4 May: The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended food distribution in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where millions of people are facing famine-like conditions, due to reports of aid being diverted and sold by armed groups.
The WFP said in a statement on Wednesday that it had paused its operations until it could verify that the food aid was reaching the intended beneficiaries, who are mostly displaced and rural communities affected by the two-year conflict in the northern region.
The agency said it was working with its partners and local authorities to ensure that the aid was delivered safely and transparently, and that it would resume its activities as soon as possible.
The WFP’s decision came after the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Wednesday that it had discovered that some of its food assistance for Tigray was being diverted and sold in markets, and that it had cut off funding to some of its partners who were involved in the diversion.
The U.S. agency said it was investigating the allegations and holding those responsible accountable.
The diversion of aid is a serious violation of humanitarian principles and international law, and could endanger the lives of millions of people who depend on external assistance for their survival.
According to the U.N., more than 5.2 million people, or 84% of the population, in Tigray are in need of food assistance, and more than 400,000 people are facing catastrophic levels of hunger.
The humanitarian crisis in Tigray has been worsened by the ongoing conflict between the federal government and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to rule the region until it was ousted by a military offensive in November 2020.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions more, and disrupted basic services and infrastructure.
Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in November 2022, sporadic fighting and insecurity continue to hamper humanitarian access and delivery in many parts of Tigray.
The U.N. has repeatedly called for an end to hostilities and for unrestricted access to all areas of Tigray, as well as for the protection of civilians and aid workers from attacks and harassment.