Inside Syria

The cost of Syria's war

We discuss the country's ailing economy and the educational needs of its refugee children.

Last Modified: 30 Jun 2013 13:51
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The demand for a decent education for Syria's refugee children is almost overwhelming. In the camp Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith visited, the only classroom is packed and the heat is suffocating. This camp is home to over 2,000 children – all victims of the Syrian unrest.

I think that mental health is now prioritised by aid agencies because we know how important it is to help this generation recover and often these things do actually manifest themselves externally as well.

Cat Carter, Save the Children

Syrian caricaturist Juan Zero, a displaced person himself, is one of a dozen young middle-class Syrian men and women helping with make-shift classes.

None of them imagined this conflict would develop a sectarian element. Zero says: "We are not involved in the fighting and revolution we are working for Syrian children. We are trying to lay the foundations for the children's future. What we are doing now are simple projects in an emergency situation. But we hope to leave these children with a different mindset than those of past generations."

The United Nations warns that four million young people are affected by the fighting. One in five schools no longer function - they are either destroyed, sheltering people fleeing violence, or harbouring fighters. One in every three hospitals can no longer provide services.

In the first segment of Inside Syria, David Foster speaks to Cat Carter; the head of humanitarian information and communications at the charity organisation, Save the Children.

Deteriorating economy

In the past two years of fighting in Syria there have been enormous humanitarian and economic prices to pay. Besides the human cost, the war in Syria has also taken a severe toll on the economy and infrastructure, with the currency weakening, recession deepening and the government short of cash.

Before the uprising, back in 2010, Syria's gross domestic product was valued at about $60bn according to the World Bank, now, it has fallen to just under $33bn - a drop of about 45 percent. The Syrian pound has lost about half its value previously trading at about 47 pounds to the dollar. It now goes for around 100, and well above 150 in the black market. Homes, roads and bridges across Syria will need rebuilding.

What we know for sure … is that the central bank governor said that Iran has provided a credit line of $7bn to Syria to help it import products and help it finance or defend the value of the Syrian pound.

Jihad Yazigi, The Syria Report

As Syria's economy staggers, Russia, Iran and China are still helping the Syrian regime - whether politically, militarily or economically. Meanwhile, some neighbouring countries could be key in providing a lifeline - despite the sanctions.

Beirut has strong political links with its neighbour, and Hezbollah is a key Syrian ally. Syria's and Lebanon's economies are closely linked too - Syria is Lebanon's only overland trade route and several Lebanese banks are operating there. Lebanon abstained from November 2011's Arab League vote to impose economic sanctions against Syria.

Then there is Iraq, Syria's second-biggest trading partner. Baghdad also abstained in the Arab League vote. Official figures show that trade between the two countries reached nearly $3bn in 2011. There is almost quarter of a million Iraqis living and working in Syria.

And finally, there is Iran; which is Syria's closest ally in the region, and potentially its strongest economic lifeline. Tehran has billions of dollars of investments in Syria, ranging from energy and construction to automobiles and cement.

Analysts say Iran could help Syria by buying its crude oil, which is now under western sanctions, or by allowing it to pay for imports in Syrian currency.

Inside Syria is joined by guests: Osama Kadi; the general coordinator of the Syrian Economic Task Force. He is also a member of the Syrian National Council; Joshua Landis, the director of the Centre for Middle East Studies and a professor at the University of Oklahoma; and Jihad Yazigi, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Syria Report, an online economic digest.

"The liberated areas and the revolutionary forces have not unified. There are over a thousand militias in Syria and this lack of unity has led to a complete breakdown of the economy in the liberated areas."

Joshua Landis; Centre for Middle East Studies


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