US humanitarian agency will resume food assistance to Ethiopia after months of suspension

The US government’s humanitarian agency will resume food assistance to Ethiopia next month after suspending it earlier this year, the agency’s spokesperson announced Tuesday.

In June, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) suspended the aid nationwide after determining “that a widespread and coordinated campaign is diverting food assistance from the people of Ethiopia” – a nation where more than 20 million people require food support. They had announced a pause to aid in the Tigray region in early May.

“Over the last several months, the United States has engaged in significant diplomatic engagement and negotiation, resulting in widespread and substantial reforms of the food assistance structure by the Government of Ethiopia and our humanitarian partners,” USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings said in a statement Tuesday.

“These reforms allow for enhanced oversight and beneficiary selection that provide the confidence we need that food assistance will reach the most vulnerable populations who are the intended recipients,” she said.

“As a result of this progress, beginning next month, USAID will resume food assistance across Ethiopia,” Jennings said. “USAID is committing to a one-year trial period of the nationwide resumption, during which we will continuously monitor and evaluate the efficacy of the reforms put in place by USAID, implementing partners, and the Government of Ethiopia.”

Jennings said the “widespread and significant reforms will fundamentally shift Ethiopia’s food aid system and help ensure aid reaches those experiencing acute food insecurity.”

“Specifically, these measures strengthen program monitoring and oversight, reinforce commodity tracking, and improve beneficiary registration processes by USAID partners,”” she described.

“The Government of Ethiopia has agreed to operational changes in their work with humanitarian partners that will strengthen our partners’ ability to identify and approve beneficiaries based on vulnerability criteria. The Government of Ethiopia has also committed to providing unimpeded access for USAID and our third-party monitors to review a wide range of sites throughout the country,” Jennings said.

As CNN reported in June, the food aid was suspended due to a diversion scheme that appeared “to be orchestrated by federal and regional Government of Ethiopia (GoE) entities, with military units throughout the country benefiting from humanitarian aid,” according to a document from the Humanitarian Resilience Development Donor Group, which was briefed by USAID.

“Private grain and flour traders and operators have also played a role in the scheme,” said the document, which was seen by CNN.

A source familiar with the matter told CNN the agency found that food assistance was being diverted both before and after being given to beneficiaries.

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