UN agency suspends food assistance to Ethiopia’s Tigray in the wake of theft

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The United Nations food relief agency has suspended aid deliveries to Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region amid an internal investigation into the theft of food meant for hungry people, according to four humanitarian workers.

The World Food Program is in charge of delivering food to Tigray. This was the site of a devastating civil war lasting two years that ended last November with a truce.

Aid is a necessity for more than 5 million people in the region.

One of four human rights workers, who told AP that WFP notified their humanitarian partners on the 20th of April that they were temporarily suspending deliveries of foodstuffs to Tigray because of reports of food misappropriation. Three other aid workers have confirmed this information. All of them insisted that they remain anonymous because they had not been authorized to speak with a journalist about this subject.

Last month, AP published a report that the WFP was investigating There are many cases of food diversion and misappropriation in Ethiopia. This is a country where 20 million people, mainly due to conflict and drought, need humanitarian aid.

A letter sent by the WFP’s Ethiopia director on April 5 asked humanitarian partners to share “any information or cases of food misuse, misappropriation or diversion that you are aware of or that are brought to your attention by your staff, beneficiaries or local authorities.”

The AP was informed by two aid workers that the stolen supplies were enough to feed 100,000 people. The food was found missing from a storage facility in Sheraro, a city in Tigray. It wasn’t clear who committed the theft.

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.

A WFP Ethiopia spokesperson did not respond immediately to a comment request.

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