Ethiopia has criticised the suspension of food aid to the country by the United States and the UN World Food Program (WFP). Government spokesman Legesse Tulu, called the decision “political” saying the suspension “punishes millions of people”. More than 15% of the country’s population depends on food aid.
USAID, the US government’s international aid agency, announced the suspension of its food aid, denouncing a “widespread and coordinated detour operation”.
The following day, the WFP announced that it was “temporarily suspending food aid”, also citing “detour of food”, while asserting that “nutritional assistance to children, pregnant and lactating women, school meal programs and activities to strengthen farmers and herders” in the face of external shocks would continue uninterrupted.
This suspension of food aid “punishes millions of people”, reacted government spokesman Legesse Tulu at a press conference, calling the decision “political”. “Making only the government responsible (for embezzlement) is unacceptable”, he continued.
The Ethiopian authorities, in a joint statement with USAID, had assured us on Thursday evening that a joint investigation was underway “to ensure that those responsible for the embezzlement are held to account”.
The American agency had already decided in May, at the same time as the WFP, to suspend food aid to the Ethiopian region of Tigray, which had just emerged in November from two years of conflict, due to the detour of part of this aid, “sold on the local market”.
Some 20 million people, or 16% of Ethiopia’s 120 million inhabitants, are dependent on food aid, according to estimates by the UN humanitarian agency (Ocha) at the end of May, due to conflict and a historic drought in the Horn of Africa, which has displaced 4.6 million people across the country.
Ethiopia is also home to almost a million refugees, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.
Since mid-April, almost 30,000 people fleeing the conflict in Sudan have taken refuge in eastern Ethiopia.