The war in Syria, now in its fifth year, shows no signs of letting up. Well over 200,000 people are thought to have died—though counting the dead is so difficult that at one point the UN simply gave up. Perhaps a million more have been injured.
Almost 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes, with around 4million fleeing abroad. Syria is one of the top countries of origin for Europe’s boat people. It is telling that around 250,000 of the displaced have sought sanctuary in war-torn Iraq.
Inside Syria the fighting has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. The economy is a wreck: four out of five Syrians live in poverty and unemployment is over 50%. The World Health Organisation says 57% of Syria’s public hospitals have been damaged, with 37% knocked out of service. Most of the country’s doctors have fled. The life-expectancy of Syrians, on average, is now around 55, 20 years shorter than it was before the war.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, says the country has lost the equivalent of four decades of human development. Over 4,000 schools have been damaged or repurposed. Power output is down by 56%, according to the electricity ministry.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through a network of informants on the ground, reckons ISIL now controls more than half of Syrian territory. The crisis will almost certainly grow worse.