Over half a million killed in Syria’s seven-year war, says monitor

Unicef report finds that 2017 was the worst year of the war for young Syrians

 A wounded man is seen at a makeshift hospital following a government bombardment in Kafr Batna in the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, Syria, on Sunday. Photograph: Ammar Suleiman/AFP/Getty Images

A wounded man is seen at a makeshift hospital following a government bombardment in Kafr Batna in the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta, Syria, on Sunday. Photograph: Ammar Suleiman/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said on Monday that about 511,000 people had been killed in the Syrian war since it began seven years ago.

The observatory, which tracks death tolls using a network of contacts inside Syria, said it had identified more than 350,000 of those killed, and the remainder were cases where it knew deaths had occurred but did not know the victims’ names.

The conflict began after mass protests on March 15th, 2011, dragging in regional and global powers and forcing millions of people – more than half the pre-war population – to flee their homes.

About 85 per cent of the dead were civilians killed by the forces of the Syrian government and its allies, the observatory said. The Syrian military, joined by its ally Russia since 2015, has used air power extensively.

As the war approaches its eighth year, intense fighting continues in several areas, including eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus and Afrin near the Turkish border.

Ruin for children

A report by Unicef on Monday said that a generation of Syrian children face psychological ruin and ever increasing danger, with child deaths soaring by 50 per cent last year and the number of young soldiers tripling since 2015.

The report found that 2017 was the worst yet of the war for young Syrians, with 910 killed in a conflict that has spared them no mercy and that has taken a vastly disproportionate toll on the country’s most vulnerable people.

Those most at risk face escalating threats of being permanently maimed by fighting, or emotionally scarred by a litany of abuses including forced labour, marriages, food scarcity and minimal access to health or education.

“There are scars in children and there are scars on children that will never be erased,” said Geert Cappelaere, Unicef’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The protection of children in all circumstances that was once universally embraced – at no moment have any of the parties accepted.”

More than 13 million people inside Syria now need humanitarian assistance, more than half of whom are children, the UN says. Of the 6.1 million people internally displaced, roughly half (2.8 million) are children.

Figures for last year show an average of 6,550 people were displaced each day in Syria. – Reuters/Guardian