Language use in Somalia: Quantitative research findings. An analysis of language data collected in REACH’s Assessment of Hard-to-Reach Areas

Symons, J., Reiners, L.
Publication language
Date published
15 Apr 2023
Research, reports and studies
Internal Displacement, Inclusion
Use in Humanitarian Programme Cycle
Needs assessment and analysis, Strategic response planning
Translators without Borders, CLEAR Global

An estimated 13 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya need humanitarian assistance because of drought triggered by three consecutive failed rainy seasons. Households in the affected areas are experiencing crop failures, lack of water, and significant livestock deaths. Analysis of data collected between October and November 2022 as part of REACH’s Assessment of Hard-to-Reach Areas covering the situation in 17 inaccessible districts of Somalia shows some clear trends in relation to language and access to information and services.

  • There is a high degree of language diversity in the hard-to-reach areas assessed, with 74% of respondents citing more than one language spoken in their settlement of origin. Mahaa (Northern Standard Somali) and Maay Somali are the most widely used languages across most areas assessed, but in many communities the minority languages Benadiri Somali, Mushunguli and Kibajuni are also spoken.
  • Communities which use minority languages experience higher barriers to accessing information, healthcare and services and aid, although food insecurity and other issues affect nearly all communities across Somalia.
  • Mushunguli-speaking communities in the study are most marginalized due to language and communication issues - in particular in Bu'aale and Jamaame districts. Benadiri-speaking settlements also frequently face barriers, in particular in Qandala and Caluula districts.