Strategically located in the Horn of Africa and bordering Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, Somalia has an area of approximately 637,660 square kilometers, with a coastline that extends for 3,025 kilometers along the Gulf of Aden to the north and the Indian Ocean to the east. Fertile land comprises 70 percent of the country, of which about 2 percent is arable land, while 68 percent is permanent pasture. The main agricultural production areas are located in south-central Somalia, along the Juba and Shabelle rivers, and in parts of Somaliland, with main crops such as maize, sorghum, sesame and black-eyed beans.
Somalia has an arid or semi-arid climate and a predominantly desert topography. The country is at high risk of natural disasters, particularly drought, which, combined with uncontrolled deforestation, is leading to ever greater desertification. The northern regions are mountainous, with altitudes between 900 and 2,100m above sea level, while in the southern part there are the major waterways, the Shebelle and Juba rivers, coming from Ethiopia. The water infrastructure built before the civil war was destroyed, and during the heavy rains in the Ethiopian highlands, floods occur in river areas in central and southern Somalia, with immediate humanitarian consequences. The country's environmental and water resources management is therefore a matter of primary importance in the context of international cooperation interventions.
Somalia is a young country, with around 79% of the population under the age of 24. Illiteracy and unemployment are widespread, although accurate data on these indicators show considerable differences between government sources and humanitarian agencies. Somalia ranks fourth in the world for illiteracy, with only 30% of boys and 20% of girls enrolled in primary school, and serious disparities are recorded between urban centers and the countryside, where illiteracy rates are higher. Unemployment and illiteracy leave young people vulnerable to recruitment by militias and radical groups, undermining efforts to stabilize the country, including areas under al-Shabaab control. Vocational training programs that foster the creation of sustainable jobs are another major challenge for the Somali government and its international partners.
Despite the progress in the agenda for the reconstruction of the state and its stability, the socio-economic situation of the country remains difficult. The portion of the population living below the poverty line ($ 1.90 per day) exceeds 50% and varies considerably between regions and urban / rural centers, with the highest incidence of poverty among families located in displaced settlements (71%). Typically, this is accompanied by less access to employment and income-generating opportunities. In line with global trends, Somalia also recorded an increase in the percentage of the urban population compared to the rural one, with approximately 45% of the population residing in urban centers. Statistical analyzes based on data from the last 10 years predict a steady increase in urban migration with around 64% of the population residing in a few cities in Somalia (Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Berbera, Kisimayo) by 2050.
In recent years, the push towards urbanization has accelerated also due to the drought that hit the country with four rainy seasons with below-average rainfall between 2016 and 2017, a period in which the agro-pastoral sector has experienced near collapse with massive crop loss, widespread shortage of water and pasture, and increased livestock mortality. Food insecurity causes an increase in the prices of food products, with a consequent decrease in the purchasing power of families. The volatility of consumer prices remains another of the issues to be addressed at a macro-economic level for the stability of the country.
Somalia is confirmed as the country with the highest number of internally displaced people in the world, and migratory flows to and from neighboring countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia, are also increasing. In general, 5 of the 18 regions that make up Somalia host all the people in need of humanitarian aid, namely Benadir, Bay, Lower Shabelle, Hiran and Awdal, with an increase in internal migrations towards the urban centers of Mogadishu, Baidoa, Galkayo and Kismayo, where the vast majority of internally displaced people are concentrated. The accelerated pace of urbanization causes a degradation of the limited existing infrastructure and overcrowded conditions.
Children are among the groups most affected by humanitarian emergencies and malnutrition has reached emergency levels in a number of locations. In Somalia, one in every 7 children dies before the age of 5, due not only to severe malnutrition, but also to diseases such as measles, cholera, and respiratory diseases. Furthermore, the phenomenon of child soldiers is spreading in Somalia, with a total of 1,811 children recruited into the military or terrorist forces in 2018, a trend that unfortunately continues to grow. As confirmed by the growth in the rate of children not included in the school system, at the present time about 3 million.
International aid is channeled through the Somalia Development and Reconstruction Funds (SDRF), a funding coordination architecture created in 2014 as a central element of the implementation of the Somali Compact, and remained in force even with the introduction of the National Development Plan. The SDRF has the task of political guidance, coordination and approval of international aid, with particular reference to activities on the multilateral channel and is managed by a Coordination Committee co-chaired by the Somali Federal Government (the Prime Minister) and by the Nations United, in the person of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, and also provides for the participation of donors active in the country.
The Italian commitment to support the development of Somalia, together with the international community, through the mechanisms and priorities defined by the Somali government was confirmed during the first Conference of the Somalia Partnership Forum held in Copenhagen in 2014, in the subsequent Istanbul edition, and in the most recent of London in 2017, Brussels in 2018, and Mogadishu in 2019. In these contexts, the importance of the activities carried out through the three main Multilateral Funds managed respectively by the United Nations (Multi-Partner Trust Fund) was reaffirmed collectively, the World Bank (Multi-Partner Fund) and the African Development Bank (Somalia Infrastructure Fund - SIF). In addition to this, the Federal Government benefits from thematic coordination tools through the structure of the Pillar Working Groups and numerous working tables between coordinators and UN agencies.
In the debate within the Cooperation, the humanitarian-development nexus and the building of resilience have assumed particular importance in recent years, to which an entire session was dedicated in the Brussels forum (July 2018).
At European level, a coordination mechanism of the European Union (European Development Council) brings together every two months the heads of the various cooperation agencies of the Member States operating in Somalia and ECHO, in order to coordinate their respective activities. in progress and scheduled.
Non-traditional donors deserve a separate consideration (mainly Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar), who neither contribute nor participate in the coordination activities mentioned above, but invest substantial resources in aid on the bilateral channel.