The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has begun the cautious process of resuming food aid to Ethiopia. Nearly five months after a suspension that was prompted by the discovery of a large-scale scheme to steal donated grain. This decision comes in the wake of criticism and accusations of immorality regarding the suspension. In addition to the claims that hunger-related deaths had occurred during this period.
WFP has initiated a controlled and gradual return to food distribution in select areas. While acknowledging the ongoing role of the Ethiopian government in the aid process.
Detractors of the aid suspension, including aid organizations and healthcare workers, have condemned the move. Asserting that it resulted in hundreds of deaths due to hunger. On the other hand, the United States maintains its own suspension of food aid to Ethiopia as it engages in negotiations with the Ethiopian government, aiming to bring reforms to a system traditionally controlled by local authorities.
The suspension impacted a staggering 20 million Ethiopians—equivalent to 1/6 of the population—alongside 800,000 refugees.
In a written statement responding to queries, the WFP revealed to The Associated Press that it has initiated the distribution of wheat to approximately 100,000 individuals across four districts within Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, commencing on July 31. This process is part of testing “enhanced controls and measures for delivering food assistance.” Tigray is recuperating from a two-year conflict with Ethiopian forces that concluded in November.
WFP’s new protocols encompass digital beneficiary registration, grain sack markings, dedicated feedback channels, and enhanced training for aid partners. The organization intends to extend its upgraded distribution system to other regions in Ethiopia as swiftly as possible. WFP is confident that these measures will facilitate the effective delivery of food to those most in need.
The suspension of food deliveries to Tigray was first initiated by WFP in March, following the discovery of grain theft. In a single Tigray town, stolen food aid equivalent to sustaining 134,000 people for a month was discovered being sold in markets, still bearing the U.S. flag.
This suspension was subsequently expanded to encompass all of Ethiopia in June. The United States, a significant humanitarian donor to both Ethiopia and WFP, also suspended its food aid contribution during this period.