This case study is part of the “Research Study on Humanitarian Aid and Engagement in the Diaspora” by the Diaspora Emergency Action and Coordination Platform (DEMAC).
Somalia has been ravaged by violent conflict for more than 30 years. The devastation caused by the ongoing violence has been exacerbated by the effects of recurrent climate shocks, which saw parts of the country suffer from drought and famine and destroyed by periodic flooding. With nearly six million people in need of humanitarian aid in 2021, the institutional humanitarian system is running multisectoral programs in parallel with support from emerging actors and Somali social networks, including diaspora organizations and groups.
The Somali diaspora, numbering well over two million worldwide, has a deeply rooted tradition of providing both continuous and ad hoc support, often in the form of remittances, to their families, clans and communities. In times of severe crisis, the contributions of the diaspora increase significantly. While the diaspora has remained largely informal, it has formed organizations and groups to respond.
These organizations have become increasingly active in times of major crisis, sometimes blurring their support between ongoing development efforts and humanitarian aid.
In this case study, 22 Somali diaspora organizations were identified as providing regular humanitarian aid, with the majority based in Europe, followed by North America. More than half have formal structures and facilities. They have different operating models. Some were project-based interventions that relied on sporadic diaspora contributions made from local contacts without interaction with institutional humanitarian actors. Others focused on humanitarian and development interventions supported by institutional donors and implemented with local partners involved in humanitarian coordination mechanisms. A sense of belonging and charitable commitment are powerful motivators that drive diaspora engagement in humanitarian aid. The diaspora is made aware of crises through friends and relatives, their own humanitarian networks in Somalia, and social and mainstream media.
Diaspora organizations have been involved in several areas of intervention, focusing mainly on livelihoods, women’s empowerment, and education; they were less involved in protection, nutrition, the provision of direct health services, animal treatment and economic development. Most of their responses were about sudden crises like floods and hurricanes. Displacements due to armed conflict and drought were also major drivers of the humanitarian response from diaspora organizations.