Refugees in Nguenyyiel Gambella of Ethiopia, May 2019 [Image File]

USAID to Resume Food Assistance for Refugees in Ethiopia

The United States aid agency USAID had decided to resume food assistance to refugees residing in Ethiopia after a five-month pause.

The East African nation hosts close to a million refugees and asylum seekers mostly from neighbouring nations.

“The resumption of food assistance to refugees will save lives and alleviate suffering for some of the most vulnerable,” USAID said on Thursday.

The move would partially lift USAID’s halt on all food assistance due to alleged systematic food aid diversions.

It came after the UN World Food Program first suspended food distributions in May due to a “significant diversion of humanitarian food assistance” in the Tigray region.

According to USAID, the latest decision to resume food aid to refugees was made after the Ethiopian government and implementing partners made reforms to the refugee food aid structure.

The reforms involve the government transferring its responsibility for dispatch, warehousing, and distribution of food for refugees to aid agencies.

“The reforms put in place would strengthen program monitoring and oversight, reinforce commodity tracking, and improve beneficiary registration processes,” it said.

The food aid resumption does not cover Ethiopians in need of humanitarian assistance.

Such assistance “remains paused until we have assurance it will reach its intended beneficiaries,” and “necessary remaining reforms are implemented,” the USAID stated,

The agency, however, gave no specific information regarding “the necessary reforms” it sought to see to fully restart assistance.