UNDP seeks $18m help to Palestinians affected by West Bank wall

The UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People is appealing to the international community for US$18 million in emergency aid for communities affected by Israel’s construction of a series of walls, fences, trenches and barriers, commonly known as the “separation wall,” in the West Bank.

Begun a year ago and winding 175 kilometres so far, the wall has encircled and isolated many Palestinian cities and villages.

The funds will be used for land reclamation, construction of agricultural roads, improving water supplies, revamping health care and education, strengthening municipal and village councils, as well as other infrastructure projects to be developed in consultation with communities. The work will generate over 200,000 jobs.

“Immediate action is required to meet the needs of those affected by the construction of this barrier,” said Timothy Rothermel, UNDP Special Representative in Jerusalem. “After consulting numerous community leaders and farmers who lost their land in various municipalities, UNDP has developed a comprehensive emergency action plan.”

The first phase of the wall will cut across roads and water networks and form a barrier between Palestinians living on each side and their agricultural lands, water wells, urban markets and public services. Areas next to the wall are designated off-limits.

The impact of the wall on agriculture is of particular concern in the governorates of Jenin, Tulkarm and Qalqilya, where the first phase is under construction. These areas produce nearly half the West Bank’s total agricultural output, with an estimated value of $220 million in 2000. The wall can severely constrain the delivery of basic social services and commercial activities, especially the movement of agricultural products, Palestinian officials say.

“While we recognize that this is a political problem that requires a political solution, we have a moral duty to respond to the emergency needs of the many farmers who lost their only source of living,” said Rafiq El-Natsheh, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister for Agriculture.

Building the barrier caused destruction of 83,000 olive and other fruit trees, 615 acres of irrigated land (including greenhouses), 37 kilometres of water networks and 15 kilometres of agricultural roads. In addition, a total area of 238 square kilometres are isolated between the “Green Line” boundary of the West Bank and the wall, 57 per cent of which is cultivated, mostly with olive trees and field crops.

Marouf Zahran, the Mayor of Qalqilya, said: “We are trying very hard to combat the rising poverty that is the direct result of the encirclement of Qalqilya. Many visitors have been shocked by seeing the wall, but UNDP deserves the credit for actually pursuing an innovative and comprehensive approach to overcome its explosive and devastating effects.”

Palestinian Minister of Local Government Jamal Shobaki said: “There is a sense of despair at the further isolation of Palestinian towns and villages. The wall is encircling many villages and towns, especially in the Qalqilya and Tulkarm districts, confiscating thousands of acres of some of the best agricultural land, disrupting basic social and health services and threatening the viability of a future Palestinian state.”

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, commenting on the wall, has said: “I know that it is conventional wisdom that fences make good neighbours. But that is if you build a fence on your own land and you do not disrupt your neighbour’s life.”

For further information see http://www.undp.org