The head of USAID says shipments to Ethiopia’s war-torn region will not resume until “surveillance measures are in place.”
The US aid organization USAID has announced it is halting deliveries of food to Ethiopia’s war-ravaged Tigray region after it discovered that the goods it supplied were being sold on the local market.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power made the announcement in a statement Wednesday, explaining that the aid was intended “for the people of Tigray who are suffering from famine-like conditions.”
“We have made the difficult decision to suspend all USAID-supported food assistance in the Tigray region until further notice,” said Power.
She added that USAID’s office of the inspector general had investigated the matter and that the pause was the “best course of action”.
Since the signing of a peace deal between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November, there has been no major return to the fighting.
However, food insecurity persists despite the government lifting a blockade of the northern region imposed when fighting began in 2020 to allow the free flow of aid.
USAID’s move comes just days after the Associated Press news agency reported that the World Food Program (WFP) had suspended aid deliveries pending an internal investigation into food theft in the region, where 20 million people are still in need of humanitarian aid.
In her statement on Wednesday, Power said the US has “raised its concerns with officials from both the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray Interim Regional Administration”.
She said both federal and regional authorities had expressed their willingness to help identify those responsible.
“USAID stands ready to resume interrupted food aid until strict oversight measures are in place and we are confident that aid will reach targeted vulnerable populations,” said Power.
She added that other “essential assistance not involved in the diversion scheme will continue, including life-saving nutritional supplements, safe drinking water and support for agricultural operations and development”.
Also on Wednesday, the first round of peace talks between the government of Ethiopia and the south-based Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) concluded without any concrete agreements.
Both sides said they were determined to continue talks.