The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday announced that it has decided to suspend part of its food aid to Ethiopia due to diversions, reported Africa News.
The WFP will, however, continue to provide nutritional assistance to children, pregnant and lactating women, school meal programs, and activities to strengthen farmers and herders in the face of external shocks.
“Food diversion is absolutely unacceptable, and we welcome the government of Ethiopia’s commitment to investigate and hold accountable those responsible,” the UN food organization’s Executive Director Cindy McCain said on Friday.
McCain said the WFP will take every necessary step to ensure that critical food assistance reaches those who need it most.
The UN food agency’s chief said being a humanitarian agency, the body should be able to provide aid to the most vulnerable women, men, and children unimpeded and without diversion.
On Thursday, the United States government’s international aid agency, USAID, also announced the suspension of its food aid to Ethiopia. It said that the decision has been taken considering a “widespread and coordinated operation to divert” the aid.
The agency said that the resumption of aid will begin as soon as USAID gets confidence in the integrity of the distribution systems.
In a joint statement with the US food agency released on Thursday evening, the Ethiopian authorities assured that it has begun a joint investigation into the matter and will ensure that those behind the diversion of aid are held accountable.
Some 20 million out of the total population of Ethiopia rely on food aid due to drought and conflict. The USAID and the UN food agency provide much of the aid. The suspensions brought fears that malnutrition could increase in Africa’s second most populous country.
Last month, the US and the WFP also suspended aid deliveries to the northern Tigray region over similar theft reports.