Following a similar declaration by the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations World Food Program has announced that, it has temporarily halted food assistance to Ethiopia due to stocks being diverted.
“Food diversion is absolutely unacceptable, and we welcome the government of Ethiopia’s commitment to investigate and hold those accountable,” Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Program claimed. The Program’s Head Office in Rome, has refused to make any additional comments concerning the matter.
Out of the 120 million Ethiopian population, about 20 million Ethiopians are dependent on food aids, as a result of conflict and drought that has plunged the eastern African country for many years. The World Food Program and USAID has the provider of majority of the aid.
However, concerns have been raised over the possible increase in malnutrition in the continent’s second-most populous nation, as a result of the suspension. The USAID, WFP, or the Ethiopian government are yet to establish who is responsible for the diversion. The United States, however has claimed that, the diversion is “widespread and coordinated.”
However, a confidential note written by a delegation of foreign donor representatives, suggested that, the government has a hand in what has been happening.
According to the report from the Humanitarian and Resilience Donor Group, which consists of bilateral and multilateral associates, “the scheme appears to be orchestrated by federal and regional government of Ethiopia entities, with military units throughout the country benefiting from humanitarian assistance.”
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spoke “deeply concerning revelations” in a joint press release with USAID, and stated that, it was looking into the matter with the United States “so that the perpetrators of such diversion are held to account.”
The nationwide halt of food assistance comes after USAID and WFP announced last month that they had stopped delivering food to Ethiopia’s northern Tigray area, while they looked into claims of food aid theft there. After a two-year battle, the area is now rebuilding. Of the 6 million people living in the region, 5.4 million are dependent on humanitarian aid.
Aid thievery in Tigray seemed to “involve collusion between parties on both sides” of the conflict, according to Samantha Power, administrator of USAID, who testified earlier this year to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The fighting concluded in November.
WFP said in a press release that, it was conducting additional projects in Ethiopia for kids, mothers, and pastoralists suffering from the drought. “WFP is working closely with its U.N. and humanitarian partners and local stakeholders to reform the way assistance is delivered across Ethiopia and in all high-risk operational contexts where we work,” it said.
On November 4, 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed commanded his soldiers to defend against an assault on federal Army Camps, that he claimed the Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) was responsible for, though the TPLF had disputed the allegations. Tensions between the parties had been building for several months before the fighting broke out.
Earlier that year, despite Addis Ababa’s orders to suspend elections until August because of COVID-19, Tigray held regional elections in September 2020. The Federal Government declared the vote invalid, and as a result, Tigray began to lose social welfare funding.
Tens of thousands of people fled into neighboring Sudan during the 10-day violence, recounting their horror of the fierce fighting, and the horrifying deaths that occurred. The UN issued a warning about potential war crimes in Tigray.