EU temporarily holds back food aid in Somalia after UN finds widespread theft

EU temporarily holds back food aid in Somalia after UN finds widespread theft

The European Union (EU) has temporarily halted funding for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Somalia due to widespread theft and misuse of aid, according to two senior EU officials. Last year, the European Commission provided over $7 million in aid to the WFP’s operations in Somalia, a small portion of the total donations received. It remains unclear if other EU member states will also suspend aid. The European Commission spokesperson did not confirm or deny the temporary suspension but emphasized the EU’s zero-tolerance approach to fraud, corruption, or misconduct. The WFP has not yet responded to requests for comment.

The decision to suspend funding was made after a U.N. investigation revealed that various individuals, including landowners, local authorities, security forces, and humanitarian workers, were involved in stealing aid intended for vulnerable people in Somalia. The EU officials stated that aid would be restored once the WFP met additional conditions, such as vetting partners on the ground. Another EU official confirmed this information. However, a third EU official stated that no aid had been suspended at this stage, and the Commission was actively cooperating with the WFP to address systemic issues.

The U.N. report, commissioned by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, highlighted the coercion faced by internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia, who were forced to pay a significant portion of their cash assistance to individuals in positions of power. Three months ago, the WFP and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) suspended food aid to Ethiopia due to widespread diversion of donations. The European Commission contributes 10 million euros ($10.69 million) to Somalia and Ethiopia through the WFP, with the suspension affecting part of this funding.

The United States is the largest humanitarian donor to Somalia, contributing over half of the $2.2 billion in funding for the country’s humanitarian response last year. USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings stated that the U.S. is working to understand the extent of the diversion and taking steps to protect beneficiaries and ensure taxpayer money is used as intended. However, USAID does not plan to pause food assistance in Somalia, as the situations in Ethiopia and Somalia are different. The decision to suspend aid in Ethiopia was partly due to concerns about the government’s role in distributing food assistance.

The Somali Disaster Management Office, responsible for coordinating the government’s humanitarian response, expressed commitment to investigating the U.N. report’s findings. They also clarified that the current aid delivery systems operate independently of government channels. The report emphasized that aid diversion in Somalia is widespread and systemic, with investigators identifying cases of diversion at all 55 IDP sites in the country. Aid distribution has long been a challenge in Somalia due to weak government institutions, insecurity, and marginalization of minority clans.

While cash-based transfers were introduced to reduce corruption, the U.N. report highlighted that these systems can also be exploited. The report identified “gatekeepers,” influential individuals from dominant local clans, as the main perpetrators. These gatekeepers use their power over camp sites and beneficiary lists to extort payments from IDPs. Security forces also contribute to the problem by intimidating and arresting those who refuse to pay, while some humanitarian workers collude with gatekeepers to steal funds. The report warned that inadequate humanitarian funding could jeopardize the progress made in averting famine.

Despite the challenges, donors increased funding to Somalia last year to address the looming famine caused by severe drought. While famine was averted, approximately 43,000 people, half of them children under five, died due to the drought. The U.N. report did not quantify the amount of aid diverted but emphasized the widespread and systemic nature of the problem. Aid budgets globally are under strain, with only 36% funded to date of the $2.6 billion needed this year for Somalia’s humanitarian response.

About News Team

Hi, I'm Alex Perez, an experienced writer with a focus on lifestyle and culture news. From food and fashion to travel and entertainment, I love exploring the latest trends and sharing my insights with readers. I also have a strong interest in world news and business, and enjoy covering breaking stories and events.

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