Squandering humanity

The report "Squandering humanity" from the Syrian Center for Policy Research, UNRWA and UNDP outlines many of the problems faced by the Syrian people. The armed-conflict has massively impacted the country socially and economically. Please note that all statistics in the report are from December 2013, and the conflict has continued throughout 2014, wreaking more devastation.

Read the report here

A brief look at the economic impact

 Those with the power to benefit from the black market, borne from the destruction of homes and businesses, and the abuse of humanitarian assistance, have an interest in continuing the conflict.

 Public debt has risen, unemployment is high and the collapse of industry has lead to the need for goods to be imported. Due to demand, some goods are now 3 times their price at the start of the conflict.

Foreign investment and tourism are both depleted as the country is unstable.

A brief look at the social impact


Almost half of the population fled their homes. Palestinian refugees were also displaced. At the end of 2013, refugees from Syria were the largest refugee population in the world (and continue to be, near end of 2014). More than half of the population is living in "extreme poverty, unable to secure the most basic food and non-food items required for the survival of their households. Some 20 per cent of the population survive in abject poverty, where they were unable to meet their basic food needs, with the abject poor in conflict zones and besieged areas facing hunger, malnutrition and starvation"

How is this affecting health care in Syria?




"The health of a nation is determined by social, economic, cultural and political organisation that determines the opportunities for individuals to achieve health"

Damage to infrastructure and buildings hinder the provision of healthcare. Healthcare personnel have often fled, been displaced or been killed, hospitals having not been spared during the conflict. Medication must now be imported, and any humanitatian efforts to bring supplies run the risk of attack. The outlines the following three trends, reported by Rubenstein and Bittle:

  • Attacks on medical function as part of a broader assault on civilians
  • Attacks on medical functions to achieve military advantage; and
  • Disrespect for medical ethics and the duty of health workers to treat all, including combatants, regardless of affiliation

Healthcare has been used as a weapon by the powerful to punish and control their opponents. This is through monopoly, corruption, smuggling, pillage and discrimination. Healthcare workers who challenge this, also risk this same oppression. 

Environmental risks to health include lack of safe accomodation, lack of adequate food and supplies, scarcity of clean water and the precarity of living in conflict, as well as the risk of injury and brutality from combatants. There has been an epidemic of Measles in Aleppo and appearance of polio in the northen and eastern regions. Cancer drugs and treatments for chronic disease are in short supply, and unavailable in some regions. The scarcity of medication has lead to a black market where only those who can pay, can afford decent healthcare. The increasingly poor majority cannot afford this.

Throughout the report, the tragedy and scale of the crisis is evident.