A heap of dust is all that remains of the house where Aylan Kurdi was born and raised in Kobane, Syria, before war sent his family fleeing and he drowned on the short sea crossing between Turkey and Greece. The image of the toddler’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach turned him into an instant symbol of the suffering of Syrians so desperate to reach Europe that they are prepared to risk their lives making the dangerous journey.
His flattened home, destroyed in an American airstrike in the landmark battle for control of the Syrian town of Kobane last year, has not been so widely seen. It is just one of thousands of buildings leveled, among hundreds of thousands more that have been obliterated in Syria during the four-year-old war.
As the conflict drags into a fifth year with no end in sight, little heed is being paid to the enormity of the havoc being wreaked on the country. Some 2.1 million homes, half the country’s hospitals and more than 7,000 schools have been destroyed, according to the United Nations.
The cost of the damage so far is estimated at a staggering $270 billion–and rebuilding could run to more than $300 billion. That’s more than 10 times the amount spent by the United States on reconstruction in Iraq, with few discernible results.
If or when the war ends, any government will find itself “ruling over a pile of rubble,” said Abdallah al-Dardari, a former Syrian government minister who heads the UN National Agenda for Syria. “I don’t know who will fund this.”
The numbers rise daily with each new airstrike and each new offensive launched, as Russian planes join Syrian and American ones in bombing the country and the various factions sustain their relentless attacks on one another with rockets, mortars and artillery.
“If you lived in Kobane, would you stay?” asked Aylan Kurdi’s father, Abdullah, as he recounted the events that spurred his family’s fateful departure.