Following widespread diversion of lifesaving food aid in Ethiopia last month, the World Food Programme (WFP) has strengthened safeguards and controls in a bid to prevent further misuse, the UN agency said on Tuesday.
WFP had paused distributions in the restive Tigray region in the north after finding evidence of significant supplies on sale in local markets, and immediately launched an investigation.
Over 20 million people are in dire need of food assistance in Ethiopia, where communities continue to be affected by the impact of prolonged conflict and a historic drought across the Horn of Africa.
Zero tolerance policy
“WFP has zero tolerance for theft or diversion that prevents critical food from reaching the hungry families who need it to survive. Those found responsible must be held accountable,” Executive Director Cindy McCain said in a statement.
“We are committed to doing everything it takes to guarantee that food assistance benefits the people who need it most,” she added.
The WFP plan will be enacted across all its operations in Ethiopia. Actions include implementing real-time food security and needs assessments, strengthening targeting and management of beneficiary lists and identity checks, and reinforcing tracking to follow food movements from warehouses to beneficiaries.
The Nobel Prize-winning agency will also work closely with Ethiopian regional and national authorities, and with partners, to implement needed reforms so that urgent food assistance can resume in Tigray and support intended beneficiaries nationwide.
“Taking food away from starvation is unacceptable, whether in Ethiopia or anywhere else in the world,” said McCain.
“WFP is actively assessing all high-risk country operations to ensure stringent processes are in place so that our assistance makes it to the millions and millions of hungry people who depend on us.”