Cash and Compassion Report

Cash and Compassion Report

Jan 11, 2013

One of the few success stories related to Somalia today is that of how effective the diaspora is in  supporting relief and development activities in  their country of origin. This report, based on original research conducted in Somaliland, Puntland and South/Central Somalia, as well as in multiple cities (mainly Dubai, London, Minneapolis, Nairobi, Oslo, Toronto) with a high  concentration of Somali diaspora members, examines the motivations for support, the factors that influence it, the means and mechanisms by which it is mobilized and transferred to Somalia, and the ways in which local Somali actors put the support they receive to use.

The research was commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Somalia office, with support from the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. It builds upon a pilot study conducted by Hassan Sheikh and Sally Healy (Sheikh and Healy, 2009), which was based on desk research and selected focus group discussions.  Since the collapse of the central state in 1991, most of Somalia been the site of extreme, if intermittent conflict involving extreme violence, displacement  and a wartime economy that in some ways benefits from, and in others is seriously hampered by, the insecurity. Somaliland has built a viable political entity with general peace and stability, the precursors to development. Puntland has managed to establish a somewhat weaker but still functioning political administration and environment for promoting relief and limited development.

The South and Central zones (referred to here as South/Central, following conventional usage) have been plagued by insecurity, often rapidly changing topographies of political control. These conditions have been particularly poor since the end of 2006, when Ethiopia led an assault against the Islamic Union Courts and occupied the country until the end of 2009.  The Transitional Federal Government, with its stronghold in Mogadishu, is fighting against the al-Shabaab movement, which has control over much of the South and Central regions outside the capital. Mogadishu has been the scene of massive population displacement – as of October 2010 an estimated 410,000 people had been displaced from Mogadishu to the Afgoye corridor (UN News Center, 2010).

It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million people (of an estimated total pre-displacement population of 2.5 million) have been displaced from the city since late 2006 (IRIN. April 2011). 2The UN’s declaration of famine in zones of South/Central Somalia in July 2011 has focused international attention on the humanitarian crisis facing the Somali people.

The crisis has also galvanized the efforts of the Somali diaspora, estimated at between 1 – 1.5 million people. People are giving more individually, but also more to community-based relief efforts. Even in less trying times, the diaspora provides crucial support to relatives at home. Support from the diaspora over the past twenty years (and even longer) has helped people in Somaliland,

1. This Summary provides a synthesis of the findings of the research. Readers interested in the details of the study should refer to the full report. For a copy of Volume II, which includes the Terms of References, Research Guides and Questionnaires used, please
contact UNDP/HDEU or

2. Accessed 7/4/11.

3. Most of the research for this report was conducted prior to the emergence of famine conditions in Somalia. The analysis of how assistance is channelled may help to show how famine relief is mobilized, however, Puntland and South/Central Somalia to survive in an environment in which food insecurity, massive unemployment, lack of public services, and exclusion from global banking, postal and law enforcement networks have presented additional challenges.

One of the reasons that the diaspora has been as successful as it has in helping communities in the country of origin is to do with the fact that the support network is entirely run by Somalis; Somali ownership and trust helps to minimize the transaction costs and to ensure that assistance provided gets to its intended destination.


  • Examining the contributions made by the Somali diaspora on relief, development and politics in the country of origin
  • The Diaspora: a major contributor to the Somali economy and its livelihoods through remittances, humanitarian assistance and participation in recovery and reconstruction efforts

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