Syrian conflict could blight generations of children warns report

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

Syrian refugee children, from the cover of the World Vision report The Cost of Conflict for Children

The economic fallout from Syria’s war may be felt for generations because of the high number of children going without an education, an aid agency has warned.

World Vision predicted the cost of recovery from the five-year conflict could spiral to almost $700 billion – close to the estimated total market value of American tech giant Apple – even if it ended this year.

“The war in Syria has shattered the lives of over eight million children. Unless we act now, this war won’t just affect a generation of children but their children’s children,” said Tim Pilkington, Chief Executive of World Vision UK. 

The United Nations says the conflict has left 2.8 million Syrian children out of school, more than a quarter of a million people dead and triggered an exodus of more than four million refugees.

The Syrian Centre for Policy Research estimates nearly 25 million years of schooling had been lost by the end of 2015, meaning a likely reduction in lifelong earnings, the World Vision report, The Cost of Conflict for Children, said.

Pilkington said rich governments needed to start thinking about Syria’s recovery now, to avoid their “post-war planning failures” after recent conflicts elsewhere.

World Vision analysed data from the World Bank, the United Nations and the Total Economy Database to estimate how much Syria’s economy would have grown had the country remained stable.

It found the cost of the conflict to date had swollen to $275 billion in lost growth alone. The growth rate had at times dipped to nearly 25% less than if war had not broken out, the report said.

Even if the war were to end this year, it would take at least 10 to 15 years for Syria’s gross domestic product per capita to recover to pre-conflict levels, the research found.

The war has also taken its toll on Syria’s neighbours, especially Lebanon and Jordan, whose exports to Syria have shrunk dramatically, the report said.

World Bank data showed that the direct cost to the Lebanese government of hosting Syrian refugees stood at just over $1 billion between 2012 and 2014, because of increased demand for electricity and public services like education, the report said.

The data showed Jordan had seen a $0.9 billion rise in public spending between 2012 and 2013 due to the influx of refugees.

The impact of the conflict on Turkey’s economy was negligible or “moderately positive”, because the influx of refugees had also generated higher-wage jobs for Turkish workers, the report said.

But the lives of those displaced within Syria were feeling the greatest strain, World Vision UK’s boss said.

“With their homes, schools and hospitals bombed and their friends and families killed, many have been forced into appalling living conditions and abject poverty,” Pilkington said.

“Faced with their suffering, it’s hard to think in terms of cold economic costs. But financial loss translates into human loss. We must prepare the ground for peace now.”

Read the full World Vision report.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change.

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