Even as the need for life-sustaining food aid continues to grow in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the United States aid agency, USAID has halted food shipments to the war-torn region, complaining that the food it supplied was being diverted and sold in local markets.
In a statement Wednesday, USAID Administrator, Samatha Power said the food was intended “for the people of Tigray suffering under famine-like conditions”.
“The United States is the largest humanitarian donor to Ethiopia, and we remain committed to the Ethiopian people,” the statement reads.
She said the issue has been referred to USAID’s Office of the Inspector General, “which began an investigation.”
“We also launched a thorough review of our programs, and as part of the investigation, deployed senior leadership from our Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance to Ethiopia to conduct further assessments,” she said.
It is the review that resulted in a pause in the food aid which Ms. Power describes as “the best course of action.”
She said the U.S. government has raised its concerns with officials from both the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray Interim Regional Administration.
“Both federal and regional authorities in Ethiopia have expressed their willingness to work with us to identify those responsible and to hold them accountable.”
She said the US will only restart supplies when “strong oversight measures are in place, and we are confident that assistance will reach the intended vulnerable populations.”
It isn’t only the US that has halted food aid to Tigray. The United Nations food relief agency has also suspended aid deliveries to the Tigray for the same reasons.
Tigray’s new interim president, Getachew Reda, said last month he discussed “the growing challenge of diversion & sale of food aid meant for the needy” with senior WFP officials during a visit by the agency to Mekele, the regional capital.
The suspensions deal a serious blow to the more than 5 million of the region’s 6 million people who rely on aid.