Ethiopia: Report - U.S. Suspends Food Aid to Ethiopia Amid Theft Accusations

The World Food Programme (WFP) distributes high energy biscuits to more than 900 Ethiopian refugees in Sudan (file photo).

The Washington Post reports the U.S. government is suspending food aid to Ethiopia after an investigation uncovered a scheme to divert the food from the poor to the Ethiopian military.

The Post quoted a statement from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) which said: "After a country-wide review, USAID determined, in coordination with the Government of Ethiopia, that a widespread and coordinated campaign is diverting food assistance. We cannot move forward with distribution of food assistance until reforms are in place."

The reported suspension could affect millions of Ethiopians who depend on food aid amid recurring droughts, high inflation and the aftermath of a war in the northern Tigray region.

The Post says the Ethiopian government spokesman, prime minister's spokeswoman and National Disaster Risk Management Commission did not respond to requests for comment.

The report, based on USAID statements and documents, says the investigation by found that elements within the Ethiopian government were involved with the scheme.

It said that Ethiopian officials have been stealing donated food in order to feed soldiers and ex-combatants. It said officials have also sold flour on the open market to millers who re-exported it.

"Extensive monitoring indicates this diversion of donor-funded food assistance is a coordinated and criminal scheme, which has prevented life-saving assistance from reaching the most vulnerable," reported The Post, quoting a USAID document prepared for donors. "The scheme appears to be orchestrated by federal and regional Government of Ethiopia [GoE] entities, with military units across the country benefiting from humanitarian assistance."

The document said USAID investigators visited 63 flour mills in seven of Ethiopia's nine regions and found "significant diversion" across all seven regions. Food from the United States, Ukraine, Japan and France donated to the United Nations World Food Program has been stolen, the report said.

It called on all donors who sent food aid to check how it is being used.

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