The US Agency for International Aid (USAid) has halted food aid to Ethiopia after discovering that donations were being misdirected away from those in need. The suspension will affect approximately 20 million Ethiopians, who are currently experiencing severe food shortages due to war and drought. The United States remains the largest humanitarian donor to Ethiopia, having provided over US$1.8 billion in assistance since the fiscal year 2022.
USAid conducted a review of its operations in Ethiopia, which revealed a “widespread and co-ordinated campaign” to divert food assistance. Although the agency has not publicly identified the perpetrators, a leaked memo from an independent donor group suggests that federal and regional government entities, along with military units across the country, are orchestrating a “co-ordinated and criminal scheme.”
In response to these findings, USAid announced that it cannot proceed with the distribution of food aid until reforms are implemented. The agency stated that food assistance would resume once they are “confident” that aid will reach its intended recipients. Both USAid and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have addressed the issue with the Ethiopian government.
This decision follows a similar move by USAid and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) last month, when they suspended food aid to the northern Tigray region after discovering that shipments were being diverted to local markets. Tigray has faced severe shortages of food, fuel, cash, and medicines during a two-year conflict between forces loyal to the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
The current drought, which is the worst in decades, has left nearly 32 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia struggling to survive. As international aid agencies work to address the crisis, the diversion of food aid in Ethiopia highlights the challenges they face in ensuring that assistance reaches those who need it most.
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