US halts Food Aid to Ethiopia amidst ‘Widespread’ Theft Concerns

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In response to the discovery of a “widespread and coordinated campaign” aimed at stealing food contributions, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has decided to suspend all food aid to Ethiopia, announced the agency on Thursday.

As the largest humanitarian assistance donor to Ethiopia, the US made the difficult decision to halt food deliveries following a comprehensive review conducted across the country.

The review concluded that an extensive effort was diverting food assistance away from the intended recipients, according to a USAID spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity in an interview with Anadolu.

“In light of these findings, we have come to the challenging but necessary conclusion that we cannot proceed with the distribution of food aid until reforms are implemented,” stated the spokesperson in an emailed statement.

The spokesperson further emphasized, “Our goal is to promptly resume food assistance once we are confident that the delivery systems have the necessary integrity to ensure assistance reaches those in need. It must be people-centered, needs-based, evidence-based, and independent.”

While USAID did not assign blame for the theft, it had previously suspended food deliveries in the northern Tigray region in early May, in collaboration with the World Food Program.

This recent decision indicates that the issue extends beyond Tigray, pointing to a more widespread problem.

Ethiopia is currently grappling with a severe drought that is affecting the wider Horn of Africa region.

Additionally, the country is in the process of recovering from a civil conflict that ended in November with a peace agreement, following two years of fighting.

The war between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions since November 2020.

Late last year, a UN report indicated that Ethiopia had approximately 2.75 million internally displaced individuals, with 12.5 million children in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.