Two men walk the middle of a dry river bed in Somalia.

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CRS in Somalia

A drought in Eastern Africa has left millions in South Sudan, Kenya, and Somalia facing chronic hunger. Hundreds of thousands of children are acutely malnourished and need urgent nutritional support.

Catholic Relief Services is responding with emergency food aid, water and vocational training for the most vulnerable people, including those who have been displaced from their homes.

Somalia has suffered from decades of political instability and violent conflict, leaving a legacy of insecurity, poverty, marginalization and under-development. The protracted humanitarian crisis in Somalia disproportionately affects women and children who face extreme rates of malnutrition, disease, and sexual violence.

Seasonal drought—including a historically severe drought and famine in 2011—have been exacerbated by recent increases in conflict and military offensives, compounding and complicating the humanitarian crisis in Somalia. Life-threatening drought returned to the country in 2017, leading to the displacement of over one million Somalis. As water sources disappeared, crops failed, and livestock herds were decimated, families were forced to abandon their homes and make the dangerous journey to urban areas in search of assistance. This was followed by severe flooding in early 2018 that affected nearly 800,000 people, causing the President of Somalia to declare a national disaster. Both drought and flooding have contributed to elevated levels of diarrheal infections, Cholera, and other communicable disease outbreaks, especially among young children and internally displaced populations.

Over 2 Million people—nearly 15% of the population—are internally displaced. Displaced people live in desperate circumstances, with limited or no access to water, sanitation, or health facilities, making them completely dependent on humanitarian assistance. Makeshift shelters are crowded together in unsanitary and dangerous camps, where displaced persons are at increased risk of human rights violations, particularly sexual violence. These difficult circumstances disproportionately impact small children in Somalia, where more than 300,000 children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, including almost 50,000 who are severely malnourished.

Nearly half of Somalia’s Internally displaced people have settled in Mogadishu, Baidoa, and other cities in south-central Somalia, where CRS works with local government and communities to meet basic nutritional and sanitation needs, ensure protection of women, children and vulnerable groups, build resilience, and lay the foundation for peace among communities in conflict.


People Served: 545,675

Population: 11,031,386

Size: 246,201 sq mi; slightly smaller than Texas

CRS' History in Somalia

CRS first established an office in Mogadishu in October 1964 to administer school feeding programs. For 30 years CRS maintained its office in Somalia, working with partners to develop and sustain projects related to health and nutrition, agriculture, education, and water and sanitation. In 1994, after the outbreak of a civil war, CRS closed its office in Mogadishu.

CRS returned to Somalia in 2011 in response to drought and famine that severely impacted East Africa. Today, CRS continues to respond to the urgent needs of the Somali people, meeting their immediate needs (food and water); providing essential services (health, nutrition and protection); creating and rehabilitating critical infrastructure (latrines and wells); and restoring productive assets and purchasing power (via vouchers and cash transfers) to build their resilience and promote long-term, locally-owned, and sustainable solutions.