Reuters quoted two European Union officials as saying that the European Commission temporarily suspended its funding for the World Food Program in Somalia, after a United Nations investigation into theft and misuse of funding granted to the program, while the Commission did not confirm the statement of the two officials, who preferred to remain anonymous.
European Commission spokesman Balaz Ogvari declined to confirm or deny the temporary suspension of aid granted by the Commission to Somalia, which exceeded $7 million last year and is part of efforts to avoid famine in the country ravaged by poverty and armed conflict.
However, Ogvari said the EU had not yet been informed by its UN partners of the financial impact on the projects it financed, and pledged that the Commission would continue to monitor the situation and adhere to its traditionally zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption.
The European Commission's aid is a fraction of the funding the World Food Programme receives in Somalia, which exceeds the total donations it has received, according to UN data.
The exclusive Reuters report quoted one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying aid would resume after the WFP met additional conditions, including vetting of partners on the ground in Somalia, which was confirmed by the other senior EU official, who was also unnamed by the agency.
Somalia is suffering from difficult conditions due to drought and the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine. The United Nations issued a "final alert" last year that Somalia is on the brink of famine that threatens half of its population, due to drought and the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine, as well as the security challenges posed by the ongoing attacks by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab.
The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Martin Griffiths, appealed to the international community to help Somalia tackle a potential famine that is looming, including widespread malnutrition, rising child mortality and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of drought-affected areas.
According to UN and Somali government figures, some 7.8 million of Somalia's total population (about 16 million) need food assistance.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed last year that 1.5 million Somali children were malnourished due to drought conditions, of whom 356,<> would be at risk of dying from acute malnutrition.