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News: Tigray region launches “high-level investigation” into food aid theft, calls on humanitarian agencies to resume suspended aid operations

WFP food aid distribution in Tigray (Photo: WFP Ethiopia/twitter)

Addis Abeba – The Tigray region Interim Administration (IA) has announced the establishment of a committee to conduct investigation into the aid theft that led to international aid agencies suspend their operation in the region.

“In light of the gravity of the problem and mounting evidence on the ground, we have launched a high-level investigation to ensure that all culprits are held to account whatever their background or status”, Getachew Reda, interim president of the region said on twitter.

The president said that he has met and discussed with diplomats, international humanitarian organization representatives and with communities, leaders and opinion makers in the region on “aid diversions”.

Accordingly the president has assigned a high-level team led by Let. General Fiseha Kidanu comprising other four members, Hadush Tesfa (PhD), Gebrehiwot Gebreegziabher, Commissioner Yihdego Seyoum and Yitbarek Amaha to investigate the crimes committed against the vulnerable.

A letter written and signed by the president noted that “there have been widespread complaints among the people and donors about the mismanagement, misappropriation and marketing of aid,” adding that this is “a cumulative injustice and crime against children, the elderly, the disabled and those suffering from chronic diseases”.

The president has called on both local and international humanitarian organizations particularly the World Food Program (WFP) to reconsider its recent decision of suspending its humanitarian operations, and resume the hardly needed “multi-sectoral relief aid to save the lives of the most vulnerable”. 

On 01 May, AP reported quoting humanitarian workers that WFP, the UN agency which is responsible for delivering food from the UN and other partners to Tigray, has suspended aid deliveries to the Tigray region pending internal investigation into the theft of food meant for hungry people.

WFP said in a statement on Wednesday 03 May, that it “immediately launched a comprehensive investigation upon learning of the food diversion reports and has taken swift action to establish all the facts and further strengthen our controls”, adding that it “has paused food distributions in Tigray, which will not resume until WFP can ensure that vital aid will reach its intended recipients”.

USAID, the US Agency for International Development has also announced on Wednesday, 03 May that it has made “the difficult decision to pause all USAID-supported food assistance in the Tigray region until further notice”.

The aid agency said it “uncovered that food aid, intended for the people of Tigray suffering under famine-like conditions, was being diverted and sold on the local market, noting that both the federal government and the Tigray interim regional administration have expressed their willingness to work with the agency in identifying those responsible and to hold them accountable.

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On 01 March Addis Standard reported that despite reports of unrestricted flow of humanitarian aid to the Tigray region since the peace agreement, internally displaced people (IDPs) in Tigray region, including those sheltered in the capital Mekelle, said they are not receiving adequate humanitarian aid.

Earlier in January Addis Standard also reported that more than 54, 000 IDPs sheltered at an IDP camp in Abiy-Adi, central Tigray, were suffering from severe shortage of food and medicine supplies. AS

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