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WFP Joins US in Suspending Ethiopia Food Aid

FILE: Sacks of food earmarked for the Tigray and Afar regions in a warehouse of the World Food Program (WFP) in Semera, Ethiopia, on Feb. 21, 2022. On June 9, 2023, the United Nations food relief agency said has suspended aid deliveries to Ethiopia due to "diversions."

GENEVA — The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said on Friday it was temporarily halting its food aid assistance in Ethiopia due to the widespread theft of donations, a day after the United States announced it was doing the same.

The World Food Program's Ethiopia food distribution stop followed a decision by the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] to do the same.

According to an internal briefing by a group of foreign donors to Ethiopia seen by Reuters, USAID believes the food has been diverted to Ethiopian military units.

"The scheme appears to be orchestrated by federal and regional government entities, with military units across the country benefiting from humanitarian assistance," said the document from the Humanitarian and Resilience Donor Group (HRDG), which includes USAID.

"The two governments are conducting investigations so that the perpetrators of such diversion are held to account," USAID and Ethiopia's foreign affairs ministry said in a joint statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussede the issue on Thursday with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen on the margins of a conference in Saudi Arabia.

The State Department said afterwards that Blinken welcomed a commitment by Ethiopia's government to work with the United States to conduct a full investigation.