 95,000 people.

In 2011 alone 6,300 police officers and 170 law officials - judges, prosecutors, judiciary members and court staff - were trained, including in human rights principles.

EU aid helped to establish the first ever law faculties in Somaliland and Puntland to train judges and prosecutors. Currently 385 students are registered at the Law Faculty at the Hargeisa University and 277 have graduated since 2002. The EU also provided legal aid for vulnerable people including internally displaced persons (IDPs) and women.

In 2010 in Somaliland, legal clinics provided legal assistance to 6,290 people – four times more than in 2009. With EU support mobile courts in Somaliland registered around 321 cases. EU aid supports the establishment of public financial management across the different administrations, including revenue management and longer-term planning. Inclusion of civil society is a very important dimension as it ensures the sustainability of processes. Human Rights and gender are mainstreamed in all programmes.

2. Education

Since 2010:

  • more than 40,000 students have gained access to basic, primary and secondary education
  • More than 330 classrooms were built or rehabilitated
  • 4,000 primary and secondary teachers qualified -almost 30% of these were women
  • 5,279 trainees were enrolled in vocational training, ensuring the development of skills and promotion of employment.

The number of children enrolling in primary schools has remarkably improved; from very low levels (35 %) in 2007 to an estimated 45% in 2010. However, only 3 to 6% of Somali young people have access to secondary education. Yet EU aid has started to improve the situation and the regions of Somaliland and Puntland offer encouraging examples: from an enrolment of mere 450 students in 1999, there were over 50,000 students in the 2010-11 academic year.

3. Economic development and poverty alleviation: Agriculture, Livelihoods & Food Security

The Northern part of Somalia is a dry land, with most people making their living from keeping livestock. Agriculture is reduced to a few areas near Hargeisa- Boroma (North-West of Somaliland) and some oases in Puntland. Therefore, the majority of the population living in Somaliland and Puntland are vulnerable to food insecurity because of recurrent droughts. The resilience of pastoralists to drought can be enhanced by small injections of cash to the poorest people. The families that receive cash are likely to buy food locally and pay their debts to local traders. The EU has financed such cash projects in Puntland which proved to be a successful tool. In the agricultural irrigated areas of the south, the EU has supported the establishment of a seed sector that has achieved high quality performance and generated a profitable market for farmers. Results show that the improved Somali seeds distributed locally to farmer associations can increase the yield by 50-100%; doubling the production per hectare and reducing food insecurity.

The EU is also involved in rehabilitation of canals in agricultural areas: in 2010, about 50,000 farming and agro-pastoral households directly benefited from support to the rehabilitation of irrigation and flood control infrastructure and crop development. More than 3 million Somalis also benefited from EU funded market information: the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) is co-financed by the EU and provides reliable information on the economic and food security situation in Somalia.


Over 70,000 households involved in livestock production, processing and trade benefited from EU funded support. The livestock sector is estimated to create 65% of all job opportunities in Somalia, generate 80% of foreign earnings (excluding remittances), and contribute 40% of the total GDP for the country.

Rural communities represent around 60% of the Somali population. An EU-funded project has helped to improve the health of livestock in the production and marketing systems in Somalia. It allowed treatment and immunisation for 6.7 million sheep and goats, to protect against diseases that limit productivity and trade.


Water is a scarce resource in Somalia and EU-financed projects have supported both rural and urban supply systems. This increases access to sustainable water sources through the development of infrastructure, while encouraging the private sector to promote the strong financial and administrative management of public utilities.

Ongoing water projects aim to provide sustainable access to safe water for up to 700,000 people and over 80,000 with basic sanitation, to bring Somalia nearer to achieving MDG 7.