New report reveals horrifying cost of war in Syria

EVEN if the war in Syria ended tomorrow, the economic cost would still be more than half a trillion dollars, according to a report by leading humanitarian agency World Vision and Europe’s largest independent economic consultancy, Frontier Economics.

The report, “Cost of Conflict for Children – Five Years of the Syria Crisis”, puts the cost of Syria’s five-year war at US$275 billion. It says Syria has been subjected to a process of “reverse development” that will take at least a decade to undo.

Under a best case scenario, where the war ended this year, the economic cost would still grow to between US$448 billion and US$689 billion - 140 times the amount currently requested by UN agencies and partners to meet humanitarian needs inside Syria.

If the war continued another four years, until 2020, the cost would soar to US$1.3 trillion.

March 15 marks five years of war in Syria.

More than 470,000 people have been killed, including more than 11,000 children; 13.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in Syria, including 6 million children; 4.7 million people have fled to neighbouring countries including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan; while a reported 1.2 million people have sought asylum in Europe.

World Vision’s Syria Crisis Response advocacy director Fran Charles, one of the authors of the report, said the new research demonstrated the urgent need to end the conflict. “It will take decades for Syria to recover,” Ms Charles said. “We need peace now so we can start planning for the enormous task of the reconstruction and long-term investment Syria will need to get back on its feet.”

The agency’s Australian-born Middle East regional leader Conny Lenneberg said that while the economic costs were enormous, the losses experienced by Syria’s children were immeasurable. “Lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends. Lost homes, toys, dreams. Lost education. Every day the conflict continues, it deepens the deprivation of Syria’s children today and into the future,” she said.

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said the Cost of Conflict report highlighted the need to say “five years is enough”.

“Sometimes conflicts like Syria seem to be never ending, but they can be brought to an end,” he said. “Sometimes suffering seems to be too great, but it can be relieved. Sometimes it feels as though there is nothing we can do to help, but there is always something we can do.”

In key findings:

 The cost of conflict to Syria after five years of war is an estimated US$275 billion, but will grow to US$448 billion to US$689 billion this year.

 The impact on children has been severe, with more than 2 million children growing up as refugees; more than 2 million children receiving no education, and more than 2 million children under the age of five malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.

 Fewer than half of Syria’s school age refugee children are accessing education, while 52 per cent, or more than 700,000 children, are out of school.

 Syria’s children collectively have lost 24.5 million years of schooling.

 Child protection risks include child labour, early marriage, family separation and exposure to violence.

 The estimated life expectancy in Syria has dropped by 15 years during the five years of the conflict.

 The economic toll on Syria’s neighbours has been heavy, with Lebanon’s real GDP per capita nearly 23 per cent lower than it would otherwise have been.

Separate analysis by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research shows that 11.5 percent of Syria’s population has been wounded or killed since 2011. The vast majority of deaths — 400,000 — were caused by violence, while 70,000 came as an indirect result of the war, including the collapse of the country’s health-care infrastructure, lack of access to medicine, poor sanitation, the spread of communicable diseases, falling vaccination rates, food scarcity and malnutrition. Another 1.88 million Syrians have been injured.

World Vision is on the ground in Syria and surrounding countries providing food, health assistance, education, cash assistance, protection for children, clean water and sanitation. World Vision has assisted more than 3 million refugees, internally displaced people and vulnerable host community members affected by the Syrian crisis since 2011.

The Cost of Conflict report will be live on the World Vision Australia site at 9am.

Available for interview:

Report co-author Fran Charles and Conny Lenneberg, in Brussels.

Report co-author Emma Wanchap, World Vision Australia, in Melbourne.

Contact: Stuart Rintoul: +61 (0) 407 241 492

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