German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her French counterpart Catherine Colonna arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday for a two-day visit to Ethiopia, as the country grapples with a hunger crisis exacerbated by Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The first stop was a meeting with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, the country’s first female president who took office in 2018, according to dpa, a German news agency.
The ministers are also visiting to show support for a peace deal signed last year to end two years of brutal civil war. They are scheduled to hold further talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos.
Baerbock and Colonna are planning to visit a UN World Food Programme grain warehouse outside the capital on Thursday, where grain delivered from Ukraine is stored.
Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous state after Nigeria and one of the poorest countries in the world.
After the fifth rainy season in a row failed to materialize, Ethiopia is currently experiencing a dramatic drought. Due to the high dependence on wheat and fertilisers from Ukraine and Russia, experts expect the situation to deteriorate further because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Some 22 million people in Ethiopia are suffering from hunger and the humanitarian situation is extremely critical, German aid organization Welthungerhilfe told dpa.
This is due to several causes, including natural disasters, locust plagues, droughts, floods as well as the coronavirus pandemic and cholera outbreaks, Abaynah Demeke from the organization’s Ethiopian office said.
During their visit, Baerbock and Colonna also plan to get a first-hand view of the new peace deal in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and discuss security in Africa.
The Ethiopian government reached a peace agreement with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November. Several hundred thousand people have died in the fighting since November 2020, according to UN figures.
The TPLF held regional elections in the northern part of the region despite a ban from the capital Addis Ababa.
Tigray had been largely cut off from the rest of the world for two years as the Ethiopian government shut down telecommunications, banking, electricity and air traffic in the region.
According to the World Health Organization, around 89% of the 7 million Tigray inhabitants do not have sufficient access to food. Almost every third child in the region suffers from malnutrition.
The two ministers will also hold talks with the regional organization African Union, a spokesperson for the Foreign Office in Berlin said. A meeting with AU Commission President Moussa Faki Mahamat is scheduled for Friday.