The Case for Area-Based Integrated Programming in Somalia

UNDP Somalia
7 min readApr 20, 2024

By Massimo Nicoletti Altimari

In today’s increasingly complex world, there’s a growing recognition of the potential for more effective approaches to meet humanitarian, peace and development needs, moving beyond the traditional project-based model. Our experience has shown that taking a siloed approach is akin to “treating symptoms without understanding the disease”, leading to unsustainable outcomes. Multi-dimensional crises contexts, like the one shaping the Somalia response environment, need to be addressed with a holistic and simultaneously implemented, multi-sectoral intervention. With this understanding, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Somalia is promoting the “Area Based Integrated Programming — ABIP”.

The Essence of Area Based Integrated Programming

At its core, ABIP is a holistic and sustainable development model. This approach is not just a strategy but a necessity in complex areas like Somalia, where development challenges are deeply interconnected. By integrating interventions across the development, peace, and humanitarian nexus, ABIP ensures that efforts are not just addressing isolated issues but are interlinked, creating systems that are resilient, efficient, and impactful.

The benefits of ABIP are manifold. It promotes greater efficiency and impact by coordinating efforts across sectors, partners, and actors, including a whole of government approach, ensuring that resources are maximized for the overall benefit. This model also focuses on community involvement at every stage, from planning to monitoring, ensuring that interventions are relevant and tailored to the specific needs of the area.

ABIP encourages cross-sectoral knowledge sharing, leading to better-informed decision-making and policy development. Externally, it cultivates collaboration with various stakeholders, addressing the root causes of problems in an integrated manner. The adaptability to changing circumstances within the targeted community makes ABIP particularly effective in dynamic environments.

UNDP Somalia’s ABIP Model for Stabilization and Early Recovery

In Somalia, the model implemented by UNDP is built on three interconnected pillars linked with the objectives of the Somali National Stabilization and Early Recovery Strategy: strengthening basic services, livelihood and economic recovery, and strengthening local governance, reconciliation, and community security. This integrated approach not only addresses immediate needs but lays the foundation for long-term development and peace. The integrated interventions in Somalia are informed by a detailed Context and Political Economy Analysis and are therefore designed to be socially and politically viable, respectful of local norms, and effective in addressing both visible challenges and underlying issues.

From Theory to Practice: The Hudur Operation

The market center in Hudur after rehabilitation.

The practical application of ABIP in Hudur district illustrates UNDP’s commitment to transforming theory into action. Through dialogues with the South West State Cabinet of Ministers in the state capitol Baidoa and with the District Council, mayor, and women and youth groups in the town of Hudur, a set of critical interventions were identified, encompassing infrastructure rehabilitation, security enhancement, and livelihood support.

Hudur community gets more resilient with improved infrastructure

Since its liberation from the control of Al Shabab in 2014, the town of Hudur, a crossroad for trade, population and strategic military movements in the Bakol region, has not received attention and support from both the Government and the international community. As a consequence, the visible decay of essential infrastructure (schools, clinic, police stations, road network and etc.), starkly highlighted the community’s developmental and stability challenges.

UNDP’s support to restore critical facilities aimed at impacting the socio-economic fabric of the community by complementing the work of other agencies (WHO rehabilitating and supporting the hospital, UNICEF the same for the schools etc). The reconstruction of the main market building, which once was one of the centers of commerce, what among the first key milestones. This intervention sought to create a welcoming, secure space for traders and customers, thereby revitalizing Hudur’s economic center, helping social interactions, stimulating the economy, and addressing immediate and long-term livelihood needs. To complement this work, the mayor’s office with a decision taken in collaboration with the District Council, decided to invest in the construction of latrines for the use of market dwellers.

The newly rehabilitated stadium has become a new sports center for the local youth. Photos from: Mayor of Hudur District Omar Abdullahi Atuu.

Simultaneously acknowledging the pivotal role of women and youth in the fabric of community development, UNDP has focused on the rehabilitation and revitalization of key communal spaces: the women/recreational center, the youth center, and the football stadium. These enhancements have transformed these venues into dynamic hubs for sports, empowerment, education, and engagement, thereby nurturing opportunities for growth and cultivating a spirit of inclusivity within the community.

The women/recreational center has undergone significant improvements, including some critical repairs, setting the stage for its transformation into a vibrant learning hub. The installation of a solar system, a critical upgrade in a region like Hudur where there is no electricity, prepares the center for its next phase of development. This phase will introduce a computer lab, marking a significant step towards offering vocational training to selected individuals, further reinforcing the center’s role in community empowerment and skill development.

Similarly, the youth center and football stadium have been upgraded. These include a total repaint, repair of the fencing net, and the reconstruction of changing rooms and meeting areas, significantly enhancing the functionality and appeal of these communal spaces. The commitment of the local government, demonstrated through the allocation of a portion of the district budget to reinforce the fencing wall, underscores the collective investment in creating safe, welcoming, and versatile spaces for the community.

Aligned with the vision of the local people and the mayor, the programme also supported the rehabilitation of key roads within the town for better community connectivity — reinforcing the interconnectedness of economic vitality, social empowerment, and community safety.

Security Enhancement

Orientation center after rehabilitation in Hudur.

In Hudur, security concerns, primarily due to the presence of Al Shabab and prevailing lawlessness, have significantly hampered development initiatives. This challenge is further exacerbated by the absence of electricity, plunging the town into complete darkness after sunset — a scenario that disproportionately heightens the risks for women and girls. In a strategic move to counteract these challenges, UNDP has spearheaded the repair of (non-functional) existing solar-powered streetlights and the purchase and installation of new ones across critical areas within the town. This intervention, though seemingly modest, has markedly enhanced night-time visibility and safety, substantially mitigating the risk of criminal activities and bolstering the community’s overall sense of security.

Furthermore, UNDP facilitated training for 40 local police forces, focusing on community policing, human rights, and conflict resolution. These programs rebuilt trust between the community and security forces, ensuring that the latter could effectively maintain peace and security in a manner that respects the rights and dignity of Hudur’s residents.

Livelihood Support

Recognizing the critical link between economic stability and overall community resilience, UNDP placed a strong emphasis on livelihood support in Hudur. The next phase of the operation will see the implementation of targeted Economic Recovery and Livelihood support activities. One of the flagship initiatives is the introduction of vocational training programs tailored to the local context. These will be informed by a market assessment so that they can be adapted to local economic opportunities and demand. Micro grants will also be issued to individuals — with a stronger emphasis on women — that have undertaken vocational training and shown interest in expanding existing businesses or creating new ones.

Additionally, UNDP will implement cash for work activities linked to infrastructure rehabilitations. Over 200 people mainly youths and women, will be hired to work on the various rehabilitation works including market building, police post, women/recreational center, stadium/youth center and roads. This will not only provide immediate financial relief to participants, but it will also contribute to the public good. These programs are designed to inject cash into the local economy while improving the community’s physical environment and infrastructure.


The ABIP’s implementation in Hudur district, through these targeted interventions, showcases UNDP’s commitment to a holistic and sustainable stabilization and early recovery program setting the basis for longer term development. By addressing the interconnected needs of infrastructure, security, and livelihood in a coordinated manner, and grounding these efforts in technical assessments and community engagement, UNDP has set a precedent for how integrated programming can catalyze profound and lasting change in complex environments. The operation in Hudur is not just a series of projects but a blueprint for sustainable development, demonstrating the transformative potential of ABIP when theory is skillfully translated into action.

Hudur Talk: Mayor of Hudur Omar Abdullahi Atuu (second from left) and Mustafa Abdullahi, DG of Ministry of Interior, Local Governance and Reconciliation, South West State of Somalia (second from right) with his team at a meeting with UNDP’s Sophie Kemkhadze (right) and Massimo Nicoletti Altimari (center) in Mogadishu.

Going forward, the demand is growing for the replication of this model in different realities in Somalia. UNDP is actively extending the Area Based Integrated Programming model to vulnerable regions within Puntland and Somaliland and discussions have been held with the offices of the President and Prime Minister of the Hirshabelle state, where the model was presented and met with enthusiastic responses and urgency for its implementation. This expanding reach underscores the model’s adaptability and the growing consensus on its potential to foster sustainable development across diverse geographical landscapes. By turning well-laid plans into concrete actions, there’s a real opportunity to create a brighter future for Somalia, one community at a time.

Mr. Nicoletti Altimari is Senior Crisis Coordinator and Humanitarian Development Peace (HDP) Nexus Advisor with UNDP Somalia. He can be reached at @AltimariMassimo



UNDP Somalia

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) works to achieve the eradication of poverty and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion.