Somali High Frequency Survey Wave

Preliminary Summary


The historical civil war and political insecurity in Somalia has resulted in a lack of socioeconomic, perception and other key data in Somalia. The Somalia Socioeconomic Survey 2002 was the last Somalia-wide representative survey. This lack of data makes it difficult for the government and its development partners to plan and implement appropriate policies and programs that are needed to support economic growth and stability. Especially the lack of poverty numbers undermined the development of an interim poverty reduction strategy paper, which is required to apply for HIPC debt relief.

The Somali High Frequency Survey closes this crucial data gap. The first wave of the Somali High Frequency Survey was conducted as part of the Somalia Poverty TA program in February 2016. This summary document describes the methodology and presents a few preliminary findings of the first wave. A more comprehensive compilation of preliminary findings is available in the accompanying presentation. An in-depth analysis has not yet been conducted but will be proposed in the last section of this document.


Data collection in Somalia is challenging due to insecurity in some areas. Traditional sampling methodologies require a full listing of enumeration areas, which is impossible in insecure areas. Also face-to-face time is limited to about 60 minutes while a full consumption questionnaire takes 90 to 120 minutes. Finally, limited field access makes monitoring of data quality difficult.

The poverty team developed solutions to overcome these challenges and allow household consumption data collection in Somalia. The new solutions were tested in a pilot survey in Mogadishu. The first challenge related to sampling was resolved by employing a segmentation approach instead of requiring a full listing in insecure areas. The second challenge of limited face-to-face time was overcome by a newly developed methodology to collect consumption data in 60 minutes. An ex-post simulation using data from Hargeisa showed that the methodology is able to provide accurate poverty estimates. The third challenge of monitoring limitations was tackled by the design of a remote real-time data monitoring system. Implementing these innovations in the Somali High Frequency Survey ensured high data quality despite limitations for field monitoring.

The sample design had to be adopted due to missing enumeration area maps. The survey was originally planned to rely on the sample framework provided by PESS. However, maps for a large number of rural enumeration areas were not available. Therefore, the sample design was altered for areas without existing maps. For those areas, settlement data from PESS as well as from UNDP (2005) were used to create a sample frame. The draft sample

frame was cleaned by merging duplicate enumeration areas and by splitting larger settlements into multiple enumeration areas. Boundaries of the enumeration areas were constructed as circles and then transformed into non-overlapping Theissen polygons.1

The survey covered Somalis living in Mogadishu, in urban and rural areas in Puntland and Somaliland as well as in Internally Displaces Persons (IDPs) settlements. The survey did not include the nomadic population, which presents about one quarter of the Somali population (according to PESS). This ad hoc approach to create the missing sample frame aimed to ensure representativeness of the covered population but has technical limitations, which should be kept in mind when interpreting results.

The questionnaire of the survey is focused on consumption. Consumption is measured using the Rapid Consumption Methodology. The approach partitions consumption items into core and optional modules. Only the core and one optional module is administered to each household. The missing consumption information is imputed within the survey using multiple imputation techniques. The questionnaire also covered livestock and perception data. In more secure areas, a long-form of the questionnaire was administered including modules for income / remittances, household enterprises and shocks.

Poverty is estimated using the international 1.90 USD 2011 PPP poverty line. As the poverty line is defined in USD 2011 PPP, it must be converted to the currency used to measure consumption in the survey. First, USD 2011 PPP are converted into Somali Shilling in 2011 using the regression-based PPP estimate for Somalia. Second, the change in purchasing

power per Somali Shilling is considered by estimating inflation from 2011 to 2016. In the absence of a CPI, the consumption shares of the survey are used together with prices collected from 2011 to 2016 by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) Somalia led by FAO. Third, the poverty line is converted back to USD using the current exchange rate. The resulting poverty line is 1.58 USD (2016) per day per person. The consumption estimates from the household are accordingly converted into USD using the region-specific exchange rates collected by the market price surveys. Food consumption is also spatially deflated using a Laspeyres deflator to ensure comparability.

Preliminary Findings

Poverty ranges from 35 to 71 percent in Somalia, across different parts of the population. The poverty rate in Mogadishu is similar to other urban areas while rural areas are poorer. Most people in IDP settlements are poor. Household receiving remittances are better off than household that do not receive remittances (Figure 1).

One in four working-age persons participate in the labor market. One in third of those is unemployed (Figure 2). Women are often not participating in the labor market because they engage in household work and/or are not allowed by their husbands to seek work. More than half of the youth pursues education.

More than half of the population is literate. Literacy are higher in urban compared to rural areas (Figure 3). Women are slightly less often literate. Wealthier households have higher literacy rates than poorer households.

Somalis are optimistic about the future. Asked about their outlook on living standards and employment opportunities, 4 in 10 people are optimistic while only 2 in 10 people are pessimistic  (Figure  4).  People  living in  IDP settlements  are  generally  more  pessimistic. Wealthier and female-headed households are more optimistic.

Next Steps

The survey data offer the opportunity for an in-depth analysis of poverty and related socio-economic indicators to improve our understanding of poverty in Somalia. This work is planned for FY17 contributing to the preparation of the Systematic Country Diagnostic while also feeding into the Country Economic Memorandum.

Additional waves of the High Frequency Survey will help to understand poverty dynamics and can increase coverage, e.g. by including nomads. The first wave of the survey only gave a snapshot of poverty for the represented part of the population. Additional waves are planned including previously insecure areas as well as the nomadic population. The additional waves will be funded by the Somalia Multi-Partner Knowledge Fund.

The incomplete sampling frame for Somalia will negatively affect representativeness of any surveys in Somalia. Therefore, it is urgent to update the sampling frame for Somalia. Based on the experience gained in complementing the existing sample frame for the first wave of the Survey, it is proposed to support the Government of Somalia with technical assistance to construct a complete sample frame. Due to security constraints to conduct required field work for updating the sampling frame, an approach based on satellite images with selected verification will be considered. Given the reach beyond the High Frequency Survey and the strong capacity building component in this undertaking, the TFSCB could be the appropriate vehicle for this.

Selected References

Himelein, K.; S. Eckman, S. Murray, and J. Bauer. 2016. “Second-stage sampling for conflict areas: methods and implications.” Policy Research working paper; no. WPS 7617. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group.

Pape, U. and J. Mistiaen (2015), “Measuring Household Consumption and Poverty in 60 Minutes: The Mogadishu High Frequency Survey”, World Bank 2015.

World Bank (2015), “Informing the Somali High Frequency Survey”, Report No ACS14146. Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group.

Somali High Frequency