UN suspends food distribution in two towns in Ethiopia after looting
The World Food Programme (WFP) has reportedly suspended food distribution efforts in the Ethiopian towns of Kombolcha and Dessie due to the looting of supplies that staff members were unable to prevent due to intimidation. According to reports, robbers held WFP staff at gunpoint to steal valuable supplies being distributed across the community. The supplies included nutritional items for malnourished children and a variety of other humanitarian food supplies. According to WFP staff, the male scale theft of food has escalated into mass lootings of warehouses across the Amhara region.
The United Nations stated that harassment of humanitarian staff by armed forces is unacceptable and undermines the ability of the UN and WFP to deliver assistance. Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane have not commented on the precarious situation. It is likely that the looting and intimidation will worsen malnutrition and prolong food insecurity in the region, where it is estimated that 9.4 million individuals are in need of critical food assistance. According to the WFP, trucks used for humanitarian operations in Amhara were commandeered by military personnel for their own purposes this week. Although the food insecurity in Ethiopia remains a major concern for the UN and the WFP, it will be impossible to continue to deliver assistance with the ongoing threats of armed robbery.