Somalia: When displacement becomes the new normal

Coping with a new situation when you’ve lost everything

Halima* remembers the day she and her family were forced to leave their village.

‘I fled the conflict in 2017,’ she says. ‘I lost everything and left some of my belongings.’

Like many of the communities we support in Somalia, Halima’s village is affected by conflict, poverty, and displacement. These factors alone contribute to an already high number of humanitarian needs in the country; yet the situation continues to worsen as one of the worst droughts in Somalia’s history devastates livestock, crops, and sources of safe drinking water. Between January and February alone, the number of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance increased by more than one million.

The impact is greatest for people like Halima and her family.

‘Before the conflict, I used to provide for my family and I had livestock. The conflict made me the poorest person,’ she says. ‘I never thought I would need to borrow food for my children.’

Situations like these can understandably contribute to mental health issues and psychological distress, which are more prevalent in Somalia compared to other conflict-affected regions. However, mental health services in Somalia are rare, and one in three people in Somalia are affected by mental health illness.

With support from Tearfund, we’ve been delivering community-based psychosocial support to families in Somalia who are affected by conflict. Our teams facilitate group awareness and support sessions in the communities we serve. Moreover, all of our teams and community volunteers are trained in supportive communication skills and the provision of basic psychosocial support.

Halima attended some of the sessions with Medair’s colleagues, and says she’s learned basic stress management skills that have helped her cope with the life stressors that she and many in her community face. She has also learned that speaking with friends or neighbours can help ease some of that stress during challenging times.

‘We have passed a lot of sad situations in life and if we don’t talk about it, everything sad that happens remains in our heart and causes stress and mental health issues,’ she says.

For Halima and her family, nothing is certain. But, she says, she is grateful to Medair and the community volunteers for the support they’ve received.

‘It will not bring our life back to normal but at least we can cope with the current situation.’


*Names have been changed

Medair services in Somalia are funded by institutional and private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.