EU suspends funding for food aid in Somalia – Reuters

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According to Reuters, the European Union has temporarily withheld funding for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Somalia, citing two senior EU officials.

The move follows a UN inquiry that allegedly uncovered increased theft and misuse of funds intended to avert famine in the Horn of Africa, where the World Food Programme estimated earlier this year that 6.6 million people would suffer crisis levels of starvation.

According to an anonymous senior EU source who spoke to Reuters, the UN inquiry discovered landowners, local governments, security officers, and humanitarian workers all complicit in the diversion of food aid intended for food vulnerable people.

According to the WFP, the aid will be resumed after certain conditions are met, including the vetting of local partners in Somalia.

According to UN figures, the European Commission contributed more than $7 million to the organization’s humanitarian efforts in Somalia last year. While individual EU member states are alleged to have donated significantly more money bilaterally, it is uncertain whether any of them will follow suit by temporarily stopping funding.

According to Reuters, Balazs Ujvari, a spokesperson for the European Commission who neither denied nor confirmed the assistance suspension, said the bloc has not received information from its UN partners about the financial impact on EU-funded projects.

“However, we will continue to monitor the situation and adhere to our zero-tolerance approach to fraud, corruption, or misconduct,” Ujvari said, according to Reuters.

The findings of a July report commissioned by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were revealed on Tuesday by the Devex news source, in which internally displaced individuals (IDPs) in Somalia alleged that certain authorities forced them to pay up to half of the cash assistance they received.

According to the “highly confidential” UN report, local authorities, including the police, have instituted a taxation system on users of US-funded help, with threats of detention, physical abuse, or withholding life-saving assistance for those who refuse to cooperate.

In May, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) suspended food shipments to Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray area, stating that supplies were being diverted.

According to one of the top EU officials interviewed by Reuters on Monday, the European Commission supports Somalia and Ethiopia through the World Food Programme (WFP) with €10 million ($10.69 million).

According to USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings, the US is collaborating with partners to assess and comprehend the scale of the diversion in Mogadishu.

“[We] are already taking steps to protect beneficiaries and ensure that tax-payer money is used to benefit vulnerable people in Somalia as intended,” Jennings said, according to Devex.