The United Nations estimates that over half a million people have died since the Syrian conflict started but no one knows for sure. It could be many more and it will be decades before the true cost is counted. What we do know is that there have been breath-taking levels of destruction, lifetimes of loss.
Thirteen million people inside the country still depend on humanitarian assistance, many of them living in the most dire of circumstances. With 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, over one million in Lebanon, and 655,000 in Jordan, it is the countries bordering Syria that are left to shoulder what is rightly a global responsibility to protect people fleeing the war.
Each of these countries opened their borders to provide refuge in what was to be a temporary situation. Displacement should always be a temporary solution pending a positive resolution and a return to ‘home’, to peace and safety. Nine years of temporary is a very long time – for everyone involved.
The political cost of this war is chilling. While the UN as a whole has been critical in facilitating the humanitarian response to the crisis, the United Nations Security Council has unequivocally failed the Syrian people. The Council, established to maintain international peace and security, has been unable to stop the war, nor has it been able to uphold the rules of war. Calls for restraint and respect for international law are wilfully ignored time and time again.
The human cost of this failure has been immense and is still escalating. The number of attacks on schools and medical facilities in 2018 was at the highest level since the conflict began in 2011. Today, less than half of all public health centres in Syria are fully functioning. Combine this with mass displacement and overcrowding and you have an explosively fertile ground for illness, disease, and now an additional threat of Coronavirus.
After almost a decade of war, Syria has been destroyed and no money will ever be enough to replace what has been lost, but millions of young Syrians are looking to rebuild their future. Teenagers and young adults will shape the future of Syria and they will have to pick up the pieces of this war, make sense of immense loss, help the children who have been born into the war, and create a future built on peace and hope. That is all they can do and it is our responsibility to help them to do that.