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Syria is witnessing the "worst humanitarian crisis"

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 12m Syrians have been forced from their homes, with around 4m 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. According to the UN, some 12m people, over half of the population, need assistance. 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. (Bashar Assad's regime has targeted many of the facilities.) Most of the country's doctors have fled. Polio returned for a time. 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. Nearly 3m Syrian children no longer attend class. Power output is down by 56%, according to the electricity ministry. That, combined with migration, has made the country 83% darker at night than before the war. 
Syria's culture and heritage have also suffered, often at the hands of the jihadists of Islamic State, who recently seized the ancient city of Palmyra. Yet the loss of cultural artefacts, though wrenching, pales next to the human carnage of the war. Mr Assad, on the back foot as IS advances, continues to use chemical weapons, such as chlorine. Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through a network of informants on the ground, reckons IS now controls more than half of Syrian territory. The crisis will almost certainly grow worse.









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