The United States Agency for International Development (USAID has halted food supply to Tigray region of Ethiopia after it discovered that the goods were being diverted for sale on the local market.
The decision was based on the advice of the USAID Office of the Inspector General which investigated the matter.
It comes just days after the Associated Press news agency reported that the World Food Programme (WFP) had suspended aid deliveries pending an internal investigation into the theft of food in the region, where 20 million people remain in need of humanitarian support.
USAID administrator Samantha Power who disclosed this announced that the food supplies had been intended “for the people of Tigray suffering under famine-like conditions”.
“We have made the difficult decision to pause all USAID-supported food assistance in the Tigray region until further notice,” Power said.
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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 restart paused food assistance only when strong oversight measures are in place and we are confident that assistance will reach the intended vulnerable populations,” Power said.
There has been no major return to fighting after a peace deal between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was signed in November.
However, food insecurity has persisted despite the government lifting a blockade on the northern region that was imposed when the fighting began in 2020, in order to allow the free flow of aid.
The first round of peace talks between Ethiopia’s government and the southern-based Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) has been concluded without any concrete agreements.
Both sides said they were committed to continuing the talks.