June 07, 2017
Map Update: Al Shabaab’s Humanitarian Response
Al Shabaab aims to usurp the role of humanitarian providers in order to build popular support and undermine the authority of the Somali Federal Government (SFG) among drought-stricken populations.
Three consecutive seasons of poor rainfall caused severe drought conditions that now threaten the lives of more than six million people in Somalia. Al Shabaab has responded to the humanitarian crisis by distributing aid in the most devastated areas of central and southern Somalia. Al Shabaab’s assumption of a humanitarian role marks a shift from its response to the 2011 famine, when it enforced a blanket ban on aid distribution and refused to assist local populations under its control, contributing to more than 250,000 deaths. Now, the group is challenging SFG and international humanitarian efforts by conducting its own aid operations, as well as attacking aid workers and constructing roadblocks along major supply routes. Al Shabaab’s push to become the sole provider of humanitarian assistance in the areas it controls could strengthen its authority among rural populations. The recent international push for humanitarian and security aid to Somalia may undercut al Shabaab’s expansion strategy. Additional support is unlikely to reverse al Shabaab’s growing influence in the near term, however, especially as the group conducts a complementary military and terrorist campaign alongside its humanitarian effort. An increase in al Shabaab’s control over rural populations would set conditions for the group to contest larger population centers in the medium to long term. A resurgent al Shabaab would threaten the stability of regional U.S. partners like Kenya and Ethiopia and increase the risk of major al Shabaab attacks beyond Somalia’s borders.
Read the prior post, “Al Shabaab’s Humanitarian Response,” for additional context.
Al Shabaab’s Response
Food and water distribution
- March 6 – Lower Shabelle region: Qunyo Barrow.
- March 11 – Mudug region: Adat, Warshubo, Harardhere, Jowlo, Dhalwo, Ris, Galdhabo; Lower Shabelle region: Wanlaweyn, Qoryoley, Kurtunwarey, Sablale, Barawe.
- March 19 – Galgudud region: Elbur.
- March 21 – Lower Shabelle region: Barawe. 
- March 25 – Lower Shabelle region: Kurtunwarey, Qoryoley, and Torotorow.
- March 28 – Bay and Bakool regions.
- April 12 – Mudug region: Harardhere, Jowlo, Dumaye, Ris, Dhalwo, Dabagale; Galgudud region: Elbur, Galhareri.
- April 15 – Galgudud region: Gheriale.
- April 28- Galgudud region: Elbur.
- May 24 – Bay region: Bulo Fulay, Rama Adey, Yaq Barawe, Adeile; Bakool region.
Attacks against NGO workers
- March 22 – Gedo region: Red Cross worker killed in Bardhere.
- April 3 – Gedo region: World Health Organization workers abducted near Luuq.
- April 16 – Banadir region: UN World Food Programme convoy ambushed near KM13 junction.
- April 19 – Lower Shabelle region: Emirati Red Crescent convoy ambushed in Garasbaley.
Brian Carpowich contributed research to this report.
 “Somalia: Drought Response – Situation Report No. 2,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, March 31, 2017, http://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/somalia-drought-response-situation-report-no-2-31-march-2017.
 Jordan Indermuehle, “Al Shabaab’s Humanitarian Response,” Critical Threats Project, April 24, 2017, https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/al-shabaabs-humanitarian-response.
 Shumel Yosef Agnon, “Security Forces Dismantle 26 al Shabaab Illegal Roadblocks Planted in Lower and Middle Shabelle,” Strategic Intelligence Service, May 22, 2017, http://intelligencebriefs.com/security-forces-dismantle-26-al-shabaab-illegal-roadblocks-planted-in-lower-middle-shabelle/; and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, “Security Forces Begins Opening Road Blocks Set By Al Shabaab in Bay Region,” Strategic Intelligence Service, May 17, 2017, http://intelligencebriefs.com/security-forces-begins-opening-road-blocks-set-by-al-shabaab-in-bay-region/.
 “EU Support for Somalia” European Commission, May 11, 2017, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-1243_en.htm.
 Al Shabaab distributes food in Qunyo Barrow, Facebook, March 6, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/pg/shahadaagency/photos/?tab=album&album_id=257896484662344.
 Al Shabaab distributes water in Mudug and Lower Shabelle regions, Facebook, March 11, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/shahadaagency/posts/260256441093015.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Elbur town, Galgudud region, Facebook, March 19, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/pg/shahadaagency/photos/?tab=album&album_id=263961617389164.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Barawe town, Lower Shabelle region, Facebook, March 21, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/shahadaagency/posts/264729803979012.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in several towns in Lower Shabelle region, Facebook, March 25, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/112811155924613.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Bay and Bakool regions, Facebook, March 28, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/118676788671383.
 Al Shabaab distributes food and water in several towns in Mudug and Galgudud regions, Facebook, April 12, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/131469824058746; Al Shabaab distributes food and water in several towns in Mudug and Galgudud regions, Facebook, April 12, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/photos/a.112623352610060.1073741828.111106089428453/131472287391833/?type=3.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Gheriale village, Galgudud region, Facebook, April 15, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/133351710537224.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid to 300 families in El Bur city, Galgudud region, Telegram, April 28, 2017.
 Al Shabaab distributes Ramadan food aid in Bay and Bakool regions, Telegram, May 24, 2017.
 “Humanitarian worker gunned down in Bardhere town,” Garowe Online, March 22, 2017, http://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-humanitarian-worker-gunned-down-in-bardhere-town.
 Al Shabaab claims bomb attack on WFP convoy,” Shabelle News, April 16, 2017, http://www.shabellenews.com/2017/04/al-shabaab-claims-bomb-attack-on-wfp-convoy/.
 “Landmine explosion targets humanitarian, government officials,” Garowe Online, April 19, 2017, http://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-landmine-explosion-targets-humanitarian-government-officials.