Country Background

Somalia has not had an effective national government for nearly three decades, during which much of the country has been a war zone. The terrorist group Al-Shabab has de facto ruled over large swaths of Somalia and initially gained support by promising people security. The group’s credibility eroded when it rejected Western food aid to combat a 2011 drought and famine. Despite an increase in targeted airstrikes by the U.S. under President Trump, Al-Shabab continues to conduct attacks in Somalia, targeting the Somali state and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces. The country is plagued by both armed conflict and worsening climatic shocks (i.e. droughts and flash floods) and this has resulted in the massive displacement of people. 

What Nonprofits Need to Know

Below in the blue is an overview of the humanitarian and peacebuilding needs in Somalia. In the red are the primary sanctioned groups presently operating there. Because U.S. law prohibits the provision of “material support” to listed terrorists individuals and groups as well as engaging in trade with sanctioned persons and entities, the presence of these groups and sanctions programs can impact the delivery of aid and peacebuilding programs. The list below is non-exhaustive and changes frequently, so it is important for nonprofits to check all partners and those with whom they engage in transactions against, at a minimum, the U.S. Specially Designated National (SDN) and the United Nations Security Council Consolidated lists. Below the charts is information on OFAC licenses, where applicable, and links to our research and advocacy, and other relevant information.  

Humanitarian &
Peacebuilding Needs

According to the latest Humanitarian Needs Overview by OCHA, 5.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia.

Natural Hazards: Climate change is a major concern in Somalia and drought and flood are two common factors that drive humanitarian need in the country. Over half a million people have been affected by recent flash flooding across Middle and Lower Juba, Bay, Lower and Middle Shabelle, and Hiraan. 

Food Security and Nutrition: Up to 6.3 million Somalis are at risk of food insecurity. Between July 2019 and June 2020, it is estimated that one million children will be acutely malnourished, including 180,000 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

Disease and Healthcare: Due to inadequate access to water and sanitation, Somalis are vulnerable to the outbreak of diseases such as cholera and measles.  

Ongoing Hostilities: Non-state armed groups conduct bombings, suicide attacks, armed assaults, and kidnappings in Somalia. Simultaneously, military operations have caused death, injury, and the displacement of civilians.

Displacement: Over half of the 3.47 million people currently displaced are in need. Key drivers of displacement are clan-based violence, non-state armed groups, and drought. 

Gender-based violence (GBV): Women, children, and other marginalized groups are at particular risk of exploitation and abuse, such as gender-based violence, sexual violence, and child recruitment. 

al-Shabaab: Formed in 2006, the group maintains strongholds in rural areas in the south and is responsible for numerous high-profile attacks throughout Somalia and in the northeast in Puntland State. The U.S. designated this group as an FTO in 2008. More information here.

Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) networks in Somalia:  Active since 2015, this offshoot of ISIS formed counter al-Shabaab’s opposition to the federal authorities in Somalia with its own. The group operates throughout the country but conducts recruitment and training mainly in Puntland, the semiautonomous region in the northeast. It is designated as an FTO by the U.S. More information here.

Primary Terrorist Presence &
Other Sanctioned Groups

Access overview of U.S. Somalia Sanctions here and the United Nation’s Security Council Committee Somalia sanctions pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) here.

“If interventions are not scaled up, one million children are projected to be acutely malnourished over the next year, including 180,000 who are likely to be severely malnourished.”

Food and Agriculture Organization Report on Somalia, 3 September 2019

Licenses offered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) within the U.S. Department of Treasury enforces sanctions programs. It has a licensing process that allows transactions with sanctioned entities, including listed terrorist groups, that would otherwise be unlawful. Nonprofits that operate in areas affected by sanctions often apply for licenses from OFAC so that they are able to provide services to civilians in conflict zones around the world without running afoul of U.S. sanctions law, engage in peacebuilding activities and more. Find more information here.

Policy Reform

The Charity & Security Network advocates for change in national security measures to better support nonprofits working around the world. In fragile contexts, counterterrorism measures often impede humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organizations from accessing finance for their programs and serving populations in need. Find out more on our key issues below:

Useful Links

last updated: May 13, 2020