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Urgent Humanitarian Needs and Long-term Human Capital Development in Somalia: Where is the Balance?
By Dr. Adam Aw Hirsi  
Monday May 27, 2024



Somalia faces the challenge of balancing immediate humanitarian needs with long-term investments in human capital to achieve sustainable development. Managing the delicate balance between addressing immediate humanitarian needs and making long-term investments in human capital for sustainable development in Somalia is particularly complex due to its unique circumstances.


Somalia operates under a federal system with two layers of government, adding an additional layer of complexity to decision-making and resource allocation. Additionally, the country is still recovering from a brutal civil war and is in an active, guns-blazing war with Al Shabaab, a potent terrorist organization, further complicating efforts to prioritize development initiatives.

Furthermore, Somalia currently lacks an agreed-upon constitution, leading to ongoing disputes over elections and power-sharing arrangements. The prevalence of corruption allegations only exacerbates the situation, hindering the effective distribution of resources and stalling progress towards sustainable development goals.

In light of the above, Somalia continues to grapple with poverty and climate change-induced natural disasters, leading to pressing humanitarian needs in the country. At the same time, investing in human capital, such as education, healthcare, and skills development, is crucial for long-term sustainable development.

Navigating these multifaceted challenges requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the intricate political landscape, security concerns, and governance issues in Somalia, while also ensuring that humanitarian needs are met and investments in human capital are made for long-term sustainability and development.

This article, inspired by a set of questions I was asked during the third panel of the Biannual Human Capital Development Forum held in Mogadishu by the Office of the Prime Minister on May 20th 2024, seeks to briefly  examine strategies for reconciling short-term relief efforts with long-term capacity-building initiatives to foster resilience and sustainable development in Somalia. To be blunt, the ten-minute timeframe provided by the panel moderator was insufficient for me, therefore I decided to respond in this illustrative essay.

Short-term Humanitarian Needs and Long-term Investments in Human Capital:

Short-term humanitarian needs in Somalia often encompass the critical provision of immediate food aid, crucial healthcare services, necessary shelter, and vital protection for vulnerable populations impacted by crises or emergencies.

These interventions are crucial for preserving lives and tackling pressing challenges. Yet, to ensure enduring development results, it is crucial to supplement short-term relief initiatives with sustained investments in human capital. This may involve initiatives in education, healthcare advancements, and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, thus paving the way for long-term resilience and progress in the country.

Strategies for Balancing Short-term Needs and Long-term Investments:

1. Integrated Approach:

In considering the impact of neglecting human capital development, it becomes evident that the reliance on humanitarian interventions may intensify. The absence of investment in human potential can result in a greater need for immediate assistance during crises.

After all, it is the skilled workforce within a society who play a pivotal role in determining the success or failure of various endeavors. Cognizant of this fact, an integrated approach that merges short-term humanitarian aid with long-term development strategies is indispensable.

This approach ensures a seamless continuum of care and support for both individuals and communities, addressing immediate needs while laying down the foundation for sustainable growth and resilience.

Through the integration of immediate relief initiatives with sustained investments in human potential, Somali communities can enable their members to effectively address challenges and lessen their reliance on ongoing humanitarian assistance.

2. Targeted Interventions:

Considering the exacerbating impact of climate change-induced crises on security, population displacement, and community degradation, it is paramount to prioritize interventions that holistically address the multifaceted challenges faced by communities.

In the face of such complexities, it is essential to concurrently tackle immediate needs, including emergency healthcare and nutrition programs, while simultaneously focusing on sustainable, long-term development measures. This dual approach ensures that communities receive vital support during crises, while also equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills through education and training programs to build resilience and foster self-reliance for a brighter future.

Through a combination of quick relief efforts and purposeful investments in human resources, communities can effectively confront the challenges brought about by climate change-induced crises and strive towards sustainable development and security for all.

3. Community Engagement:

Engaging local communities in decision-making processes, project planning, and execution is essential to ensure the sustainability and impact of interventions. Through the inclusion of community members in these critical areas, projects can be tailored to address the specific needs and priorities of the local population, increasing their relevance and efficacy.

This participatory approach also fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among community members, leading to greater buy-in and long-term success of the interventions.

4. Disaster Risk Reduction:

To address the challenges posed by the climate crisis on small-scale farmers, townspeople, and entrepreneurs in Somalia, implementing disaster risk reduction strategies is crucial.

These measures, such as early warning systems and community preparedness initiatives, can build resilience and mitigate the impact of future shocks on human capital development. Despite financial constraints, investing in disaster risk reduction is a proven cost-effective approach to safeguard livelihoods, protect communities, and promote sustainable development.

Prioritizing these strategies can strengthen the Governments' ability assist the governed to cope with climate-related disasters, reduce vulnerability, and create a more secure environment for its them, ultimately enhancing long-term progress and prosperity.

Achieving Sustainable Development through Balanced Investments:

Strategically balancing short-term humanitarian needs with long-term investments in human capital is crucial for the Somalia Governments to pave the way for sustainable development outcomes nationwide.

Strengthening the education system - curriculum and overall education reform - expanding healthcare access, promoting the necessary vocational training, and creating economic and employment opportunities are fundamental pillars for cultivating a resilient and empowered population. Collaborative efforts, innovative approaches, and a commitment to investing in human capital as a driver of progress are essential for achieving sustainable development goals in Somalia.


Tackling the immediate humanitarian needs while investing in crucial areas like education, healthcare, and economic opportunities can put a positive trajectory in Somalia's  overall development agenda. This will specifically lay a strong foundation for human capital development, leading to sustained progress and growth in the country.

Granted, balancing short-term humanitarian needs with long-term investments in human capital is a complex, but it is an equally vital endeavor for Somalia's sustainable development journey. In addition to that leveraging a combination of immediate relief efforts and enduring investments in human capital  development a foundation for resilient communities, educated workforce, and sustainable economic growth can be simultaneously realized.  

Through realistic and practical strategic planning, commensurate resource allocation, and effective community participation, Somalia can navigate the dual challenges of addressing the pressing humanitarian needs while laying the groundwork for a prosperous and sustainable future.

Dr. Adam Aw Hirsi (PhD) is the Director of Foresight for Practical Solutions. He can be followed on @𝕏: @JustAwHirsi


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