Brussels (Caasimada Online) – The European Union has pressed the pause button on its financial assistance to the World Food Programme (WFP) in Somalia.
The decision came to light after two senior E.U. officials unveiled this move to Reuters, pointing to a U.N. investigation that unearthed rampant misappropriation and theft of famine-relief aid in the nation.
However, the specifics of this funding halt remain under wraps as Balazs Ujvari, the European Commission spokesperson, stated, “So far, the E.U. has not been informed by its U.N. partners of a financial impact on EU-funded projects,” further emphasizing the E.U.’s unwavering stance against any form of corruption or misconduct.
The alarming details of the U.N. probe were laid bare in a “strictly confidential” report dated July 7, commissioned by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Devex, an international development-focused media, brought these findings to the forefront, illustrating how internally displaced persons (IDPs) were forced to relinquish a significant portion of their cash assistance under the threat of eviction, arrest, or removal from beneficiary rolls.
To make matters worse, this misuse was unrestricted to a few isolated cases. The U.N. report underscored the systemic nature of this diversion, tracing instances of aid misdirection at every one of the 55 IDP sites in Somalia.
Implications and international responses
Somalia’s predicament has far-reaching implications, especially considering the country received over $1 billion in donations last year, of which more than $7 million came from the European Commission.
On the other hand, individual E.U. nations also contributed vast sums on a bilateral basis, leaving the potential suspension of their aid a matter of speculation.
In a related vein, three months prior, both the WFP and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had stopped food assistance to Ethiopia, reacting to similar concerns of aid misallocation.
While the European Commission has allocated 10 million euros ($10.69 million) to Somalia and Ethiopia through the WFP, the specifics of the financial interruption remain indistinct.
In the meantime, the U.S., being Somalia’s most generous humanitarian donor, has expressed its commitment to ensuring aid transparency and the welfare of its beneficiaries.
An anonymous USAID official emphasized the disparities between the situations in Ethiopia and Somalia, ensuring no plans to halt food support in Somalia.
The bigger picture
The backdrop to this unfolding drama is a nation grappling with its worst drought in decades, putting millions of lives at risk.
Although last year’s famine was fortunately averted, approximately 43,000 people, including 21,500 children under five, succumbed to the drought’s ramifications.
With 3.8 million displaced individuals, Somalia grapples with one of the world’s highest displacement rates.
A weakened governmental structure, a persistent Islamist insurgency, and the marginalization of minority clans exacerbate the country’s aid distribution dilemma.
In 2011, following revelations of aid pilfering during a severe famine, humanitarian entities transitioned primarily to cash-based transfers, deemed less susceptible to corruption.
However, the recent U.N. investigation presents a grim reality. Dominant local clans’ “gatekeepers” manipulate their power over camp access and food beneficiary lists, pressuring IDPs into making payments.
The report also implicates members of the security forces in intimidation tactics, while some humanitarian workers allegedly collaborate with these gatekeepers.
As the world watches, there’s a pressing need to address these issues, especially with the U.N. highlighting a $2.6 billion requirement for Somalia’s humanitarian relief this year — a goal currently funded at a mere 36%.