Livelihoods and protection: Displacement and vulnerable communities in Kismaayo, southern Somalia

from Overseas Development Institute
Published on 31 Dec 2003
Chapter 1- Introduction
Population displacement is a feature of many conflicts. People may flee violence or human rights abuse, or they may become displaced because the minimal requirements for life are unmet - for instance, during drought or flood, or economic upheaval. The displaced often face special difficulties not shared by other groups touched by conflict or disaster. The displaced are often disadvantaged in terms of their access to public facilities, compared to a host or indigenous community. Their location may influence their access to humanitarian assistance, and their ability to survive and regain their economic security.1 The humanitarian challenge is to deliver assistance and protection in what are often unfavourable environments, especially when the authorities are unable or unwilling to act.

Under hostile and predatory conditions, many of the problems facing internally-displaced people (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups are related to the protective environment, and the potentially exploitative relations between them and local authority structures and host communities. A major dilemma in these situations is to ensure that humanitarian assistance - resources such as food aid, as well as activities such as healthcare or schooling - is accessible to the most vulnerable, and has the greatest beneficial impact. Assistance must be designed in such a way that it will promote the protection of vulnerable groups without adding to their existing burden.

Although livelihoods and protection have been brought together elsewhere, at least in theory,2 this paper represents the first attempt to put livelihoods and protection, as a thoroughly integrated framework, into practice in Somalia, and to our knowledge anywhere. Conditions within the UN aid community are currently conducive for an approach of this nature. Respect for human rights and protection constituted one of the four main principles of the UN Somalia Country Team for 2003 (the others were HIV/AIDS, education and the provision of basic services). Furthermore, the 2003 Consolidated Appeal stated the importance of 'assisting in the integration and protection of internally displaced populations, minorities, refugees and returnees and other vulnerable groups by enhancing protection efforts aimed at: building of local and national protection capacity; participation in governance; increased humanitarian access; awareness raising among populations and local authorities; and the development and promotion of durable solutions.3

In June 2002, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)-Somalia convened a workshop in Hargeisa, Somaliland, to raise the profile of vulnerable populations in Somalia, and to develop a strategic framework for UN agencies and the international community to engage with them. The workshop was attended by Somali nationals representing all of the country's agencies, international NGOs and donors. The resultant framework promotes a cross-cutting livelihoods approach, rather than the more traditional sectoral approach (education, food security and rural development, governance, health and water and sanitation and infrastructure) used by the UN and other actors within the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB), the entity established to bring together donors, UN agencies and NGOs engaged in aid work in Somalia.

The June workshop once again highlighted the particular difficulties faced by IDPs and minorities in Somalia. It was noted that, while vulnerable communities face similar challenges across the country, IDPs in southern Somalia are particularly vulnerable in terms of their livelihood security and access to basic services due to the generally poor protective environment. While Somali refugees in other countries benefit from return and resettlement programmes, little has been done for people displaced within Somalia beyond meeting short-term needs.

An estimated 320,000-350,000 IDPs are distributed throughout Somalia.4 The largest concentrations are in Mogadishu and Kismaayo, with an estimated 150,000 and 15,000 respectively. While Mogadishu is considered too insecure to allow any meaningful work, Kismaayo was 'reopened' the Security Coordinator for Somalia (UNSECOORD) in March 2002 after the Juba Valley Alliance (JVA), a clan-based factional alliance, had established a reasonable degree of security in the town. It was therefore thought feasible by the Somalia aid community to start negotiating access to IDPs and other vulnerable groups in the city, and to start planning interventions. In January 2003, the UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator and the head of OCHA-Somalia met JVA leaders in Eldoret, Kenya. A month later, the Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, accompanied by representatives from the UN Children's Development Programme and OCHA, held meetings in Kismaayo with the JVA authorities, elders and religious leaders and civil society groups (local NGOs, and youth groups). This, and renewed interest by a number of agencies in Lower Juba, has provided an opportunity to address some of the concerns raised during the June 2002 workshop.

This paper is based on the findings of field research on livelihoods, protection and IDPs in Kismaayo and the Lower Juba Valley, conducted in May 2003 under the auspices of OCHA-Somalia. The research had three main aims:

  • to obtain a clear understanding of the situation of IDPs and other vulnerable communities in Kismaayo, and the issues that they faced;
  • to obtain a clear understanding of the operating environment in Kismaayo and the areas from which the displaced originated; and
  • to develop an operational plan to better protect and assist the internally displaced and other vulnerable groups. Crucially, this plan was elaborated within a livelihoods and protection framework. Ideas for putting the framework into practice were initially developed bythe research team, but this work also draws upon plenary discussions during a workshop in Nairobi on 11 June 2003 to disseminate and discuss these findings, sponsored by OCHA-Somalia.
The sensitive nature of the information contained in this to obtain clear understanding of the situation of IDPs report means that the names of informants and national staff participating in the fieldwork have been withheld. to obtain a clear understanding of the operating The paper begins with a brief description of the livelihoods and protection framework that informed the research (Chapter 2), and the methodology the research employed to develop an operational plan to better protect and (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 provides a brief overview of findings. Although this report is critical of the current JVA administration, many of the same issues applied under previous occupations. Chapter 5 describes the concept of a phased operational plan. Lastly, conclusions are drawn in Chapter 6.


1 D. Hines, 'Internal Displacement: Livelihood Saving Development', vol. 44, no. 4, 2001, pp. 34-39.

2 See, for example, A. Bonwick and S. Jaspars, Humanitarian Protection and Livelihoods, Oxfam GB, 21 July 2003.

3 The other themes are saving lives and improving livelihoods, and supporting good governance, peace-building and economic recovery.

4 As in almost all IDPsituations, numbers are estimates and no comprehensive enumeration, let alone registration, has been undertaken on a national basis.

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