Syria war costs $400b
DAMASCUS, Sept 13: Seven years of relentless conflict in Syria have wreaked destruction that the United Nations said Wednesday had cost the country close to $400 billion.
The figure was released after a two-day meeting of more than 50 Syrian and international experts in neighbouring Lebanon, hosted by the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
ESCWA said the "volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution" had been estimated at more than $388 billion.
It said the figure did not include "human losses resulting from deaths or the loss of human competences and skilled labour due to displacement, which were considered the most important enablers of the Syrian economy".
More than half of Syria's pre-war population has fled the country or been displaced internally over the past seven years. Russia's 2015 military intervention helped a spectacular recovery by regime forces, which have regained significant ground in recent months.
Violence in northwest Syria has displaced more than 38,500 people in less than two weeks amid increasing hostilities and a looming regime assault on the opposition-held Idlib province, the UN said Thursday.
"Between 1-12 September, available information indicates that a sharp increase in hostilities and fears of further escalation has led to the displacement of over 38,500 people," the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) said.
That marks a hike of nearly 10,000 people from the figure provided by the UN on Monday.
However, OCHA said that 4,500 of those who had fled since September 1 had "spontaneously returned" over the past three days amid a relative decrease in hostilities in western and southern rural parts of Idlib province.
The province and adjacent rural areas form the largest piece of territory still held by Syria's beleaguered rebels, worn down by a succession of government victories in recent months.
President Bashar al-Assad has now set his sights on Idlib, and his forces and their Russian allies have since the beginning of the month stepped up bombardment of the densely populated province.
Some three million people live in the zone now, about half of them already displaced by the brutal seven-year war and others heavily dependent on humanitarian aid to survive. -AFP