30 January 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Over the coming four years, networks will be installed in Khan Eshieh and Khan Dannoun, just outside Damascus, to provide every household with a safe water supply and sanitary disposal of wastewater and sewage. The networks will be connected to the regional water supply system and to two sewage treatment plants, planned by the Syrian Government for the neighbouring towns of Artouz and al Kisweh. Once the pipes are laid, roads and public spaces in the camps will be paved. "None of us who have walked through the streets of Khan Eshieh after rainfall has caused sewage to back up, or who were exposed to the sewage pond in Khan Dannoun will forget the evidence of that need," for a comprehensive solution," said Mr. Hansen.
The project has an innovative character: the networks will be incorporated into regionally integrated solutions for sustainable water supply and sound disposal of waste-water to be recycled for agricultural use. It is expected to contribute to a more rational use of increasingly scarce water resources in and around the Damascus Countryside and protect again environmental pollution.
It also demonstrates an important partnership between the Government of Syria, the European Commission and UNRWA - all of whom are committed to improving the status and living conditions of the Palestine refugees, without prejudice to their rights within a just, viable and comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict.
The implementation of the project is being financed by the European Union with a grant of €8 million. The Syrian Government, which has committed US$ 400,000 to the project, appointed UNRWA as the implementing agency.
The European Union is the second-largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Palestine refugees through UNRWA, with a donation of €55 million to the Agency's health and education programmes in 2002, to be increased by 5 per cent annually. The EU is the main provider of in-kind food aid for the Agency's assistance to refugees in special hardship and to pregnant and nursing women, valued at €15 million for 2002. Additionally, ECHO (the European Commission Humanitarian Office) regularly funds special projects, which in 2002 included €2.2 million for the rehabilitation of refugee shelters in Syria and other fields.
The project was initiated with funding donated to UNRWA by the Governments of Switzerland and Canada, both long-time major donors to the Agency's services to the Palestine refugees. The Swiss Government financed the initial feasibility study and topographical survey. The detailed design for the water and waste disposal networks was funded by the Canadian Government, which is also supporting the implementation phase of the project with a community health education campaign.
Palestine refugees living in Syria have benefited since 1948 from the hospitality of the Syrian Government, which reported to UNRWA expenditures of US$ 86.7 million on their behalf in the period July 2001-June 2002, for education, health and social services, housing and utilities, security and supply costs. Today, more than 401,000 Palestine refugees live in Syria and receive basic assistance from UNRWA in the form of education, health care, and relief and social services.