Large weather and conflict effects on internal displacement in Somalia with little evidence of feedback onto conflict

Lisa Thalheimer, Moritz P. Schwarz, and Felix Pretis

Global Environmental Change, Volume 79, (2023), Article number 102641


This article estimates the effects of extreme weather and conflict on forced displacement in Somalia, as well as the effects of displacement on conflict itself.

The analysis draws on disaggregated data from the Protection and Return Monitoring Network (PRMN) survey. The dataset covers all subregions of Somalia from 2016 to 2018 and includes information on the reason for displacement and the origin and destination of each IDP movement. The analysis incorporates high-resolution observations of extreme weather, such as monthly temperatures and precipitation, and data on conflict events and fatalities from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) database.

Main results:

  • Extreme weather, such as droughts and high temperatures, significantly increases internal displacement. An increase in temperature anomalies from 1 °C to 2 °C (approximately 1.5 standard deviations) leads to a tenfold increase in displaced people. However, the effect appears to be nonlinear, with a change from 0 °C to 1 °C only leading to close to a doubling (approximately 70 percent increase) in predicted IDPs. Additionally, a reduction in precipitation from 50 mm to 0 mm (approximately 1.5 standard deviations) leads to around a fourfold increase in displacement.
  • Increases in armed conflict lead to large internal displacement. An increase in the number of conflict events from 0 to 25 (an approximately 1.5 standard deviation change) is predicted to lead to a 50-fold increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), which would double again if conflict events increase from 25 to 50. As conflict events occur frequently and often exceed 10–25 events per region, these effects are large and common. However, these effects are only detectable when using disaggregated data broken down by the reason for displacement.
  • Displacement itself has little detectable effect on the occurrence of conflict events.

The authors conclude that there are large effects of temperatures and precipitation shocks on internal displacement, and that conflict is also a strong driver of internal displacement. However, IDPs do not appear to increase the probability of conflict at their destination, suggesting that concerns around migration-induced conflict may be unfounded. The findings underscore the need for granular, disaggregated displacement and migration data to inform anticipatory humanitarian action and policy responses.