The Cost of Ten Years of Devastating War in Syria

A girl stands amidst the rubble of damaged buildings in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Syria, February 28, 2017. (Reuters)
A girl stands amidst the rubble of damaged buildings in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Syria, February 28, 2017. (Reuters)
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The Cost of Ten Years of Devastating War in Syria

A girl stands amidst the rubble of damaged buildings in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Syria, February 28, 2017. (Reuters)
A girl stands amidst the rubble of damaged buildings in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, Syria, February 28, 2017. (Reuters)

What started as peaceful protests against president Bashar Assad's rule in Syria has spiraled into a decade-old multi-sided conflict that has sucked in neighbors and world powers and caused the largest displacement crisis since World War Two.

As Assad prepares for a fourth term in office, here is a summary of the human and financial cost of the conflict according to data from United Nations bodies, international NGOs and Syrian civil society groups.

THE HUMAN TOLL:
*Death count and detainee estimates:
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), which has been documenting the war from outside Syria and briefs UN agencies, has documented 227,749 civilians who were killed from March 2011 until now. This figure includes only documented civilian deaths, while researchers estimate another 250,000 combatants from all sides have also been killed.

The figures are broadly in line with estimates by rights groups and UN-commissioned investigators. They say Syrian and Russian bombing and Iran-backed militias were responsible for the bulk of civilian deaths.

Syria's prisons hold tens of thousands of detainees. Many have been arbitrarily detained for participating in peaceful protests or for expressing dissenting political opinion, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

SNHR has documented 149,361 political detainees, of whom 101,678 remain missing. Those figures match estimates by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty.

*Refugees and Displacement:
Half the Syrian population, which stood at 23 million at the start of the conflict, have been forced to flee their homes, UN bodies say.

Of those, 5.5 million are living as refugees in the region, mostly in Turkey, the UN's refugee body UNHCR says. Hundreds of thousands more are scattered across 130 countries, while 6.7 million have been displaced inside the country, including an estimated 2.5 million children.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT AND HARDSHIP:
*Losses:
The UN's ESCWA agency estimated physical capital destruction at $117.7 billion and the economic damage in terms of lost GDP (Gross Domestic Product) at $324.5 billion - putting the cost of the conflict at about $442.5 billion.

The report also cites official data which showed by the end of 2018 real GDP had lost 54% of its pre-conflict level.

The World Bank has estimated cumulative GDP losses from 2011 to 2016 at $226 billion and warned that the longer the conflict lasts, the more difficult recovery will be as losses become more persistent over time.

*Battered economy:
Syria's economy is in its worst state since the start of the conflict and economists say the challenge is to stop it deteriorating further. Many industrialists have fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

In the past year alone, the Syrian pound has lost three quarters of its value while the cost of food and essential items has rocketed by more than 200%, according to the World Bank.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made an already dire situation worse, analysts say.

Syrians have suffered a dramatic reduction in purchasing power and rising levels of debt, leaving millions incapable of putting food on the table and meeting their basic needs.

*Poverty and worsening conditions:
Today, over 13 million Syrians require humanitarian and protection assistance and almost 90% of the population lives in poverty, according to UN and Western relief agencies.

UK based aid group World Vision International said this year a child's life expectancy in Syria has been reduced by 13 years.



Climate Change Imperils Drought-Stricken Morocco’s Cereal Farmers and Its Food Supply

 A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
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Climate Change Imperils Drought-Stricken Morocco’s Cereal Farmers and Its Food Supply

 A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country's entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.

The North African nation projects this year's harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.

"In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought," said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.

Belhoussni's plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.

In North Africa, among the regions thought of as most vulnerable to climate change, delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.

In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.

In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.

"The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops," said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco's rivers.

The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year's wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons (3.1 billion kilograms), far less than last year's 6.1 million tons (5.5 billion kilograms) — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 14,170 square miles (36,700 square kilometers) to 9,540 square miles (24,700 square kilometers).

Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.

"When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more," he said. "We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue."

Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.

The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco's primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world's sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Türkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.

"Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change," Benali said.