U.S. Reinstates Food Aid for Ethiopian Refugees

by Ella

WASHINGTON — The United States has announced the resumption of food aid to refugees in Ethiopia, ending a suspension that lasted more than four months due to concerns over widespread diversions and theft of food meant to alleviate the hunger crisis.

On Thursday, the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.A.I.D.) disclosed its plans to restart the distribution of food assistance to approximately one million refugees, primarily hailing from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.


However, the agency clarified that the provision of food aid within Ethiopia’s borders would remain halted until specific conditions were met. The United Nations has estimated that over 20 million people in Ethiopia require urgent food assistance, as the country grapples with the aftermath of a two-year civil war, severe drought, and mounting economic difficulties.


“Our assistance to other food-insecure populations across Ethiopia remains suspended until we receive assurances that it will reach its intended beneficiaries,” U.S.A.I.D. emphasized in a statement, noting that other U.S.-funded programs, such as healthcare initiatives, continued despite the suspension of food aid.


The United States initially suspended food aid to Ethiopia in June after uncovering a coordinated effort by Ethiopian government officials to divert emergency food supplies, diverting them to commercial mills and local markets. The United Nations World Food Program had previously halted operations in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in late April due to a “significant diversion” of humanitarian aid, later aligning with the U.S. decision to suspend all food assistance to Ethiopia. However, food distribution in Tigray resumed in August.


U.S.A.I.D. declared that it is recommencing food aid to refugees following the implementation of measures aimed at preventing theft, as agreed upon by the Ethiopian government and humanitarian organizations responsible for food delivery. Additionally, the Ethiopian government has delegated the warehousing and distribution of food to these humanitarian groups.

The suspension of food aid to Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most-populous nation, had severe repercussions for millions already grappling with acute food shortages, internal displacement, and escalating unemployment. The nation remains in recovery from a brutal two-year civil conflict between the government and Tigrayan rebels that concluded in November of the prior year. Both sides of the conflict, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of casualties and the displacement of millions, faced allegations of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The resumption of food aid for refugees coincides with the recent announcement by the European Union of $680 million in financial support for Ethiopia. This funding comes nearly three years after the EU halted direct aid to Ethiopia due to the Tigray conflict. The seven-year support package aims to strengthen Ethiopia’s transition to a more sustainable economy, support developmental initiatives, advance democratic governance, aid in post-conflict reconstruction, and provide essential services to the population. It’s important to note that this aid package excludes direct budgetary support to the Ethiopian government.

Despite nearly a year passing since the warring parties in Ethiopia signed a ceasefire agreement, the country remains in a fragile state. The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, established by the United Nations in 2021, recently issued a report highlighting a “high risk” of further atrocities. Concerns have arisen that the commission’s mandate may not be renewed as it approaches expiration next week, despite the alarming findings in its latest report.

Steven Ratner, an expert on the commission, stressed, “There is a very real and imminent risk that the situation will deteriorate further, and it is incumbent upon the international community to ensure that investigations persist so human rights violations can be addressed, and the worst tragedies averted.”



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