09 Jun 2023, 16:13

WFP to halt some food aid to Ethiopia over diverted supplies

ADDIS ABABA, June 9, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - The World Food Programme (WFP) will
halt some food aid to Ethiopia, the UN agency said Friday, following a
decision by USAID to suspend food assistance after discovering that supplies
were being diverted from those in need.

"While we will temporarily halt food aid assistance in Ethiopia, nutrition
assistance to children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, school meals
programs, and activities for building the resilience of farmers and
pastoralists will continue uninterrupted," WFP said in a statement.

The decision will affect millions of Ethiopians facing severe food shortages
due to a devastating war in the northern region of Tigray as well as a
punishing drought in the south and southeast that has also struck Somalia and
parts of Kenya.

It comes on the heels of Thursday's announcement by the US government's main
international aid agency to suspend food aid until reforms are instituted.

USAID and Ethiopia's government said Thursday that they were committed to
addressing the "deeply concerning revelations of food aid diversion".

"The two governments are conducting investigations so that the perpetrators
of such diversion are held to account," USAID and Ethiopia's foreign ministry
said in a joint statement.

The head of WFP, Cindy McCain, said Friday that the agency would "resume our
operations as soon as we can ensure that food reaches the people who need it
the most."

"Food diversion is absolutely unacceptable and we welcome the Government of
Ethiopia's commitment to investigate and hold accountable those responsible,"
she said.

The UN agency said it was boosting monitoring measures including the tracking
of supplies to prevent food aid from falling into the wrong hands.

Last month, USAID and WFP said they would freeze food aid to Tigray after the
agencies discovered that shipments were being diverted to local markets.

Neither agency has identified those responsible for taking the aid and
reselling it.

In addition to the crisis in Ethiopia's drought-hit south, northern Tigray
suffered from dire shortages of food, fuel, cash and medicines during the
two-year conflict between forces loyal to the federal government and the
Tigray People's Liberation Front.

A peace deal signed on November 2 just passed the seven-month mark,
implementation of the accord has progressed slowly without a major return to
fighting, and some basic services have resumed to the region of six million

But media access remains restricted, and it is impossible to independently
verify the situation on the ground.

"This year, more than 20 million people in Ethiopia urgently need
humanitarian food assistance, as the long-lasting effects of conflict and
drought continue," WFP said Friday.

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