The European Union has decided to temporarily suspend funding to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Somalia following the startling findings of a United Nations investigation that revealed rampant theft and misuse of aid intended to alleviate famine in the war-torn country.
The European Commission, which had contributed over $7 million to the WFP’s operations in Somalia last year, is taking this action in response to the alarming revelations uncovered by the UN probe. This contribution, though substantial, pales in comparison to the more than $1 billion received by the WFP from various donors worldwide, as reported by UN data.
While the European Commission’s decision is already in effect, it remains uncertain whether individual EU member states will also follow suit by suspending their aid. Balazs Ujvari, a spokesman for the European Commission, did not confirm or deny the temporary suspension but reiterated the EU’s commitment to a zero-tolerance approach towards fraud, corruption, or misconduct in aid programs.
One senior EU official, speaking anonymously, disclosed that the decision to suspend aid was made after the UN investigation uncovered a web of involvement, including landowners, local authorities, members of security forces, and even humanitarian workers, in the theft of aid meant for vulnerable populations.
The EU’s move is not intended to be permanent, and aid will be reinstated once the WFP meets certain conditions, including enhanced vetting of partners working on the ground in Somalia. A second senior EU official confirmed this approach.
A third EU official emphasized that while the Commission is actively collaborating with the WFP to address systemic issues, no aid has been suspended at this stage.
The confidential report, dated July 7, was commissioned by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and was initially disclosed by the media outlet Devex. The report highlighted testimonies from internally displaced persons (IDPs) who claimed they were coerced into relinquishing up to half of the cash assistance they received to individuals in positions of power, under threat of eviction, arrest, or removal from beneficiary lists.
This move by the EU follows a similar suspension of food aid to neighboring Ethiopia three months ago by the WFP and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in response to widespread diversion of donations.
The European Commission contributes €10 million ($10.69 million) to support Somalia and Ethiopia via the WFP, with the suspension affecting a portion of these funds. The United States remains the largest humanitarian donor to Somalia, contributing over half of the $2.2 billion in funding allocated to the country’s humanitarian response last year.
USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings stated that the United States is actively investigating the extent of aid diversion and is taking measures to protect beneficiaries while ensuring taxpayer funds are utilized as intended.
Regarding Ethiopia, a USAID official clarified that the situations in Ethiopia and Somalia differ, and the agency does not plan to pause food assistance in the latter.
A U.S. Congressional source indicated that the decision to suspend aid in Ethiopia was partly attributed to the direct involvement of the federal government in distributing food assistance, which had raised concerns among donors. The source highlighted that the widespread theft of food assistance in Ethiopia presented an opportunity to reassess the distribution process.
In response to these developments, the Somali Disaster Management Office, responsible for coordinating the government’s humanitarian response, expressed its commitment to investigating the findings of the UN report. However, it emphasized that the current aid delivery systems operate independently of government channels.