The coronavirus pandemic has taken the world’s gaze away from the Syrian civil war, but the fighting and destruction are taking a heavy toll on the lives of people there.
The war erupted in 2011 when Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad first cracked down violently on peaceful demonstrators calling for democratic reform and freedom. The nine years of war has since cost Syria more than $530 billion and left almost 700,000 of its people dead, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported Wednesday.
The numbers were presented in a report prepared by the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR), whose co-founder said there was no point in talking about reconstruction until the conflict itself is resolved.
“Overcoming the conflict is more important than construction,” Rabie Nasser said, adding that it would require a long-term and gradual process that “allows society to remove traces of the conflict and build a new future.”
The losses vastly exceed previous estimates by United Nations and Syrian experts with some 40 percent of the country’s infrastructure destroyed and 86 percent of Syria’s estimated 22 million people falling into poverty.
A staggering 690,000 have been killed, of whom 570,000 died in direct fighting and 120,000 by the lack of medical equipment and poor living conditions. An estimated 12 million Syrians have fled their homes seeking safety, the report said, noting that with entire cities and towns reduced to rubble, some 2.4 million children are out of school.
The damage estimates may make it impossible to start rebuilding Syria as the civil war is still going on while economies around the world are hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.
“These figures make reconstruction more of a pipe dream,” one researcher said.
According to the report, the various warring parties misused economic resources to fuel the conflict and “sustain the violence” rather than for productive economic activities.
The $530 billion bill is almost 10 times Syria’s entire GDP in 2010, the year before the conflict began. Lost production is estimated at $421 billion, military spending was around $38 billion and government subsidies that kept basic staples affordable dropped from 20.2 percent in 2011 to 4.6 percent in 2019 – fueling rampant poverty in a country with almost 50 percent unemployment.
It is hard to know Syria’s exact current population given that some 5.6 million Syrians are now refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and other countries. Last August estimates were that an additional 6 million Syrians were displaced from their homes and are refugees inside their own country.
The EU and U.S. want a political solution in line with UN Security Council resolution 2254 to end the crisis, but Assad, backed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, wants international sanctions against the Syrian regime to be lifted first.
A conference of donor nations is scheduled to be held in Brussels at the end of June, but any funds pledged there will take time before aid appears on the ground for embattled and impoverished Syrians.
Courtesy: World Israel News