Syria destruction is just tip of the iceberg, says World Bank

Impact of six-year conflict on Syria’s population, economy and social networks laid out in new report

The visible scars of Syria’s war reveal just a fraction of the damage inflicted on the country’s population, according to a World Bank report released today that warns the conflict has cost Syria $228bn in economic growth.

Syria, rocked by six years of conflict, has seen a third of its housing stock and half of education and medical facilities damaged or destroyed, triggering the collapse of the country’s healthcare system and turning cities into ruins.

The report estimates that more Syrians are dying from lack of access to healthcare than as a direct result of the fighting, with previously eradicated diseases such as polio reemerging in the country.

Dwindling fuel has reduced the supply of power to major cities to two hours a day, interrupting even basic services to residents.

“The war in Syria is tearing apart the social and economic fabric of the country,” said Hafez Ghanem, World Bank vice president for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The number of casualties is devastating, but the war is also destroying the institutes and systems that societies need to function and repairing them will be a greater challenge than rebuilding infrastructure.”

“The fact that 9 million Syrians are not working will have consequences long after the fighting has stopped”The protests that erupted in 2011 against President al-Assad have descended into a civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people and left millions homeless.

A ceasefire, brokered by the US, Russia and Jordan took effect at midday in Southern Syria on Sunday, though previous similar deals have failed to hold for long.

Syria, once a lower middle-income country with a $60bn GDP buoyed by oil production and trade, has suffered a dramatic contraction, disrupting investments, curbing public spending and destroying productive capacity.

The World Bank said 6 out of 10 Syrians now survive in extreme poverty, with 538,000 jobs destroyed annually since 2014. More than two-thirds of young people are unemployed, the report found, with many young men joining groups fighting in the war to survive.

“The fact that 9 million Syrians are not working will have consequences long after the fighting has stopped,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank director for the Mashreq region. “In the future, when Syria needs it most, there will be a collective shortage of vital skills.”

If the fighting were to end this year, the economy could close 41 per cent of the gap from its pre-conflict GDP over the following four years, said Harun Onder, World Bank senior economist.

“But if the war goes on to a tenth year, less than one third of this gap would be recovered four years after its end,” and losses would equal 13 times Syria’s pre-conflict GDP, he added.