UNITED NATIONS: Syria has suffered $143.8 billion in economic losses due to the continuing civil war in the country, according to a new UN report.
The joint report by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research and the UN says that even as the death toll from Syria’s three-year civil war continues to rise, the country’s human development has also suffered immense collateral damage -- the economy has been gutted, the healthcare system is in ruins, and education facilities are "teetering".
According to the report, titled 'Squandering Humanity', covering the last two quarters of last year, three out of four Syrians now live in poverty, with more than half the population - 54.3 percent in 2013 - living in extreme poverty.
As the conflict grinds on with no end in sight, some 20 percent of the population now barely has the means to meet basic needs.
"Syria is now blighted by joblessness and overwhelmed by unemployment," said Alex Pollock, director of micro-finance for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which worked with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Syrian Centre for Policy Research to compile the report.
"Since the conflict began, 11 million dependents have lost their primary means of financial support as 2.67 million people joined the unemployed," Pollack continued, adding that, runaway inflation is squeezing the households of an increasingly jobless, poor and desperate population.
The report also notes that public debt continued to grow in the second half of 2013, as the government imported oil and basic commodities to alleviate shortages in the local market and to subsidise basic goods.
By the end of last year, public debt reached 126 percent of GDP, but, while still largely drawn from domestic debt, a mounting portion is composed of foreign borrowing.
"The figures are staggering," said Rabie Nasser, researcher at the Syria Centre for Policy Research in Damascus. "By the end of 2013, total economic loss since the start of the conflict is estimated at $143.8 billion. The implications for a human development organization like UNRWA are tragic and immense."
The healthcare system has been compromised through damage and destruction to medical facilities and healthcare infrastructure, the flight of healthcare professionals, death and injury of medical staff, and the collapse of the pharmaceutical industry.
Some 61 of 91 public hospitals were damaged with almost half out of service, while 53 private hospitals were also affected.
"The social impact and the toll on individuals is incalculable," Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesperson, said.
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