Cost of Syrian conflict escalates

11 March 2016

reuters

Going nowhere: children play in a burnt-out school bus, in the besieged rebel-held town of Jesreen, in the east of Damascus, on Monday

Going nowhere: children play in a burnt-out school bus, in the besieged rebel-held town of Jesreen, in the east of Damascus, on Monday

THE conflict in Syria is costing its economy an average of £3.2 billion each month in lost growth, a new report suggests.

The charity World Vision, which published the report, The Cost of Conflict for Children: Five years of the Syria crisis, on Tuesday, in partnership with Frontier Economics, said that the figure dwarfed “existing aid pledges”, and highlighted the scale of the task ahead.

The report also suggests that the “staggering” economic fallout could grow to £485 billion, even if the war ended this year, and may escalate to £915 billion in the next five years if the conflict continues.

The charity is calling on the UK to rally world leaders and governments to find a solution to the civil war, which is now in its sixth year, and present a “post-war reconstruction package” to support existing aid efforts in Syria. This includes funding education and reconstruction, and keeping borders open.

The chief executive for World Vision UK, Tim Pilkington, said that the conflict had already “shattered the lives” of more than eight million children, through the destruction of schools, homes, and hospitals, which had led to “appalling” poverty and living conditions.

“Faced with their suffering, it’s hard to think in terms of cold economic costs,” he said. “But financial loss translates into human loss — lost education, lost health, lost jobs, and lost opportunities. . . Unless we act now, this war won’t just affect a generation of children, but their children’s children.”

The report estimates that, should the fighting end imminently, rebuilding the country would take at least 15 years.

It analyses the loss of economic growth in Syria through the destruction of property and production, disruption of investments, and the redirection of public spending to military and security forces. It concludes that the economic free-fall has caused a collapse in vital services for children, has broken” the health system, and has led to “severe economic shock” for neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.

One in four schools has been destroyed or damaged, or is being used to shelter displaced people, the report suggests. It is estimated that the schooling of about 5.7 million children in Syria has been disrupted, and only 48 per cent of Syrian refugee children are receiving an education.

The loss of lifelong earnings for those children is £7.4 million. About 25 million years of education have been lost since the conflict began, it suggests.

The estimated life expectancy at birth has also dropped by 15 years, and millions of children under five are suffering, or are at risk of, physical trauma, injuries, disease, and a lack of immunisations and malnutrition, the report warns. Half of the qualified doctors in Syria are reported to have fled the country, and more than half the hospitals are dysfunctional.

“We cannot wait until the war is over to plan for their future,” Mr Pilkington said. “We must prepare the ground for peace now.”

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