Addis Abeba – The Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that the World Food Programme (WFP) has resumed delivering food aid in the conflict-stricken Tigray region, three months after suspending aid due to allegations of food theft and diversion. As per AFP, the United Nations agency has begun providing 15-kilogram pre-packaged bags of wheat to over 100,000 individuals residing in four districts of Tigray.
While confirming the resumption of some aid work in certain parts of the region, Gebrehiwot Gebregzabher (PhD), the Commissioner of the Disaster Risk Management Commission of Tigray, clarified to Addis Standard that it should not be perceived as a resumption of the suspended food aid, as reported by international media. “Instead, it is the resumption of the safety net program.”
According to Gebrehiwot, the actions taken by the WFP have been mistakenly depicted as the reinstatement of humanitarian assistance. Gebrehiwot argues that “humanitarian aid does not impose any obligations on the recipients, whereas safety net programs involve individuals participating in specific public work activities.”
The Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) has been in operation in the Tigray region since 2004 and has provided assistance to nearly one million individuals. Unfortunately, the program was temporarily halted as a result of the conflict that arose in November 2020 between the federal government and Tigray region forces.
According to Gebrehiwot, the recently reinstated safety net program now extends its coverage to four woredas situated in the northwest and southern regions of Tigray. These woredas include Asgede, Tsimbla, Tahitay Adiyabo, and Raya Azebo.
According to AP, however, the slow resumption of aid as a pilot project has been launched to trial enhanced monitoring measures by the World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP has implemented improved controls and measures to tackle the issue at hand, aiming to ensure the effective delivery of food assistance. To prevent aid from falling into the wrong hands, the “test distributions” incorporate heightened security procedures such as supply tracking and digital registration of recipients, as reported by AP.
The development came three months after two major aid agencies, WFP and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), announced the suspension of food aid for a war-stricken region amidst allegations of food diversion. Despite the WFP’s efforts to address the distribution challenges, officials from USAID have confirmed that food assistance in Ethiopia remains suspended.
According to Janean Davis, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Africa, the suspension of aid distribution will persist while investigations and negotiations are underway. Davis further stated last week that there is currently no specified date for when the assistance will resume.
The suspension of aid delivery has placed millions of lives in jeopardy, especially those residing in internally displaced people (IDP) centers and host communities. More than five million people in Tigray have been awaiting aid for the past two years as a result of the ongoing war. Among them, 2.3 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs) who receive support from the WFP across 643 sites and host communities. However, due to the suspension of humanitarian assistance, at least 1.2 million of these IDPs are now leaving their designated sites and seeking food in other major cities in the region.
According to Gebrehiwot, since the halt of humanitarian assistance in Tigray, more than 1300 individuals have lost their lives due to starvation and related factors. AS