The United States Agency for International Development said Thursday it has suspended all food aid to Ethiopia, Africa’s second most-populous country, after an internal investigation found donated food intended for millions of hungry people there was being diverted on a “widespread” scale.
While the agency’s statement did not say who was responsible for the theft, agency head Samantha Power, in briefing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this spring on initial discoveries of massive theft of food aid in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, said the theft appeared to “involve collusion between parties on both sides” in a government conflict with opponents there.
Power at the time called her agency’s delay in detecting the “widespread and coordinated” theft of aid there “a systemic failure” by her agency.
The U.S. is the biggest single donor to Ethiopia, providing $1.8 billion in humanitarian assistance, including food aid, in the 2022 fiscal year. In total, 20 million people across Ethiopia rely on aid because of conflict and drought, out of a total population of about 120 million.
A USAID official, speaking on condition of anonymity given the ongoing investigation, said the U.S. development agency was still providing other assistance in Ethiopia, including feedings for malnourished children, despite the suspension of delivery of food aid.