UN highlights economic damage of Syrian conflict

2 Jun 14
The ongoing civil war in Syria has gutted its economy, shattered public services and seen government debt climbed to 126% of gross domestic product, according to a United Nations report.

By Judith Ugwumadu | 2 June 2014

The ongoing civil war in Syria has gutted its economy, shattered public services and seen government debt climbed to 126% of gross domestic product, according to a United Nations report.

The Squandering humanity report, published last week, focuses on the last two quarters of 2013. It said that public debt continued to grow in the second half of the year as the government imported oil and basic commodities to alleviate shortages in the local market and to subsidise basic goods.

‘The figure is staggering,’ said Rabie Nasser, researcher at Syria Centre for Policy Research which worked with the UN Development Programme and the UN Relief and Works Agency to compile the report.

‘By the end of 2013, total economic loss since the start of the conflict is estimated at $143.8bn. The implications for a human development organisation like UNRWA are tragic and immense.’

Among its other key findings are that human development in Syria regressed by more than four decades since the conflict began in 2011. The country has fallen from the ‘medium’ cluster of nations to the ‘low human development’ group, largely the result of weakening performance in education, health and income, as measured by the Human Development Index.

Education is teetering with more than half of all school-age children no longer attending school. By the end of 2013, 4,000 schools were out of service because they were destroyed, damaged or housing internally displaced people.

The healthcare system has also become compromised through damage and destruction to medical facilities and healthcare infrastructure. Some 61 of 91 public hospitals were damaged with almost half out of service, while 53 private hospitals were also affected.

Three out of four Syrians now live in poverty, with more than half the population – 54.3% last year – living in extreme poverty, the report stated. Three years on, and with no end in sight, some 20% of the population now barley has means to meet basic needs, it noted.

‘Since the conflict began, 11 million dependents have lost their primary means of financial support as 2.6 million people joined the unemployed,’ said Alex Pollock, director of micro-finance for the UNRWA for Palestine Refugees in Near East said. He added that runaway inflation was squeezing the household finances of an increasingly jobless, poor and desperate population.

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