al Shabaab Humanitarian Response: March-August 2017

September 05, 2017

Map Update #2: Al Shabaab's Humanitarian Response

Al Shabaab restricted humanitarian assistance operations and prevented locals from leaving its strongholds in Somalia to seek aid, backtracking on a more lenient policy adopted earlier this year. Nearly six million Somalis rely on humanitarian aid efforts after a catastrophic drought pushed the country toward famine.[1] Al Shabaab initially responded to the crisis by distributing its own aid and allowing selected aid organizations to access drought-impacted communities in areas under its control.[2] The group reverted to a harsher policy after May 2017 that includes abducting aid workers, burning food, and executing civilians who seek aid outside of the group’s jurisdiction.[3] The posture may be to ensure that al Shabaab continues to be able to extract resources from aid flows into its strongholds.

Al Shabaab’s obstruction of aid and migration advances the group’s campaign to create a shadow government to supplant the Somali Federal Government (SFG) in rural Somalia by degrading public perception of the SFG’s aid delivery efforts. Al Shabaab’s control over humanitarian assistance forces local populations to rely on the group for survival, while blocking migration ensures that the group’s strongholds remain populated. Internal leadership disputes over al Shabaab’s strategy prompted the group to divert its resources away from its humanitarian response.[4] Al Shabaab’s ability to govern terrain and local populations enables the group to pursue a broader insurgent campaign against U.S. allies in the Horn of Africa and present Somalia as a refuge for Salafi-jihadis fleeing Iraq and Syria.[5]

Kendal Barker contributed to this report. 

Read the prior posts, “Al Shabaab’s Humanitarian Response” and the June Map Update for additional context.

Al Shabaab’s Response

Food and water distribution

  • March 6 – Lower Shabelle region: Qunyo Barrow.[6]
  • March 11 – Mudug region: Adat, Warshubo, Harardhere, Jowlo, Dhalwo, Ris, Galdhabo; Lower Shabelle region: Wanlaweyn, Qoryoley, Kurtunwarey, Sablale, Barawe.[7]
  • March 19 – Galgudud region: Elbur.[8]
  • March 21 – Lower Shabelle region: Barawe. [9]
  • March 25 – Lower Shabelle region: Kurtunwarey, Qoryoley, and Torotorow.[10]
  • March 28 – Bay and Bakool regions.[11]
  • April 12 – Mudug region: Harardhere, Jowlo, Dumaye, Ris, Dhalwo, Dabagale; Galgudud region: Elbur, Galhareri.[12]
  • April 15 – Galgudud region: Gheriale.[13]
  • April 28 – Galgudud region: Elbur.[14]
  • May 11 – Hiraan region: Halgan town.[15]
  • May 24 – Bay region: Bulo Fulay, Rama Adey, Yaq Barawe, Adeile; Bakool region.[16]

Attacks against NGO workers