US Agency Puts Brakes on Ethiopian Food Aid Amid Country’s Drought Woes – What’s Going On?
Friday June 9, 2023
In a most perplexing and bursty turn of events, millions of Ethiopians are now left without access to food aid, as a United States aid agency suspends its assistance to the country. The agency reports that donations meant for those in need are being diverted, and it turns out that Ethiopian government agencies and the military are allegedly behind the scheme. This is just beyond perplexing, considering that about 20 million Ethiopians are already struggling with food shortages due to the combined effects of war and drought.
It is bewildering to note that the United States remain the single largest humanitarian donor to Ethiopia, having provided more than $1.8 billion (£1.4b) in assistance since fiscal year 2022. The US Agency for International Aid (USAid), being an independent agency leading the US government’s international development and humanitarian efforts, has not only discovered the widespread and coordinated campaign diverting food assistance, but it also notes that it can no longer move forward with the distribution of food assistance until reforms are made.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAid have already notified the Ethiopian government of the issue, but who is to blame for the coordinated and criminal scheme has yet to be publicly announced. It has been reported, though, that an independent donor group had prepared a memo pointing to a coordinated and criminal scheme, orchestrated by federal and regional government entities, with military units across the country benefiting.
It is beyond comprehension how this situation can be resolved, given that both the USAid and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) have already frozen food aid to the northern Tigray region in the previous month due to similar issues. Tigray has been suffering from dire shortages of food, fuel, cash, and medicines during a two-year conflict between forces loyal to Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. At present, nearly 32 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are going through the worst drought in decades, adding to the already complex humanitarian crisis in the region.