UN-Habitat has been active in the Somali urban sector for more than 30 years. Project activities have evolved from targeting immediate local needs to more systematic attempts to address sustainable urban development through integrated human settlement programmes.

Inclusive governance, empowerment, and the recognition of the actual and potential contribution of youth, women, and vulnerable groups are all key elements of UN-Habitat’s integrated approach.

UN-Habitat also believes that the rehabilitation of key economic infrastructure – such as markets, public spaces, and access roads – creates a prime opportunity to establish an environment that revives local economies and generates sustainable economic opportunities for marginalized and vulnerable groups, especially women and youth.

Key programme information:

  • UN-Habitat is active in all the Somali regions, with 11 current projects.
  • UN-Habitat Somalia clearly fits into the agency’s Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation sub-programme, though activities fit many other sub-programmes.
  • There is a renewed focus on Mogadishu, with four projects running. Relocation to Mogadishu will be linked to new programme approvals. Presently, UN-Habitat has a small presence in Mogadishu through national staff, international consultants, and constant missions by international staff. Well-established field offices are in Garowe, Bossaso (Puntland), and Hargeisa (Somaliland).
  • Excellent cooperation exists with all Somali administrations at central and local levels.
  • UN-Habitat is an active member of the UN Country Team and works in support of the New Deal and the Somalia Government’s Six-point Programme.
  • Total value of UN-Habitat investments (2008–2015): USD 49,057,263
  • Total number of UN-Habitat projects (2008–2015): 19
  • Main donors: UNDP Somalia, European Union, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, UNHCR, UNOCHA, Department for International Development (DFID), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Danish International Development Agency (Danida)
  • Implementing partners: international NGOs, local NGOs, district authorities, regional authorities, municipal bodies, ministries, additional local government bodies


General information



Following almost 25 years of conflict and civil unrest, much of Somalia’s economic infrastructure has been destroyed, while the livelihood asset base of the Somali people is severely eroded. Unemployment rates remain among the highest in the world. The country has experienced rapid urbanization and large-scale population displacement, leading to informal settlements and densely populated camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Urban infrastructure and capacities are under considerable pressure, and urban space is limited and contested. Many city dwellers lack adequate urban services, community and economic infrastructure, livelihood and employment opportunities, education, and appropriate, durable housing solutions. Somalia has a very young population – the median age is 17. About 67 percent of the country’s youth are unemployed. One of the largest drivers of conflict in Somalia is the lack of civic and political engagement of the youth.

Such a situation has an effect on economic and social well-being, limiting the cohesion essential for peacebuilding and development. The August 2012 transfer of power to the Federal Government of Somalia created high levels of optimism for Somalia’s future, and cultivated a degree of political stabilization throughout the nation.

Data on the Somali region

Official name: Federal Republic of Somalia (Jamhuuriyadda Federaalka Soomaaliya)

Geographical/administrative divisions: Somaliland (self-declared Republic of Somaliland), Puntland State of Somalia, Jubaland State of Somalia, Galmudug, South West State of Somalia, Central Regions State

Regions: Lower Juba, Middle Juba, Gedo, Bay, Bakool, Lower Shebelle, Benadir, Middle Shebelle, Hiran, Galguduud, Mudug, Nugal, Bari, Sool, Sanaag, Togdheer, Woqooyi Galbeed, Awdal

Capital of the Federal Republic of Somalia: Mogadishu

Major cities and towns: Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Bossaso, Galkayo, Berbera, Merca, Jamaame, Kismayo, Baidoa, Burao, Afgooye, Beledweyne, Qoryoley, Garowe, Jowhar, Bardera, Qardho, Erigavo, Luuq

Languages: Somali, Arabic

Population: 12.3 million (2014)

GDP: USD 1,306 million (2012)

GDP growth: -1.5% (2013)

Urban population: 42% (2014)

Internally displaced population: 9% (2014)

Population under 15 years of age: 45% (2014)

Population growth rate (average annual %): 2.9 (2010–2015)

Urban population growth rate (average annual %): 4.1%

Rural population growth rate (average annual %): 2.1%

Source: World Bank/UN








UN Habitat has been active in the Somalia urban sector for more than 30 years. The interventions have evolved from responding to immediate local needs to systematic attempts to address sustainable urban development through integrated human settlement programmes. This has been accomplished through interventions that strengthen the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding nexus in the areas of livelihoods, youth engagement, governance and sustainable urban development. 

To learn more about the programme, read the Somalia Programme Country Briefing Note.

Population (2018)
Total value of projects
US$ 84,750,267
No. of projects (2018 - 2020)
Total: 10

Somalia has one of the highest urbanization rates in the region with at least 6.83 (45%) million out of 15.18 million total population of Somalia settled in urban areas, and an additional 4 million expected by 2025. In Somaliland, urbanization is even faster, with an estimated rate standing at 53% for the year 2016. The related increased rates of displacement and returns seeking services into urban centers have contributed to unprecedented scale of needs and challenges in recent years through overstretching the existing infrastructure and inadequate housing.

More than 200,000 households have improved access to urban basic services through creation of more than 3,000 long-term jobs and provision of skills training to more than 1,000 people.
5,500 houses were constructed, and are providing shelter to a total of 36,000 beneficiaries ensuring better standards of living.
15 districts (7 Puntland and 8 in Somaliland) using the integrated accounting information management system (AIMS) and the billing information management system (BIMS) to improve on revenue collection
Urban numbers
Urban Population (2018): 45%
Urban Growth Rate (2015-2020): 4.23%
Between 2017 and 2018, the number of displaced persons in Somalia more than doubled, from 1.10 million to 2.60 million, bringing the displaced population from 7 to 17% of the total.
Return from neighboring countries has also increased, in 2018 alone, around 100,000 returnees from east Africa region and other countries were registered within Somalia.
81.5 per cent of the Somali population is below the age of 35, making youth an integral part to ensuring the continued sustainable urban development of the country.

“The revenue has been increasing gradually since we have been using BIMS. Before BIMS, the municipal office didn’t have complete registration for the number of taxpayers in Gabiley district. We didn’t have the number of businesses in the city or the number of the houses in Gabiley but we have all this information today the system has increased efficiency of the revenue collection.”

Head of Tax Department; Gabiley District Somaliland

Leaving no one and no place behind

Hover over or click the icons to learn about UN-Habitat's work on social inclusion here.

The prioritisation of human rights addresses the structural causes of inequalities and discrimination in an integrated manner. Urbanisation can only be sustainable if it is human rights based, and living conditions can only be improved for all if everyone’s human rights are comprehensively promoted and protected. UN-Habitat applies the Human-Rights Based Approach to address inequalities and discrimination, reaching the furthest behind first by placing power relationships in human settlements at the heart of its analysis and action.

Human rights icon

Men and women, boys and girls experience cities in very different ways, and face various challenges and needs that cities have to address. UN-Habitat promotes the stronger commitment of national and local governments as well as other relevant stakeholders to work towards the realization of a world in which men and women are recognized as equal partners in development and enjoy equal human rights so that economically productive, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable cities and other human settlements can be achieved more rapidly, completely and sustainably.

Gender icon

Youth, children and older persons, especially those in situations of particular risk of marginalization, such as girl child and female-headed households, are often excluded from access to housing, urban basic services, public spaces and infrastructure, and the overall benefits of urbanization. Young women and men have been a key focus of UN-Habitat’s work. The agency has successfully advocated for the role of youth as leaders in sustainable urban development, recognizing the guiding principle of the SDGs of “leaving no one behind,” and the New Urban Agenda vision of cities for all. 

Children icon

Sustainable urban development can only be achieved if persons with disabilities are included meaningfully in decision-making and are able to access their rights. UN-Habitat partners with representative groups and individual rights holders, as well as national and local governments, relevant UN bodies and civil society to maximize impact and to meaningfully ensure that the rights including accessibility and universal design of persons with disabilities are promoted, respected and protected. 

Disability icon

Donors and partners

UN-Habitat is currently implementing a portfolio of interventions with communities, local authorities, state governments and the Federal Government of Somalia across all Somali regions. Strengthened partnership with other local institutions has helped to unlock and mobilize additional resources for the urban agenda, particularly through joint programming with other UN agencies.


United Nations Trust Fund For Human Security
United Nations Support Office in Somalia
United Nations Office for Project Services
UNDP (incl. one UN fund)
Somaliland Development Fund
European Commission
Durham University
Federal government of Somalia (All federal member states including Puntland)
Government of Somaliland
Norwegian Refugee Council
UN Agencies


Ishaku Maitumbi
Officer in Charge (OiC)
Region Office for Africa (RoAf)

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