The European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff visited Nablus today for the first time amid the coronavirus pandemic. The EU Representative met the Minister of Social Development, the Nablus Deputy Governor, and representatives of the local community and visited two local businesses supported by the EU.
The Deputy Governor of Nablus, Anan Attereh, welcomed the EU Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff and the Palestinian Minister of Social Development, Ahmad Majdalani. The Deputy Governor briefed the guests about the situation in Nablus governorate and the challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The EU Representative and the Minister of Social Development then visited the local offices of the Ministry in Nablus where they launched the Ramadan campaign through which the EU is providing 800 food packages that will be distributed to the most vulnerable families in Palestine. Each package will cover the food needs of one family of six for one month.
For the last three years, the European Union and the Ministry of Social Development have organized around 30 Ramadan Iftars during the holy month across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza for 6,000 Palestinians who receive the Palestinian Authority monthly social allowances. However, this year a different approach was adopted due to the coronavirus pandemic and the consequent limitations on public gatherings, and it was agreed to distribute food packages to these families so they can enjoy the holy month at home.
The EU Representative visited two companies in Nablus the EU has supported in the current crisis to combat the coronavirus: Zoom Bags and Al Ard. Both companies received support from the European Union and they used it to convert their production for much-needed protection equipment and hygiene items. This is a very innovative and valid local contribution in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in Palestine.
Zoom Bags normally manufactures mattresses for nurseries, gym-related gear, and school bags. But when the Palestinian Authority declared a state of emergency in March, Zoom Bags transformed its facilities and started producing personnel protective equipment, which is very expensive but very much needed in the medical sector. Zoom Bags received support from the European Union through the Advice for Small Businesses Programme to improve its production processes, reduce waste, and save expenses. The company now wishes to expand its productions to include medical masks and also plans to export its products to international markets.
Al Ard produces high-quality agriculture products and is well known for its olive oil. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Al Ard is sustaining its production of olive oil soap which is much needed to ensure hygiene and sanitation in this time of crisis. Al Ard has benefited from European Union support to improve its business planning, produce organically, and expand to European markets. The company has a great sense of social responsibility and helps vulnerable communities produce products of high standards.
Its soap products are hand made by a small women-led cooperative using traditional techniques as well as fully organic and fair-trade ingredients.
At the end of his visit, European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff spoke to local media where he praised the efforts of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian businesses amid the current crisis and added: “I am pleased to be able to visit Nablus even in such difficult times. This vibrant and lively city, especially at this time of the year, is a symbol of great spirit and solidarity.
Our joint efforts with the PA throughout the year but also during Ramadan will hopefully provide some relief to the children, women, and men who would otherwise risk being left behind. I am also pleased to witness the strength of Palestine’s private sector in Nablus demonstrating its resilience, captivity, and its crucial role for the Palestinian economy.
The European Union has been a long-standing partner in the development of the Palestinian private sector and we stand ready to step up our assistance in these trying times. The European Union and its Member States remain committed to supporting the Palestinian people in their quest for health, security, peace, and independence. This is the unified position of Team Europe.”