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Ethiopia: WFP "tests" resumption of food aid in Tigray

Ethiopia: WFP "tests" resumption of food aid in Tigray
An Ethiopian woman collects portions of wheat in the town of Agula, in the   -  
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Ben Curtis/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved


The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) told AFP on Tuesday that since the end of July it has been "testing" the resumption of food aid distribution in the Ethiopian region of Tigray, which it suspended in May for misappropriation.

The WFP, along with the US government's international aid agency USAID, suspended food aid to the war-torn northern region of Tigray in early May, before extending the decision to the whole of Ethiopia the following month, due to "widespread and coordinated" detour.

"On July 31, the World Food Program began testing and verifying enhanced controls and measures to deliver food aid in four districts of Tigray, to ensure that food aid reaches the most vulnerable people," according to a statement sent to AFP, stating that it had "distributed 15kg pre-packed bags of wheat to just over 100,000 people eligible for aid".

The WFP also announced that it had resumed registration of food aid beneficiaries and introduced "bag marking to enable precise tracking of foodstuffs".

The organization plans to roll out similar measures in other districts of Tigray, as well as in the Amhara, Afar and Somali regions, without specifying a timetable.

In a response to AFP, USAID said on Tuesday that "U.S. food aid to Ethiopia remains suspended", while assuring that it was working "in close collaboration with the WFP".

Between November 2020 and November 2022, Tigray was the scene of a deadly war between this northern Ethiopian region's federal and rebel authorities.

During the conflict, Tigray and its six million inhabitants were deprived of assistance for a long time. Aid distribution had gradually resumed, before being suspended by the WFP and USAID.

The Ethiopian authorities criticized the suspension of food aid, claiming that it "punishes millions of people".

Some 20 million people, or 16% of the 120 million Ethiopians, depend on food aid, estimated the UN humanitarian agency (Ocha) at the end of May, due to conflicts and a historic drought in the Horn of Africa, which have displaced 4.6 million people across the country.

Many Tigrayans have been forced to skip meals due to the suspension of food aid, others to prostitute themselves in order to obtain food, Ocha estimated on Friday.

Ethiopia is also home to almost a million refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.

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