The Somali Health and Demographic Survey 2020

Somalia Launches Game-changing Report on Health and Lives of Somalis, including Hard-to-Reach Nomadic Communities

MOGADISHU, 30 April 2020 – A new report launched today by Somalia—titled the Somalia Health and Demographic Survey (SHDS) Report 2020—offers the country’s decision makers and stakeholders vital information on the health and lives of Somali women of childbearing ages and children.

By turning the voices of Somalis from more than 100,000 urban and rural households, as well as difficult to reach nomadic households, into statistics, the report shines a spotlight on the most pressing needs of Somali communities, particularly of women and children.

The SHDS report provides information on housing and household characteristics, health, education, marriage, fertility, birth spacing, employment, water and sanitation, health expenditure, chronic diseases, and children’s and women’s nutrition. It also offers information on married women’s knowledge of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) and attitudes towards people living with HIV, women’s empowerment, gender-based violence, female circumcision, and adult and maternal mortality.

The report reveals that gains have been made in important areas:

  • The maternal mortality rate, which has been one of the worst worldwide, has reduced from 732 in 2015 to 692.
  • Early marriages—known to deprive women of opportunities to reach their full potential—have reduced among women aged 20-24, from 46 percent in 20061 to 36 percent.
  • More than three-quarters of Somali households own simple mobile phones, and around six out of ten nomadic households own simple mobile telephones with access to fm radio, opening doors to endless opportunities for these individuals.
  • Somali women are empowered to make financial choices—nine out of ten women decide on how their cash earnings will be spent, either individually or jointly with their husbands, and around six out of ten women of childbearing age use their phones for financial transactions.

In recognition of the efforts it took to bring the survey to fruition, Adam Abdelmoula, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, remarked, “It has been a pleasure for us to witness the Somali Government roll out a survey of this scale—that is a rich source of such diverse and crucial information. The SHDS will help the international community to define and shape humanitarian and development strategies, and emergency responses so they are even more effective.” The SHDS report sheds light on areas that need intervention for women and children to lead better lives. The results show that around one in five births was delivered in a health facility (for births delivered in the five years preceding the survey), and an overwhelming majority of births—around eight out of ten—were delivered at home. Additionally, only a third of births were delivered with the assistance of a skilled health care provider and 68 percent of women did not make antenatal visits during their most recent pregnancy in the five years prior to the survey. According to Somali women aged 15-49, the reasons for their low uptake of health care during pregnancy and child delivery include the lack of money, long distances due to the lack of health facilities and the need for Somali women to obtain permission from family members before seeking health services.

The SHDS report further unveils that fertility rates remain relatively high—the total fertility rate for Somalia is 6.9 children per woman—which would impact planning for the coming years. In addition, female circumcision is still widely practiced across the country—99 percent of women have been circumcised. Although Somali communities are seen to be moving towards practising the Intermediate and mild Sunni forms of circumcision, survey results show that the severe Pharaonic form is still the most common form being practised, with over 60 percent of women having undergone this type of circumcision.

The survey highlights the need for support for nomadic populations in accessing health and other social services. For instance, births to women in urban areas are more likely to be protected against neonatal tetanus than births to women in nomadic areas, and more nomadic women delay antenatal care to the last trimester compared to women from urban and rural settings. Nineteen percent of nomadic women reported they made their first ANC visit in or after the eighth month, as compared to nine percent and eight percent of women in urban and rural households, respectively.

“This is a game-changing survey for our country,” said Hon Ambassador Gamal Hassan, Minister of Planning, Investment and Economic Development, Federal Government of Somalia. “The data obtained and systems used will be useful to map out COVID-19 hotspots and respond swiftly to curb its spread, for instance. The SHDS report also shows us more work needs to be done to bridge the gaps visible among Somalis of childbearing ages and children, and particularly among men and women, and Somalis of different educational backgrounds, income levels and areas of residence.”

“Every number presented in the findings of the report has a story behind it. For example, these numbers will guide us to address the barriers Somali women of childbearing ages face in accessing health. We can ensure mothers feel safe while delivering their babies in Somalia, young people have a better chance to make choices, particularly regarding reproductive health, and that children have better access to the right nutrition and vaccinations required to lead full and productive lives,” said Anders Thomsen, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative for Somalia.
Visit to read The Somali Health and Demographic Survey 2020 Report.

Note to editors: The SHDS was conducted over two phases, from 2018-2019. The first phase focused on listing households and obtaining information on maternal mortality. Information presented in the SHDS report was collected during the second phase.
Information on nomadic populations was collected from temporary nomadic households, visited with support from nomadic link workers from local communities, who maintain social ties with nomadic communities.
The SHDS was carried out by the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member States, in collaboration with UNFPA Somalia. The survey was conducted with financial support from The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID), The Government of Sweden, The Government of Finland,The Government of Italy, The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation…Continue reading

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