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News: USAID to resume vital food assistance in Ethiopia following reforms to prevent aid diversion

Six months ago, USAID halted all food aid in Ethiopia due to widespread evidence of diversion (Photo: USAID/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today that it will resume essential food assistance in Ethiopia next month. This decision follows comprehensive reforms implemented by the Ethiopian government and humanitarian partners.

USAID had to suspend all food aid six months ago due to evidence of widespread diversion, which was depriving vulnerable communities in Tigray of crucial relief. Along with USAID, the World Food Program (WFP) also halted the provision of humanitarian assistance in May 2023 due to alleged reports of aid diversion. Later in June, both organization announced the suspension of food aid distribution across Ethiopia after a country-wide review.

An investigation by USAID’s Inspector General revealed that food supplies intended for famine-affected populations in Tigray were being diverted and sold for profit. As a result, USAID immediately halted all assistance to the region and conducted a thorough program review to establish rigorous oversight of aid distributions. Food distributions were temporarily suspended until accountability mechanisms could be strengthened.

According to the statement issued by USAID, the humanitarian agency has been working closely with humanitarian partners and the Ethiopian government to develop and implement comprehensive reforms to the nationwide food aid systems.

Key changes agreed upon include improved monitoring of distributions from their source to destination, enhanced commodity tracking, reformed beneficiary identification processes, and strengthened vulnerability assessment standards.

As a first step towards full resumption, USAID restarted food assistance for refugees in Ethiopia last month after implementing accountability upgrades to the refugee program, including independent monitoring. Responsibility for refugee distributions has also been transferred to implementing partners.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power stated that the reforms, implemented in close coordination with humanitarian partners and the Ethiopian government, will enhance oversight and ensure that U.S. food aid reaches those most in need. These reforms involve enhanced monitoring of food distribution, improved tracking of commodities from their source to destination, and reformed processes for identifying and registering beneficiaries.

The Ethiopian government has agreed to operational adjustments that empower USAID partners to independently and objectively evaluate vulnerability criteria and approve intended aid recipients. USAID and third-party monitors will now have unrestricted access to evaluate distribution sites throughout Ethiopia.

Administrator Power emphasized that these comprehensive reforms will fundamentally transform Ethiopia’s food aid system and help guarantee that assistance reaches communities experiencing acute food insecurity. She reaffirmed USAID’s commitment to delivering life-saving support to vulnerable populations in Ethiopia.

As a precautionary measure, USAID will conduct continuous evaluations over the next year to ensure that the new measures are correctly and effectively implemented on the ground. If the reforms are successfully executed as intended, they are expected to bring greater transparency and accountability to food distribution and redirect aid to those who need it most.

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In August 2023, the WFP announced the resumption of food aid delivery in the conflict-stricken Tigray region. However, regional authorities disputed the announcement saying that the resumption of a safety net program was mistakenly depicted as the reinstatement of humanitarian assistance. AS

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