Executive summary

The Population Estimation Survey (PESS) is the first extensive household sample survey to be carried out among the Somali population in decades. This report provides reliable and comprehensive population estimates by region and important demographic characteristics. Prior to this, Somalis have had to endure a long spell of absence of information on the numbers of people in each region and important characteristics of the Somali people. The last information available on population is from a census conducted in 1975, which published limited results; the results from another population census conducted from 1985 to 1986 were never released into the public domain. Since then, even though development agencies made several attempts to compile reliable data on population and socioeconomic statistics, such efforts collected data limited to thematic data sets. To fill this crippling gap, the Somali authorities decided to carry out a survey to collect information on the Somali population among other details. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) partnered with donors and other UN agencies and took up the lead role to support the Somali authorities in undertaking the Population Estimation Survey.

The survey is a rich reservoir of information that will help authorities, development partners and humanitarian agencies to understand the realities and characteristics of the Somali population. They will be able to tap into this information to improve planning, decision making, and monitoring and evaluation at all levels. The information will also assist in determining progress being made towards attaining development goals.

This first report provides crucial information on the size, sex and age of Somali citizens, as well as how they are distributed among the 1986 pre-war regions. Detailed characteristics such as levels of education, household characteristics, assets owned by households, who makes up the labour force, and patterns of migration, mobility and maternal mortality will be produced after further analysis.

During the survey more than 4,500 men and women were trained in mapping, validation, data collection, data entry and analysis. At every stage, Somali authorities, local leaders and their communities, as well as international partners played different roles to facilitate the processes.

PESS gathered basic critical information on the Somalis living in urban, rural and nomadic areas (interviewed at water points during the peak of the long, dry season), and in settlements for internally displaced persons. One standard questionnaire was used in selected enumeration areas or pre-identified areas.

Data was collected in three main phases: cartographic field mapping, household listing in the sampled areas, and the interviewing of households using the standard questionnaire.

An exercise of this scale encounters challenges in any environment. Some of the main challenges faced were insecurity and inaccessibility in various locations. In these areas, high-resolution satellite imagery was used to count the number of structures in sampled or preidentified areas that were inaccessible. These accurate images also doubled up as a tool for validation and quality control of information collected.

Some of the key findings of the report are:

At the time the Population Estimation Survey was conducted, the total population in the 18 pre-war regions was about 12.3 million. Out of the total population, just under half (42 percent) were living in urban areas and almost a quarter (23 percent) were living in rural areas. The nomadic population constituted 26 percent and the internally displaced persons accounted for 9 percent of the population. Compared to many African countries, the proportion of the urban population is relatively high. This can be attributed to the definitions of urban-dwellers
used, which are in line with what was used prior to the civil war.

Information collected on age shows a young Somali population with about 46 percent of the population below the age of 15. The mean age for males is consistently higher than that for females by a year in the nomadic, rural and IDP populations.

The estimated number of households in the 18 pre-war regions at the time the survey was conducted was over two million. The average size of a household was 5.9 members. It is anticipated that the in-depth analysis phase will be conducted with the support of the international community, and will further develop institutional capacity through on the- job training as well as provide a pool of information that will pave the way for Somali authorities to conduct large sample surveys, as well as a population census in the near future.