US joins UN in suspending food aid to Ethiopia's Tigray 'until further notice'

AP , Thursday 4 May 2023

The United States aid agency says it has suspended all food assistance to the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray “until further notice” while it investigates the theft of humanitarian supplies.

FILE - A worker walks next to a pile of sacks of food earmarked for the Tigray and Afar regions in a warehouse of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Semera, the regional capital for the Afar region, in Semera, Ethiopia, Feb. 21, 2022. (AP)


The U.N. confirmed earlier reports that it was doing the same.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power said that her group has “uncovered that food aid, intended for the people of Tigray suffering under famine-like conditions, was being diverted and sold on the local market.”

After discovering food was missing, the agency alerted its inspector general, who launched an investigation. “Following this review, USAID determined, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa and our implementing partners, that a temporary pause in food aid was the best course of action,” Power said in a statement.

She added that USAID has raised its concerns with Ethiopia’s federal government and Tigray authorities.

Nearly all of Tigray’s 6 million people rely on food aid, after two years of civil war and government-imposed restrictions on humanitarian relief pushed parts of the region to the brink of famine.

The war ended in November with a cease-fire, which also saw aid deliveries resume.

It was unclear who was responsible for the theft of the food aid and how much was taken. Last month, AP reported the missing supplies included enough food to feed 100,000 people, taken from a warehouse in the Tigray city of Sheraro.

The U.N.'s World Food Program in Ethiopia told its partners on April 20 that it had suspended deliveries of food to Tigray. Late Wednesday, the agency confirmed the suspension, which was first reported by AP. It said food relief efforts “will not resume until WFP can ensure that vital aid will reach its intended recipients."

Getachew Reda, the interim president of Tigray, said he had formed a task force ”to prevent and investigate crimes committed in relation to humanitarian aid and enforce the supremacy of the law.”

He called the diversions of aid “a double injustice and crime that is being done to children, elderly and disabled (people) who are suffering from starvation and sickness.”

The U.S. is the biggest single humanitarian donor to Ethiopia, providing $1.8 billion in humanitarian assistance to the country in the 2022 fiscal year, according to USAID.

In addition to civil conflict, the country is also struggling with a prolonged drought.

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