Somaliland | ActionAid UK


In Somaliland (an independent state of Somalia), ActionAid works to end hunger and respond to drought, prevent FGM, get children into school and support women to earn a living.

In 2017 ActionAid responded to the East Africa crisis by working with communities in Somaliland to provide thousands of women and children with urgently needed food and water

Millions of people in Somaliland were at significant risk of famine for much of 2017; forced to leave their homes and travel huge distances in search of food. 80 per cent of livestock died in the hardest hit areas. 

Map of the East Africa crisis in Somalia

Map of Somalia

The number of people affected by the food crisis in Somalia, where ActionAid responded in the region of Somaliland.

Why we work in Somaliland

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 after a war which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Although Somaliland has its own government, police force, and business sector, it is yet to be recognised internationally. Unemployment is widespread, almost three-quarters of the population live below the poverty line, and around a tenth of children die before their first birthday.

In 1992, ActionAid Somaliland opened its first office and began working with eight partners in three regions to rebuild conflict scarred communities and equip women with the tools they need to combat injustice.

Somaliland is incredibly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and regularly suffers from drought. Since half of Somaliland’s rural population are nomadic pastoralists who rely on livestock rearing, hunger is rife. In the 2011 drought, almost two-thirds of pastoralists lost their livelihoods and had to move into towns. The  2017 drought caused a potentially catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Somaliland.


  • 98
    98% of women aged 15-19 have had FGM.
  • 11
    1 in 9 children die before their fifth birthday.
  • 28
    28% of girls are married by their 18th birthday.

Women and girls lack a strong voice in society, as decisions in the home and government are made almost exclusively by men. In Somaliland, 97 percent of girls aged between four and 11 have endured female genital mutilation (FGM), a brutal procedure that can cause death and countless health complications.

Low literacy rates and limited awareness of legal rights also make women vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual abuse. After the war, Somaliland’s education system collapsed. While schools are reopening and primary school enrolment increasing, the quality of education is poor and many teachers remain unqualified.

Malyuun Ahmed Omer, 30, holding her one year old son Sakeriye-Ahmed

Malyuun Ahmed Omer, 30, and her one-year-old son Sakeriye-Ahmed are suffering from terrible hunger because of El Niño related drought, western Somaliland

Photo: Jennifer Huxta/ActionAid

What we do in Somaliland

East Africa Crisis Appeal

ActionAid in Somaliland has supported 64,000 people as of July 2017. This included distributing 6,000 tonnes of food, including  rice, sugar, wheat flour and cooking oil, and thousands of litres of water. 

Ending hunger

ActionAid works to end hunger among small farmers and pastoralists in Somaliland. We work mainly with women who are left to fend for themselves when men migrate to cities or coastal regions in search of water for cattle. We provide tools such as rakes, pickaxes and tractor rental to help increase harvests and improve nutrition.

We support women to strengthen wells destroyed in the war, helping communities have access to safe and regular water, and saving women and girls’ time that they can then use to make a living.

Getting children into school

In 2014, we ran a campaign which brought education ministers face to face with more than 1,000 parents to discuss how to get children into school. ActionAid now works with parents and teachers to build classrooms and separate toilets for girls and boys, and with the Ministry of Education to develop training programmes for newly qualified teachers. These raise awareness of the importance of girl’s education, and challenge the view that FGM and early marriage are safe ways to protect girls from pre-marital sex.

Supporting women to earn a living

ActionAid Somaliland links women’s rights to making a living. We support women to start business cooperatives and run their own enterprises, through ActionAid’s ‘Revolving Fund’. This contains enough funds to enable 10 women to start small businesses such as rearing and selling livestock, selling milk, and opening small shops and snack bars. Once the loan is paid back, the funds are passed on to another woman.

Protecting girls from FGM

The prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somaliland is 98%. We are working to end FGM in Somaliland by helping communities to learn and openly talk about its damaging effects, running youth groups to help boys and girls speak up to end FGM, and supporting groups to lobby governments to help pass anti-FGM laws. 

Women are at the centre of our work, but to end FGM we need whole communities to say no, so including men is essential. Through our work, teenage boys and men are publically declaring that they will not marry women who have had the cut and are being powerful ambassadors.

How we’re changing lives for good in Somaliland

Meet some of the women we work with in Somaliland.


Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures/ActionAid