Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Several thousand Ethiopians have fled famine in the Ethiopian border region of Gambella in recent months
Canada has walked into the breach to urge other countries to step up aid to aid Ethiopia in its humanitarian crisis.
The Conservative government’s stance will have been welcomed by the tens of thousands of Ethiopians who have left the country since mid-summer.
Maintaining internal borders is expected of host nations, but the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is not holding back on let alone opening up new routes for humanitarian aid.
The outpouring of anger has been fast and furious
The country’s border with the neighbouring state of South Sudan and with Djibouti, while regarded as porous, is the second most porous in Africa, according to the United Nations.
There has been a rapid influx of Ethiopians in recent months with thousands fleeing famine in the semi-arid region of Gambella.
More than four million people need food aid in Ethiopia alone and now, more than ever, the Canadian government is stepping in.
But that is not the end of it.
Canada’s humanitarian minister Navdeep Bains has now backed the idea of a UN emergency airlift of 3,000 tonnes of food, medicine and other supplies overland to the region.
More than ten shipping containers of supplies have already been sent to the transit hub on the Kenyan port of Mombasa, say UN sources.
Canada’s heavy lifting
At the core of the problem is that Ethiopia, like most African countries, has no formal border with South Sudan.
Ethiopia is seeking to confront the situation as best it can as cross-border movement is an issue that the country has struggled with for years.
The efforts to deal with the situation are being led by the Ethiopian government but it has to play by international rules and only sticks to so-called “traditional” borders once these zones have been effectively delineated and clearly demarcated, similar to those established elsewhere in the world.
If the reality of that concern is not enough for Mr Bains, Canada’s strongest tool in the African crisis is certainly the financial ones.
Canada is sending a shipment of 800 tonnes of wheat and maize to the region and expanding a long-standing partnership with Ethiopia.
Canada is also delivering 7,000 bicycles to Gambella as a gesture of solidarity with the Ethiopian people.
The bicycle initiative was started in 2016 by the Canadian aid organization Bike-to-School, a non-profit that provides bicycles to children in developing countries through assistance from manufacturers.
Anzacandiar via Getty Images
Aid must come from inside Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a very poor country and the world is keen to give.
Aid is the main economic lifeline for Ethiopia so, with aid from many countries arriving with the start of this year’s harvest, Ethiopia’s national crisis looks to have eased.
But that doesn’t mean the emergency is over. What is now needed is for Ethiopia to be able to hold itself together in response to the protests.
It is not the first time that Ethiopia has had to deal with protests that have inevitably spilled into violence and upheaval.
The most recent round of demonstrations started in late 2017 when land and development rights were at the core of the frustration.
After the first round of protests, the Ethiopian government was praised as a model of economic and political development but it has had to contend with the subsequent protests.
Sadly, the reaction by the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been swift and decisive. The reason for this is that he is a real leader who appears to have genuine love for the people of Ethiopia.
Now, the challenge is whether the people of Ethiopia and the rest of the world will believe him.
If he continues to be able to command their loyalty, he has a chance of saving Ethiopia and possibly salvaging a position for himself at the 2020 elections.