Accessibility links

Breaking News

Tigray: Many Hands Took Food Aid

FILE - An Ethiopian woman scoops up wheat distributed by the Relief Society of Tigray in the town of Agula, in northern Ethiopia on May 8, 2021. The U.S. said on May 4, 2023 that it has suspended all food assistance "until further notice" while it investigates thefts.

NAIROBI — Regional and federal government officials as well as Eritrean soldiers were involved in the theft of food aid in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region, the head of an investigation by the Tigrayan authorities said on Thursday.

General Fiseha Kidanu, the head of peace and security in Tigray's interim regional administration, told Tigrai TV on Wednesday that the investigation he leads had confirmed the theft of more than 860 kg of wheat and 215,000 liters of cooking oil.

Investigators have identified 186 suspects involved in the scheme and detained seven, he said, without naming any.

The U.N. World Food Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) paused food distribution last month in war-scarred Tigray because they said significant amounts of aid had been stolen.

The two agencies then suspended food aid across all of Ethiopia last week for the same reason. An internal humanitarian memo said USAID believes food has been diverted to Ethiopian military units as part of a scheme orchestrated by federal and regional government entities.

Ethiopia's government has said it is investigating the allegations made by USAID and WFP but said their decisions to cut aid would escalate the country's humanitarian crisis.

Ethiopia's army has denied its forces benefited from any stolen food aid.

Spokespeople for the Ethiopian government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.