“People are starving to death”: Caritas Internationalis on Suspended Food Aid in Ethiopia

Credit: CRS

The Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis (CI) is calling on the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to resume food aid to the needy in Ethiopia, where a section of the population is “starving to death”.

On June 9, WFP announced the move to suspend food aid to the Horn of Africa country 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.

Earlier, in May,  relief agencies had suspended food aid to the Tigray region citing “widespread and systematic” diversion of food meant for hungry people.

In a Monday, July 3 statement, CI Secretary General, Alistair Dutton, says, “People are starving to death. In recent weeks, hunger has killed hundreds of people in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region as a result of food shortage. This is neither humane nor moral.” 

While theft of food and corruption around distribution of aid should not be tolerated, and while there is need for thorough investigation, including putting in place robust accountability mechanisms to prevent future aid diversion, “innocent people cannot be the ones that suffer in the meantime,” Mr. Dutton has been quoted as saying. 


The CI July 3 statement also quotes the Caritas official “stating that humanitarian imperative dictates that the primary concern needs to be the millions of hungry people in Ethiopia who depend on principled humanitarian assistance, and they must not be made to pay for the egregious abuses committed by others.”

Mr. Dutton adds that while the WFP and USAID said food aid to Ethiopia will resume when measures have been put in place, “people cannot wait.”

“Vital aid must reach all those in need now. Every single day counts,” he says. 

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 Ethiopia, describing the move as  “morally and ethically” unacceptable.

Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Ethiopia’s Adigrat Eparchy also decried the suspension of food aid saying it is “a death sentence” on a people struggling to remain alive.

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Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.