As a result of donations being taken away from those in need, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Thursday that it was suspending food assistance to Ethiopia.
According to a representative for USAID, the organisation has concluded that a “widespread and coordinated campaign is diverting food assistance from the people of Ethiopia” in coordination with the Ethiopian government.
In Ethiopia, where more than 20 million people require food assistance, most of them as a result of drought and a just ended war in the northern Tigray area, the United States is by far the country’s largest humanitarian donor.
USAID thinks the food has been transferred to Ethiopian military troops, according to an internal briefing by a group of foreign donors to Ethiopia.
“The scheme appears to be orchestrated by federal and regional government entities, with military units across the country benefiting from humanitarian assistance,” said the document from the Humanitarian and Resilience Donor Group (HRDG), which includes USAID.
A spokesperson for the military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The two governments are conducting investigations so that the perpetrators of such diversion are held to account,” USAID and Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry said in a joint statement.
On the sidelines of a conference in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Demeke Mekonnen, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, about the matter.
Afterward, according to the State Department, Blinken appreciated Ethiopia’s government’s pledge to collaborate with the US on a thorough inquiry.
The spokeswoman for USAID stated that once the organisation was confident with the reliability of the system, food assistance would continue.
In response to reports that significant amounts of aid were being diverted there, USAID and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) previously suspended food supplies to the Tigray area of northern Ethiopia last month.