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Source: UN Development Programme (UNDP)
23 April 2003

Spain helps restore Sebastia, Palestinian town with historic sites

ceremony last week marked the completion of a renovation project in Sebastia, a town in the West Bank that is home to important archeological sites. Officials also laid the cornerstone for a health clinic that will serve seven neighbouring villages.

The project restored the town's main square and café and the historic Roman royal tombs. It paved 80 per cent of the town's roads, including those leading to the archeological sites, constructed 350 metres of retaining walls and is also paving the road between Sebastia and the village of Al-Naqoora.

The Government of Spain provided US$250,000 for the restoration, $270,000 for construction of the Sina Health Clinic and $60,000 for the road work. The UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP)is carrying out the initiative in partnership with the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Local and Rural Development.

"In these difficult times, when our people are facing a relentless military occupation and brutal closures, the timing of this project is crucial," said Dr. Hussein Al-Araj, Deputy Minister of Local and Rural Development, at the ceremony, attended by local village mayors and council members.

"It is not only important because of the special stature of this town, which houses some of most historic sites in the territories, but also because it is a statement that life must go on," he said.

José Maria Ferré, Consul General of Spain, paid tribute to the partnership between his government, the Ministry of Local and Rural Development, village councils and municipalities in the area and UNDP. Through this partnership, Spain has supported projects in more than 20 cities and villages in the occupied Palestinian territories, he noted.

Timothy Rothermel, Special Representative of UNDP/PAPP, said that UNDP will continue its support for local and rural development activities with renewed commitment and commended the people of Sebastia and UNDP staff for their work in the historic town.

The initiatives are part of a wider project supported by Spain to aid local authorities, which aims to strengthen institutions in rural areas in the West Bank through assistance in building and restoring infrastructure. With more than half of Palestinian households in the West Bank below the poverty line, these efforts also provide jobs and badly needed income.

Since its inception in 1999, the project has operated in the districts of Jenin, Hebron, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus and Ramallah, with the Spanish Agency for International Corporation providing nearly $1 million in support.

For more information, please contact Ehab Shanti or Dania Darwish, UNDP Programme of Assistance for the Palestinian People, or Nadine Shamounki, UNDP Communications Office.

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