Ethiopia: millions starving as US, UN suspend aid after massive theft
As the United States and the United Nations demand that Ethiopia’s government yield its control over the vast aid delivery system supporting one-sixth of the country’s population, reports are emerging of the first deaths from starvation due to the suspension of their food aid to Africa’s second-most populous nation.
The urgently needed grain and oil have now disappeared for millions in Ethiopia caught in a standoff between the East African nation’s government, the United States and United Nations over what US officials say may be the biggest theft of food aid on record. They have taken the dramatic step of suspending their food aid until they can be sure it won’t be stolen by Ethiopian officials and fighters. This move followed the discovery in March of enough stolen food aid to feed 134,000 people for a month in a single Tigray town, highlighting the sheer scale of the massive theft. Instead of feeding needy families, the food was found for sale in markets or stacked at commercial flour mills, still marked with the US flag.
With USAID providing Ethiopia’s government with $1.8 billion in humanitarian assistance since 2022, the Biden administration is now under pressure to prove it can detect and stop the theft of aid paid for by US taxpayers so that it can maintain public support for aid to corruption-plagued Ukraine. But the delay in providing food aid causes widespread pain. Millions of Ethiopians went hungry during the war in the Tigray region while food stocks were looted, burned and withheld by combatants. Preliminary findings recently released by Tigray regional authorities said they have tracked the theft of more than 7,000 metric tons of donated wheat — or 15 million pounds — in their region, taken by federal and regional authorities and others. While Ethiopia’s government dismisses these findings as harmful “propaganda”, it has still agreed to a joint investigation with the US.