Dramatic findings of new Syria report include plummeting life expectancy and looming economic collapse
“Syria: Alienation and Violence, Impact of the Syria Crisis Report” produced by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR) with the support of UNDP and UNRWA, reveals the extent of dramatic setbacks in human and economic development as Syria has been ravaged by war. After four years of armed-conflict, economic disintegration and social fragmentation, the human geography of Syria has been transformed as the population was hollowed by 15 per cent. Almost four million Syrians have fled as refugees, and another one-and-a-half million migrated to find work elsewhere, while over six million Syrians (roughly 40 per cent of the population) have been internally displaced within the country. UNRWA estimates over 50 per cent of the Palestine refugee population has been internally displaced at least once.
The report reflects the catastrophic and inhuman effect of the conflict in Syria. It details the tragic context facing all people in Syria, including the lives of Palestine refugees that have not been spared the trauma, requiring UNRWA to deliver humanitarian aid to 460,000 refugees who are wholly dependent on the Agency to help them meet minimum daily needs. The conflict has accelerated the reversal of human development gains Syria achieved by 2010, when its Human Development Index score rolled back by 31 per cent. The conflict has also corroded the human development that the international community and UNRWA have helped Palestine refugees achieve over the past 64 years.
Since the start of the conflict, the Syrian economy has lost US$ 202.6 billion, through capital flight, massive destruction and looting of capital stock and GDP loss of US$ 119.7 billion. As a result of this devastating contraction, the country is plagued with joblessness and unemployment of 58 per cent as 2.96 million people lost their jobs and 12.22 million dependents lost their means of living. For those lucky enough to remain in formal employment, 55 per cent work in the public sector. This loss resulted in four from every five Syrians living below the national poverty line, with almost two-thirds of the population surviving in extreme poverty as they struggle to meet the basic food and non-food items necessary to maintain their households, while 30 per cent live in abject poverty and are unable to meet their basic food needs. In the conflict zones and besieged areas, the abject poor face hunger, malnutrition and even starvation. Half of all school children have not attended school for the past three years, creating a human development debit of 7.4 million lost years of schooling, while many school children have been forced to work or reduced to scavenging and begging to help their families survive.
In the midst of this social disintegration and economic degradation, the education, health and social welfare systems are in a state of collapse. Humanitarian interventions by UN agencies, NGOs and others are unable to keep pace with the rapidly escalating needs of the poor and displaced, who are increasing exposed to insecurity and sectarian violence. During this time, six per cent of the population were killed, maimed or wounded in the conflict. As the conflict intensified in 2014, fatalities climbed to 210,000, while the number of wounded grew to 840,000 persons. Equally dreadful is the silent calamity that has reduced life expectancy at birth by 20 years, from 79.5 years in 2010 to 55.7 years in 2014.
The people of Syria, including 560,000 Palestine refugees, now live under a tragic state of exception, alienation and estrangement, where a massive social, political and economic chasm divides the vast majority of the population from those engaged in violence. The report relates Syria’s decline to the growth of “economies of violence” where national sovereignty, the rule of law and human security have been undermined by internal and external forces that have enrolled many young people into an institutional machinery of violence based on oppression, fear and intimidation. Such localised economies of violence are often linked to militias, criminal networks and black markets that exploit commerce, trade and trafficking for malign purpose and illegitimate gain, even as other brave souls attempt to maintain viable commercial and business enterprise in the face of mounting adversity. The report makes clear that while the odds are unevenly stacked, there is still hope of reversing the devastating trends it describes if the conflict can be swiftly resolved through a committed political process that can restore a sense of security, well-being and rehabilitation for those that the conflict has robbed of agency.
UNRWA continues to appeal for all efforts to be made to find a negotiated solution as a matter of utmost priority for the majority.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.
Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 100 million.
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