US government suspends food aid to Ethiopia

USAID, the government's humanitarian agency, claimed that food was being diverted and was not reaching the needy.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stopped all deliveries of food aid to Ethiopia on Thursday. A spokesman for the government run humanitarian agency told The Washington Post, that the food and provisions was being diverted, and therfore, not reaching those in need, and that this was the main reason they decided to suspend food shipments:

After a country-wide review, USAID determined, in coordination with the Government of Ethiopia, that a widespread and coordinated campaign is diverting food assistance. We cannot move forward with distribution of food assistance until reforms are in place.

USAID claimed they had evidence that several members of Ethiopia's federal and regional governments were stealing the food they were sending to the more than 20 million people in need. The evidence was obtained from a report by the Donor Group for Building Humanitarian Resilience.

The charity, which is part of USAID, stated that the stolen food was part of a "coordinated and criminal scheme" and ended up in the hands of military members and ex-combatants who did not need it:

Extensive monitoring indicates this diversion of donor-funded food assistance is a coordinated and criminal scheme, which has prevented life-saving assistance from reaching the most vulnerable. The scheme appears to be orchestrated by the federal and regional Government of Ethiopia (GoE) entities, with military units across the country benefiting from the humanitarian assistance.

The military were not the only beneficiaries of humanitarian aid. There is also evidence that food was sold to millers, especially flour, with the intention of being re-exported.

USAID joins Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to investigate case

Aid has not been definitively suspended, only temporarily until the culprits of this fraud are found. The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and USAID assured in a joint statement that both governments "are conducting investigations so that the perpetrators of such diversions are held to account."