The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food aid to Ethiopia due to reports of misappropriation and diversion of the aid. The donated food was allegedly being sold on the black market. The WFP and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have temporarily halted their assistance programs.
Misuse of Aid is "Unacceptable"
WFP Director Cindy McCain stated that the misdirection of food aid was "absolutely unacceptable." The agency welcomed the Ethiopian government's announcement of investigations and punishment for those responsible. The USAID has also suspended its support due to the misappropriation of aid.
Using Technology to Prevent Misuse
The WFP has stated that it will continue to implement programs specifically for malnourished children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and school feeding programs. It is also working on a method to better track and control the distribution of food aid. The WFP plans to work directly with affected communities and use new technology that can track the recipients' identities and the delivery of food aid right up to the families. McCain said, "We must work together to learn from this and prevent it from happening again in the future".
20 Million People Depend on Aid
Around 20 million of Ethiopia's 120 million people require food aid due to droughts and conflicts in the region. Most of the food aid comes from the WFP and USAID. In the last few months, there were hints that food donations in Ethiopia, the second most populated country in Africa, were being diverted and sold on the black market.
In early May, the WFP and USAID suspended their aid to the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, which was destroyed after a civil war broke out. The WFP confirms that it is taking the issue seriously and will take all necessary measures to ensure that the life-saving food aid reaches those who need it the most.
The WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020. However, there have been allegations of misuse and corruption over the years in the distribution of vital food aid.