DAMASCUS, Syria — While the media has been mostly silent over the past few months about the decade long crisis in Syria, terror and chaos have not ceased and the cries of the Syrian people are louder than ever. Apocalyptic civil war has left hundreds dead and millions wounded. Those fighting to stay alive have been left with life long trauma from which they may never recover. This crisis has damaged the Syrian population so much that the overall life expectancy of the country has been affected. While most countries around the world have shown a steady upward trend in life expectancy over the last decade, Syria’s life expectancy rate has become widely inconsistent. In the text below, 10 things you need to know about life expectancy in Syria are presented.
Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Syria
- The number of deaths has increased by more than 12,000 percent since the start of the crisis. Conflict and terror were listed as the 24th leading cause of death in Syria in 2007. In 2017, they were declared number one. This crisis has claimed over 500,000 lives in just over 10 years which equals 170 deaths per day and one death every nine minutes.
- Along with many underdeveloped countries around the world, Syria showed an increase in life expectancy in the late 20th and early 21st century. It peaked at 74.4 years of age in 2006, just before the conflict began. Once the crisis emerged, life expectancy in Syria plummeted, hitting the lowest number of 69.8 years in 2014. With humanitarian organizations increasing their mobilization efforts in Syria, life expectancy has actually increased in the past few years. In 2016, life expectancy had increased to 70.3 and is expected to rise exponentially in the upcoming years.
- Since the start of the conflict, the Syrian government has been responsible for at least 50 of the 85 total chemical attacks on major Syrian cities. Citizens in cities such as Aleppo and Damascus have been fleeing not only from bullets but from the air they breathe. Chlorine gas, sarin and mustard gas have been filling the atmosphere and lungs of Syrian civilians since 2013 causing muscle paralysis, burning, blistering and suffocation. This is one of the first cases of chemical warfare used against civilians since it was outlawed after the second world war.
- With over 400,000 dead in the country, those that remain in the line of fire have been forced to evacuate. Around 6.6 million people are displaced internally with 2.9 million located in besieged areas. Over five million refugees have sought shelter in camps in Lebanon and Jordan. These camps are not fully equipped to take in the vast number of asylum seekers and 93 percent of refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line, making this crisis the worst refugee crisis to date.
- Food has also become extremely difficult to access. Wheat and barley are the top cash-crops in Syria, making their plantations the most targetted. Airstrikes have cost farmers about a million hectares of sustainable and arable land, meaning overall food production has plummeted as the agricultural industry weakens. Without food, more and more families face starvation. As many as 2.5 million children are facing starvation. In most besieged areas, 11.9 percent of children are extremely malnourished.
- At the start of the war, Syria was enduring a major drought that further hurt the agricultural industry. Lack of rain and water management caused 117 million acres of freshwater to vanish from the Tigris-Euphrates water basin in the Middle East, a basin that provided Syria and neighboring countries with hydraulic power. This drought, as many believe, was one of the main reasons the crisis began in the first place. Chemical warfare has contaminated the water supply. Wells have been poisoned and surrounding bodies of water are filled with toxins. As a result, two-thirds of the population do not have access to clean drinking water.
- The World Health Organization has declared a Humanitarian Emergency as the poliovirus, or polio reemerged in Syria. The first new case of polio was confirmed in 2013 after nearly two decades. Within months, Syria went from being polio-free to having 35 confirmed cases. Hospitals have been bombed and medical staff has been targetted by the Syrian government, making vaccine distribution nearly impossible. Before the conflict began, 94 percent of Syrian children had been vaccinated for polio. At the hight of the war, vaccines were only reaching 68 percent.
- UNICEF and other nonprofit partners plan to provide 2.3 million children with micronutrients and primary care consultations in 2019. This plan also will provide 3.4 million immunizations against polio to unvaccinated children. UNICEF also plans to provide formal and informal education to those in Syria and refugee camps in nearby countries, offering safety courses, civic engagement and life skills classes and psychological support as well. Other items to be delivered include clothing, blankets, and weather preparedness kits.
- The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project is another initiative by UNICEF dedicated to directly supporting clean water and sanitation movements in Syria. The WASH initiative plans to provide 4.5 million Syrians with sustained water supply and 13.1 million Syrians with access to safe drinking water. UNICEF also plans to provide resources to accurately test and treat water locally and provide education on water filtration to the public.
- Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2019-2020 (3RP) is an initiative formed by the U.N. to provide $5.5 billion to support refugees in Syria’s neighboring countries. This plan is designed to give direct support to communities hosting Syrian refugees in order to counteract the financial burden of overpopulation and migration.
These are just 10 facts you need to know about life expectancy in Syria, and the surface has only just been scratched. While the conflict in Syria poses an unclear future, people are continuing to fight for their security and freedom. Life expectancy is no longer falling, but the country still has a long way to go before it can escape the clutches of poverty. With help from every nation, it’s possible, even likely, that the crisis in Syria can be contained and refugees can have a place to call home.
– Rebecca Cetta