U.N. suspends food aid to Ethiopia, citing ‘widespread food diversion’

The U.N.’s World Food Program said Friday it is temporarily suspending food aid to Ethiopia due to widespread diversion of food.

The WFP said in a statement that nutrition assistance to children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and school meals programs will continue despite the suspension.

“Food diversion is absolutely unacceptable and we welcome the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to investigate and hold accountable those responsible,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain. “Our first concern is the millions of hungry people who depend on our support, and our teams will work tirelessly with all partners to resume our operations as soon as we can ensure that food reaches the people who need it the most.”

The WFP said it is accelerating efforts to enhance safeguards and controls to make sure humanitarian food aid reaches targeted, vulnerable people across Ethiopia.

“WFP is also reinforcing food tracking all the way to beneficiary families and strengthening the monitoring and reporting of violations by partners and the misuse of food aid,” the WFP statement said.

More than 20 million people in Ethiopia are in urgent need of food assistance due to the effects of both long-lasting conflict and drought.

The WFP said it will work closely with U.N. and humanitarian partners as well as local stakeholders to reform how food aid is delivered across Ethiopia to stop the diversions.

The Ethiopian government and the United States Agency For International Development issued a joint statement Thursday that said the U.S. and Ethiopia are investigating to hold the food diversion perpetrators to account.

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