An adapted ‘sense of coherence’ scale short form (SOC-13) was administered in nine languages of Eritrea with a total of 265 participants (162 women and 103 men) in order to assess ‘resilience’ in quantitative terms. Statistical analysis yielded significant differences in SOC scores between the displaced and non-displaced: mean=54·84 (SD=6·48) in internally displaced person (IDP) camps, compared with mean=48·94 (SD=11·99) in urban and rural settlements (t=3·831, p<0·001). Post-hoc tests revealed that the main difference is between IDP camp dwellers and urban (non-displaced) residents. Those in rural but traditionally mobile (pastoralist or transhumant) communities scored more or less the same as the urban non-displaced – i.e. significantly higher than those in IDP camps (p<0·05). Analysis of variance showed that displacement has a significantly negative effect on women compared with men (RR=0·262, p<0·001). Repeating the analysis for the three groups confirmed that urban and pastoralist/transhumant groups are similar, while women in IDP camps are lower scoring (RR=0·268, p<0·001), Hamboka women being worst affected due to their experience of serial displacement. These findings are interpreted and discussed in the light of qualitative information gleaned from the study participants’ interrogation of the content of the SOC scale; and in the wider context of historical, socio-political and cultural characteristics of Eritrea. The study’s implications for humanitarian and public health policy are considered.