US resumes food aid to refugees in Ethiopia | ET REALITY

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The United States will resume food aid to refugees in Ethiopia, more than four months after suspending it due to large-scale diversions and thefts of rations intended to feed millions of hungry people.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said Thursday it would restart distribution of food aid to about a million refugees, most of them from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.

The agency said in a statement that food assistance to Ethiopia itself would remain suspended until new stipulations are met. The United Nations estimates that more than 20 million people need food assistance in Ethiopia, which is still reeling from two years of civil war, a devastating drought and growing economic challenges.

“Our assistance to other food-insecure populations in Ethiopia remains on pause until we are confident it will reach its intended beneficiaries,” USAID said in a statement. Other U.S.-funded programs in areas such as health care continued during the food assistance disruption.

The United States cut off food aid to Ethiopia in June after uncovering a coordinated plot by Ethiopian government officials to divert emergency food supplies and sell them to commercial factories and local markets. The United Nations World Food Program previously suspended its operations in the northern Tigray region in late April after inform a “significant diversion” of humanitarian aid. He later joined the United States in suspending all food aid to Ethiopia, but resumed food distribution in Tigray in August.

USAID said it was restarting food aid to refugees after the Ethiopian government and humanitarian groups delivering their food implemented measures to protect them from theft. The Ethiopian government also handed over the task of storing and distributing food to humanitarian groups, the agency said.

The suspension of food aid to Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, was a blow to millions of people already facing severe food shortages, internal displacement and rising unemployment. The country is still recovering from a grueling two-year civil war between the government and Tigray rebels that ended last November. Both sides in the conflict, which left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, were accused of carrying out atrocities that amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The resumption of food aid to refugees comes just days after the European Union Announced $680 million in financial support to Ethiopia, almost three years after direct aid to the country ceased due to the conflict in Tigray. The seven-year support package was initially supposed to be disbursed in 2021, but was suspended after the start of the conflict.

The aid package aims to bolster Ethiopia’s green transition and private sector, support development in the country, promote democratic governance, help with reconstruction efforts and provide basic services to the population, said Jutta Urpilainen, commissioner of the block for international association. The aid package does not include direct budget support to the government.

Nearly a year after the warring parties signed an agreement to end the fighting, Ethiopia remains fragile. The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia, a United Nations group created in 2021, said in a report this week that there was a “high risk” of new atrocities. The commission’s mandate is set to expire next week amid concerns it will not be renewed despite the bleak picture painted in the group’s latest report.

“There is a very real and imminent risk that the situation will deteriorate further, and it is up to the international community to ensure that investigations persist so that human rights violations can be addressed and the worst tragedies prevented,” said Steven Ratner, an expert. The commission said in a statement.

Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels.

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