The Permanent Mission of Somalia to the United Nations.

(Temporary Web Site)

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Message from the Ambassador of Somalia

H.E. Mr. Ahmed Abdi Hashi,
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary,
Permanent Representative of the
Mission of Somalia to the United Nations

Contact information:

Permanent Mission of Somalia to the United Nations
425 East 61st Street, Suite 702
New York, NY 10021

Tel: 1-212-688-9410
Fax: 1-212-759-0651


Temporary Web:

Country Information:



Size: Land area 637,540 square kilometers; coastline 3,025 kilometers; sovereignty claimed over territorial waters up to 200 nautical miles. A little smaller than Texas.

Topography: Flat plateau surfaces and plains predominate; principal exception rugged east-west ranges in far north that include Shimbir Berris, highest point at 2,407 meters.

Climate and Hydrology: Continuously hot except at higher elevations in north; two wet seasons bring erratic rainfall, largely April to June and October and November, averaging under 500 millimeters in much of the country; droughts frequent; only Jubba River in somewhat wetter southwest has permanent water flow. Shabeelle River, also in southwest, flows about seven months of year. Somalia

2nd longest coast line in Africa. (South Africa number 1)


Population: Estimates vary; United Nations 1991 estimate shows population of 7.7 million not including Ethiopian refugees but other estimates place at 8.4 million in mid-1990. Until early 1990s, predominantly nomadic pastoralisto and seminomadic herders made up about three-fifths of total; cultivators about one-fifth; town dwellers (vast majority in Mogadishu) about one-fifth. Pattern of residency dramatically altered by civil war in late 1980s onward, raising urban population of Mogadishu to 2 million.

Languages: Somali (script officially introduced January 1973) predominates. Several dialects; Common Somali most widely used; Coastal Somali spoken on the Banaadir Coast; Central Somali spoken in the interriverine area. English and Italian used by relatively small proportion (less than 10 percent) of urban population. Somali and Italian used at university level; Somali used at all school levels below university. Arabic used in religious contexts. Indigenous languages include various dialects of Afar and Boni.

Ethnic Groups: Overwhelming majority of nationals ethnic Somalis; and two agricultural clan-families (Digil and Rahanwayn). In 1991 centralized state disintegrated into its constituent lineages and clans.

Religion: Former Somali state officially Islamic; overwhelming majority of nationals Sunni Muslims (less than 1 percent Christian). Activist Islamism increasing in some areas.

Education and Literacy: Until 1991 modern public education offered free at all levels; nationally owned educational facilities closed after collapse of Somali state; school attendance grew rapidly in settled areas in 1970s; primary education extended to nomadic children in early 1980s. Literacy campaigns resulted in substantial increases in 1970s but less than government's estimate of 60 percent, with relapse among nomads by 1977; United Nations estimate shows 24 percent literacy rate in 1990.

Health: Improvement in numbers of health care personnel and facilities during 1970s offset by civil war, refugee burden, and failure to expand services beyond urban areas; weak modern medical infrastructure deteriorated dramatically after 1991 collapse of central government. High incidence of pulmonary tuberculosis, malaria, tetanus, parasitic and venereal infections, leprosy, and a variety of skin and eye ailments; relatively low incidence of human immunovirus (HIV) (less than 1 percent) through 1992; general health severely affected by widespread malnutrition and famine in 1992.


Salient Features: Formerly socialist-oriented economy undergoing market-oriented structural adjustment until 1991. Stabilization and macroeconomic adjustment programs implemented during 1980s under auspices of international credit and aid agencies. Privatization of wholesale trade and financial sectors largely complete by 1991; economic growth sporadic and uneven across sectors. Most economic activity disrupted by breakdown of Somali state in 1991.

Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, and Fisheries: Crop and livestock production, forestry, and fisheries, accounted for bulk of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1991; livestock predominant agricultural export, also important source of animal products (mostly milk) for internal markets and subsistence. Crop cultivation dominated by rural subsistence sector, which generated sufficient surpluses to sustain domestic informal markets and barter economy until 1990. Main crops: sorghum, corn; incipient production of mild narcotic qat suppressed by central government during mid-1980s. Small plantation sector dedicated primarily to export of bananas and sugarcane. Domestic grain supply supplemented by international food aid. Small forestry sector dominated by production for export of frankincense and myrrh. Fisheries production showed modest growth during 1980s but remained minor economic activity. Agricultural activity severely curtailed as result of drought and breakdown of Somali state in 1991.

Mining: Mining contribution to GDP negligible (.3 percent of GDP in 1988) despite substantial deposits of gypsumanhydrite , quartz and piezoquartz, uranium, and iron ore. Meerschaum sepiolite mined; gold deposits suspected but not confirmed.

Manufacturing: Small manufacturing sector, based primarily on processing of agricultural products, consisted of few large state enterprises, hundreds of medium-sized private firms, and thousands of small-scale informal operations. Largescale enterprises dedicated mainly to processing of sugar, milk, and hides and skins. Overall manufacturing output declined during 1980s as result of failure of inefficient state enterprises under market conditions. Manufacturing activity further curtailed by civil war and collapse of Somali state. By 1990 manufacturing ceased to play significant role in economy (about 5 percent of GDP).

Energy: Domestic wood, charcoal, and imported petroleum provided basic sources of energy; significant hydroelectric potential of Jubba River remained unexploited; four small-scale wind turbine generators operated in Mogadishu. Prior to civil war, eighty state-owned oil-fired and diesel power plants provided electricity to cities and towns. Refining capacity limited to one refinery. Foreign oil supplies erratic throughout 1980s. United Nations Development Programme hydrocarbon study in 1991 indicated good potential for oil and gas deposits in northern Somalia.

Foreign Trade: Exports consisted of agricultural raw materials and food products. Livestock and bananas principal exports, followed by hides and skins, fish and fish products, and myrrh. Trade balance remained negative throughout 1980s and early 1990s. Principal imports in descending order: food, transportation equipment, nonelectrical machinery, cement and building materials, and iron and steel. Italy and Arab states main destinations of exports; Italy main country of origin for imported Somali goods in 1990; other minor suppliers included Norway, Bahrain, and Britain.


Railroads: None.

Roads: One paved road extends from Berbera in north through Mogadishu to Chisimayu. Roads of all categories totaled 21,000 kilometers in 1990: 2,600 kilometers paved, 2,900 kilometers gravel; 15,500 kilometers improved earth (stretches frequently impassable in rainy seasons). Highway infrastructure insufficient to open up isolated areas or to link isolated regions.

Civil Aviation: Eight paved civilian airfields; fewer than twenty additional widely-scattered gravel airfields. International airport at Mogadishu contains 4,500-meter runway. In 1990 domestic service linked Mogadishu with seven other Somali cities. Somali Airlines owned one Airbus 310 in 1989. No scheduled service existed in 1992.

Ports and Shipping: Four major ports: deepwater facilities at Berbera, Mogadishu, and Chisimayu; lighterage port at Merca; minor port at Maydh. Port modernization program launched in latter half of 1980s with United States aid significantly improved cargo handling capabilities at Chisimayu, and increased number of berths and deepened harbor at Berbera.

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