By Dawit Endeshaw
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday it had resumed distributing food aid in parts of Ethiopia’s Tigray region after a three-month pause.
WFP paused food aid to the northern region in May following reports of widespread theft of donations. It then suspended aid to all of Ethiopia in June. The United States did the same.
More than 20 million people need food assistance in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, largely due to the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades and a two-year civil war in Tigray.
The WFP had been providing emergency food assistance to nearly six million of them.
It said it started testing and verifying new measures on July 31 to deliver food assistance in four districts of Tigray to just over 100,000 eligible people.
“The test distributions are being rolled out at seven food distribution points where WFP and partners have completed targeting of beneficiaries and digitally registered them,” the agency said in a statement.
The halt in aid was criticised by Ethiopia’s government, which said it was investigating the claims of theft. The WFP and the U.S. Agency for International Development said they were working to ensure aid reached the intended recipients before resuming any assistance.
The WFP said it would continue to work with its partners in testing the latest measures prior to any wider distributions of aid, including to people in Amhara, Afar and Somali regions.
The development comes on the heels of fresh violence in Amhara, where clashes between regional militiamen and the military have quickly become Ethiopia’s most serious security crisis since the end of civil war in Tigray.
(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw Writing by Bhargav Acharya; Editing by Mark Potter)