“Death sentence upon those trying to survive”: Bishop on Food Aid Suspension in Ethiopia

Food aid destined for victims of Tigray war. Credit: CBCE

Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin  of Ethiopia’s Adigrat Eparchy has decried the suspension of food aid in the Horn of Africa country, describing the move as “a death sentence” on a people struggling to remain alive. 

On June 9, World  Food Programme (WFP) announced the move to suspend food aid to Ethiopia claiming that the “donations were being diverted from people in need.” A day earlier, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had made a similar announcement.

In a statement ACI Africa obtained Sunday, June 25, Bishop Medhin who also describes the food aid suspension as “inhuman” underscores the need to have in pace an alternative to the announced suspension in order to save lives. 

“Today hundreds are actually dying of starvation because food aid has stopped for months and months,” the Ethiopian Catholic Bishop laments, and adds, “This cannot be the price to pay to fix the system.”

He continues, “While the diversion and theft of food supplies that have taken place from reaching the population in dire need in Tigray and in other parts of Ethiopia is totally unacceptable and inhuman, I want to call upon the decision makers to consider our shared humanity and beg them not to pronounce a death sentence upon those trying to survive in the wake of a terrible armed conflict, those who are dying now.”


“In the name of our shared humanity we should never allow food to be taken away from those trying to eat for their survival – not by those choosing the path of violence and war, not by those looking to destroy people’s livelihoods, not by those looking for financial gain or hard currency and not by those rich and influential enough to decide on the distribution of the available food supplies that we share on this planet,” Bishop Medhin says in his message dated June 20.

Ethiopia's northernmost region of Tigray has been hit hard by civil conflict involving ethno-regional militias, the federal government, and the Eritrean military since November 2020.

While the devastating two-year conflict reportedly ended in November 2022, millions of people were left relying on humanitarian aid.

Last October, Bishop Medhin described the situation in his Episcopal See as “extremely painful genocidal situation”.

“The Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, which itself is living through this extremely painful genocidal situation in Tigray, as usual re-confirms its commitment to be in solidarity of sympathy, prayers and works of charity with all the people who are going through an inexplicable suffering in Tigray and across the country,” the Ethiopian Catholic Bishop said in his 5 October 2022 message.

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In his June 20 statement, the 70-year-old Catholic Church leader who has been at the helm of his native Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat since his Episcopal Ordination in January 2002 laments that “for many months, food was prevented from reaching those who were in desperate need of it.”

“And even after food supplies were allowed to be delivered, some could not control their greed and took food away from those who are displaced and desperate,” he further laments. 

Making reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Bishop Medhin says, “All human beings have the right to a reliable access to sufficient amounts of food.”

“It is very important to investigate how such large amounts of food were diverted from the needy,” he says, and adds, “It is urgent to improve the food distribution system, allowing for increased transparency and stronger oversight.”

The Local Ordinary of Adigrat adds, “Let us not blame the poor for their part in selling a portion of their food supplies received through donations while they were simply trying to cover costs for medicines, school books and other necessary expenses not provided by donations.”


“There must be another solution to this scandal other than stopping delivery of food supplies to the displaced and others who are desperately trying to feed themselves and their children,”  the Ethiopian Catholic Bishop says.

As a way forward, he suggests hunting down “those responsible for theft and corruption; those who allowed the stealing to happen and looked away for many years.”

Rather than denying food to those in desperate need, Bishop Medhin challenges decision makers to “stop the way of those who were making war and destroying crops; and those blocking aid from reaching to the starving.”

On June 19, officials of the Joint Resilience Partnership (JRP), who include representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) expressed concern about the suspension of food aid to the Horn of Africa nation and termed the move as “morally and ethically” unacceptable.

In their statement dated June 20, the Christian leaders in Ethiopia, who also include representatives of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), called for “a timely and appropriate investigation into the allegations that led to the suspension of the Humanitarian Aid to the country.”

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Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.