The Ethiopian government and the United Nations are engaged in discussions to urgently resume humanitarian aid and reform the humanitarian sector.
Ramiz Alakbarov (MD, PhD), the newly appointed country director of the United Nations Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, recently conducted meetings on September 1, 2023, with Ambassador Misganu Argaw (Amb.), the State Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.
During the meeting, the Ambassador provided an overview of the steps taken by the Ethiopian government to improve the provision of humanitarian aid in the country.
In a joint statement released on September 1, 2023, the Ethiopian government and the UN country team emphasized the critical need for the full and immediate resumption of food aid, particularly for the most vulnerable groups in Ethiopia. These communities heavily rely on humanitarian assistance as a lifeline, and any delay in aid delivery is simply not affordable for them, according to the statement.
The statement also highlights the ongoing efforts of humanitarian partners to provide other lifesaving activities, including nutritional supplements, school feeding programs, water and agricultural support services, but not food aid.
However, the provision of food aid remains suspended since March 2023, as the World Food Programme (WFP) responded to alarming reports of widespread and systematic diversion of significant quantities of food meant for those in need.
This decision was supported by USAID and later extended to cover the entire Ethiopian region by early June. The suspension has had far-reaching consequences, leading to the replacement of several country directors from international humanitarian agencies operating in Ethiopia.
The ripple effect of this decision has resulted in the replacement of several country directors from international humanitarian agencies operating in Ethiopia.
The newly appointed country coordinator has made it a top priority to resume food aid in Ethiopia while implementing innovative measures to combat aid diversion. Both the WFP and USAID have revealed their efforts to test and verify enhanced controls and measures, including the use of technologies like eye biometrics to ensure aid reaches its intended recipients.
Despite the joint statement not providing a specific timeline for the resumption of food aid, the situation remains dire for millions of people in regions such as Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, Afar, and other parts of the country.
Famine continues to loom, with reports indicating that at least 1,300 people have already lost their lives due to hunger in Tigray alone, as reported by Gebrehiwot Gebreegziabher, the head of the Tigray Region Disaster Risk Management Commission.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, both the federal government and the Tigray Interim Administration have launched separate investigations into the diversion of food aid.
The Tigray investigation committee recently released a report alleging the involvement of Eritrean forces, federal officials, and regional government officials in Tigray in the theft of humanitarian relief supplies intended for those affected by the conflict.