The US Government announced last week plans for the disbursement of a $30 million Palestinian aid package through the United States Agency for International Development West Bank and Gaza Mission (USAID/WBG).
Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Planning Nabil Qassis hosted the announcement ceremony in Ramallah to mark the US commitment, with Acting US Consul General in Jerusalem Jeffrey Feltman and USAID/WBG Mission Director Larry Garber participating.
The $30 million will support the resumption of critical public services and private sector activities in Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya, Khan Younis and Rafah and the repair of damaged roads in the West Bank and North Gaza.
In announcing the new program, Feltman stressed "the importance of the international community moving quickly to address the priority needs of the Palestinian population in those areas from which the Israeli military has withdrawn."
He further noted that "the US program will help create the conditions necessary for Palestinians to achieve the benchmarks set forth in President Bush's June 24, 2002 speech and the agreed-upon Road Map."
Garber elaborated on USAID's plans to provide immediate assistance to the Palestinian population based on consultations with PA Ministers and local officials in northern Gaza communities.
He stated that USAID: “Will contract with Saqqa and Khoudary, a local Palestinian contractor, for the repair of 30 agricultural wells in Beit Hanoun, a project’s whose total cost is estimated at $1.5 million.
The US is also making available $3.5 million through ARD/Rafeed for Palestinian NGOs to fund street clean-up campaigns, small road repairs, agricultural reclamation, and other labor-intensive projects in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya.
An existing home repair loan program with the Cooperative Housing Foundation will be expanded by adding up to two million dollars in loan funds to address the needs of the population in north and south Gaza.
The US will adding two million dollars to its ‘Repair and Replacement Initiative’, which will enable Development Alternatives International (DAI) to provide grants of up to $20,000-30,000 to businesses in the North Gaza area that have suffered damages to premises and equipment.
The US has already begun work to repair municipal water and sewage networks in North Gaza, with a total cost of two million dollars, through contractor CDM. The balance of the $15 million funds will be allocated to the above categories in North Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah in accordance with identified needs.
With respect to the West Bank, USAID has set aside $15 million for the repair of municipal roads. CH2MHill, a US engineering company, is developing designs for the road repair work in consultation with the PA Ministry of Public Works.
An advertisement appeared yesterday in Palestinian newspapers inviting local construction contractors to submit bids. Actual repair work will commence by August 15, 2003, with repairs to be completed before the onset of the rainy season in early November.
USAID administers the US foreign assistance program, which provides economic and humanitarian aid in more than 80 countries worldwide. Since 1994, the USAID West Bank and Gaza program has provided more than one billion dollars in assistance to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. — (menareport.com)
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