KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The United States Agency for International Development said Thursday it is resuming food deliveries to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Ethiopia, four months after assistance was halted over a widespread scheme to steal supplies.
The decision was made after Ethiopia’s government agreed to remove itself from the dispatch, storage and distribution of refugee food supplies, a USAID spokesperson said. Food aid will be restored to roughly 1 million refugees from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and elsewhere.
However, food assistance has not resumed for the 20.1 million Ethiopians who rely on it as the country grapples with internal conflict and drought.
The agency also said it has implemented measures including biometric tests and GPS tracking across its operations worldwide to help address risks of diversion and to “help ensure food assistance gets to those who need it most.”
“We continue to work with the Ethiopian government on additional reforms that will help ensure that assistance is provided based on assessed vulnerability and need, consistent with international best practice,” the USAID spokesperson said.
USAID and the United Nations World Food Program in June halted all food aid to Ethiopia after an internal investigation found donated food intended for millions of hungry people there was being diverted on a “widespread” scale. Both agencies had already paused food assistance to the war-torn province of Tigray in March.
At the time, USAID officials told The Associated Press that the diversion scheme could be the largest-ever theft of humanitarian food. Since then, thousands of deaths linked to the food pause have been reported in Tigray.
The WFP restarted small-scale distributions in some areas of Tigray on July 31 as it tested “enhanced controls and measures." Last month, the leader of the Tigray region said 480 people had been arrested there over the theft.
The Associated Press