Blog Post

Increasing Resilience in the Face of Climate Shocks: Evidence from Somalia

In October 2023, the Baidoa district of Somalia experienced severe flooding, impacting more than 120,000 people, including nearly 100,000 internally displaced people. In a new IFPRI learning brief, researchers explore how this extreme weather event affected households in the area and how the country’s Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) intervention can play an enhanced role in protecting vulnerable populations from future shocks.  

Somalia remains one of the most impoverished nations in the world and is particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially flooding. These realities, coupled with continued conflict and civil unrest, have led to significant numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) within the country. In Baidoa itself, there were approximately 600,000 IDP households at the time of the October 2023 floods. Severe poverty is even higher in IDP settlements than in the rest of the country due to a lack of job opportunities and subsequent high unemployment rates. This high level of poverty makes it even more difficult for IDP households to cope with the effects of flooding and other climate shocks.

Somalia has made efforts to support this vulnerable population through its Ultra-Poor Graduation program, which aims to provide sustainable, gender-sensitive livelihoods in areas that house IPD populations. The intervention includes cash transfers, established savings groups, financial literacy and business education, and technical and vocational training and assets.

The IFPRI learning brief conducted focus groups consisting of both UPG participants and non-participants in the Baidoa district who were impacted by the 2023 floods. These focus groups gathered responses regarding the impacts of the flooding, what strategies and resources households and communities used to cope with the aftermath of the floods, and what role the UPG played in helping households recover. They also gathered data on IDP households’ remaining needs when it comes to coping with extreme weather events and other shocks.

The responses showed that the flooding caused widespread damage to people’s livelihoods and homes, as well as the local infrastructure. Food insecurity increased in the wake of the floods due to a combination of food stores physically being washed away and blocked and damaged roads preventing new supplies from reaching the area, both reducing availability and raising prices.

Infrastructure destruction also severely hampered people’s movements. This restricted mobility further reduced access to markets, food, and healthcare services, as well as reducing livelihoods due to the lack of ability to travel to work or to find employment. Education in the area was also disrupted, both from schools themselves being damaged or destroyed and from households’ inability to pay school fees due to loss of income and livelihoods.

In terms of the strategies and resources households used to cope with these shocks, both UPG and non-UPG participants reported relying on community networks and mutual aid. Households helped one another with cash, food, hygiene and sanitation supplies, and other support, including assistance relocating when possible. UPG participants were also able to rely on their community savings and on sale of the assets provided through the intervention. They were also able to draw on their enhanced training in skills like carpentry, which helped them both generate income and assist their own households and families in rebuilding. Without these external resources, non-UPG participants experienced more severe negative coping strategies in the aftermath of the flooding.

Participation in the UPG intervention did not guarantee positive outcomes, however. Both UPG and non-UPG participants reported experiencing homelessness after the flooding, as well as limiting their food consumption to two meals per day.

Forty percent of the focus group respondents called for strengthened infrastructure to help prevent future disasters like the results of the October 2023 flooding. This includes proper housing, latrines, food storage facilities, and water blockades and channels.

Increased education among the community about how to prevent, respond to, and recover from the impact of floods and other weather shocks was also highlighted, as was the need to focus on training programs that emphasize skills that can help in disaster response, such as carpentry. Finally, respondents called for continued focus on job creation within IPD areas to increase households’ access to sustainable livelihoods.


Sara Gustafson is a freelance communications consultant.