His first trip abroad in 2021 is taking Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg to Ethiopia, which has been a priority country of Austrian Development Cooperation for almost 30 years and is facing enormous challenges due to the conflict in the Tigray region and the precarious humanitarian situation.
Ethiopia has truly experienced a tsunami of crises recently – COVID-19, droughts, plagues of locusts and floods. The conflict in Tigray could now trigger a devastating domino effect in the entire region,
said the Foreign Minister, referring to a report by the International Crisis Group that identifies the current situation in Ethiopia as one of the ten crises that will be particularly explosive in 2021.
I am particularly concerned about the conflict in Tigray. The government has declared an end to its military operation in the troubled province, but this in no way means that the situation is now stable and no longer requires our attention.
Furthermore, the humanitarian situation is worsening dramatically. In addition to the ethnic conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia is also struggling with the consequences of one of the worst plagues of locusts in recent decades and the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the United Nations, 20 million people are currently in acute need of humanitarian aid, 14 million are in urgent need of food or are considered chronically undernourished,
explains the Foreign Minister, describing the difficult situation.
The Austrian Federal Government is therefore acting quickly and unbureaucratically and is providing a total of three million euros from the Foreign Disaster Fund for concrete aid on the ground.
Of this, one million euros each is to go to the World Food Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Austrian NGOs on the ground.
However, humanitarian aid does not mean that the government can be released from its responsibility,
said Schallenberg, who in his talks with President Sahle-Work Zewde and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen made very clear appeals for unimpeded humanitarian access to Tigray, acceptance of the African Union’s mediation offers and independent investigation of all human rights violations. There should be no impunity for the perpetrators.
After a discussion with the national director of SOS Children’s Villages Ethiopia, Schallenberg visited a project of Jugend Eine Welt – Don Bosco Aktion Austria, which has been working worldwide since 1997 to improve the life prospects of children and young people on the margins of society. At the Addis Ababa location, for example, 20 young adults – including 16 refugees from Eritrea – are currently attending a course in solar technology to give them professional prospects for the future. Since 2004, Austria has supported Jugend Eine Welt with a total of 9 million euros.
On the second day of his Ethiopia trip, Foreign Minister Schallenberg visited the Aysaita camp in the Regional State of Afar. This refugee camp, which is run by the United Nations World Food Programme, is home to around 25,000 people, primarily refugees from Eritrea. Around 60% of the inhabitants are minors, the ratio between women and men is balanced.
There, the Foreign Minister expressed his deep appreciation and gratitude for the work of all those involved, who face enormous logistical and human challenges every day. Austria will continue to support the important work of the WFP and will already decide at the next Council of Ministers to make 1 million euros available for rapid aid on the ground.