DAMASCUS, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Three years has passed since the Syrian crisis began in mid-March 2011. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced. Severe damages have befallen the country's economy, social fabric and last but not least its infrastructure.
The prolonged crisis began with anti-government protests. It rapidly evolved into armed conflicts joined by radical jihadist movements, inflicting negative impact on almost every aspect of Syrians' life.
In a report marking the third anniversary of the Syrian crisis, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said "the situation (in Syria) has developed into a humanitarian disaster of appalling dimensions."
It said more than nine million Syrians are in need of urgent assistance, including 6.5 million people displaced inside their own country. Half of them were children struggling to survive amid the fighting. Another 2.4 million people have fled Syria since January 2012. They are seeking refugee in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Thousands more families have left for countries further afield.
"Today, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate rapidly in large parts of the country," the ICRC said.
The latest UN tally regarding the number of those killed during the conflict stands at 100,000 people.
A study issued last December by local media showed that some two million housing units in Syria have been totally or partially destroyed during the crisis. The reconstruction cost is estimated to be at least 100 billion U.S. dollars. Another study said the figure is between 100 and 200 billion U.S. dollars, and the reconstruction would require at least six million workers.
Aside from displacement and reconstruction, the conflict also had a huge toll on the health sector of Syria.
Local media reported that most of pharmaceutical plants have shut down because of the grinding crisis in the country. What makes matters worse is the battles in the northern province of Aleppo, where most of the country's pharmaceutical labs locate.
The pro-longed crisis has also contributed to the re-emergence of swine flu and polio cases in Syria. Official estimates said 19 people had recently died of the diseases.
The Syrian crisis has turned its third year with huge economic losses, unprecedented rate of unemployment and low expectations that the country's devastating economy would recover soon.
The crisis has wrecked the country's already-sluggish economy, plunged its currency, increased poverty and shut down many establishments and businesses.
The UN Development Program recently issued a report on the losses during the second quarter last year. It said that damages of the Syrian economy amounted to 103 billion dollars, up from 84 billion in the first quarter of the same year. That's about 200 million dollars of losses per day.
Syria's oil production, which is the most prominent source of it foreign currency, dropped lately to 14,000 barrels per day from the 380,000 barrels of mid-March 2011, down nearly 90 percent.
Gas production is currently estimated at 16.7 million cubic meters per day, compared with 24 million before the crisis broke out.
Western sanctions imposed on Syria have slashed its export earnings from oil, slashing the central bank's firepower to support its currency that has plunged to a record low against the U.S. dollar -- from 47 pounds before the crisis to 155 pounds.
Syrians went through very difficult economic conditions as many of them have lost their jobs. Many factories and enterprises have closed, coupled with a crazy prices increase and a steep depreciation of the Syrian pound against the U.S. dollar.
With regard to poverty and unemployment, the report estimated about 2.33 million Syrians have suffered from severe poverty. This has pushed up the percentage of unemployment to 48.6 percent, and threatened the livelihood of nearly ten million.
Earlier the United National Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) unveiled that 18 million out of the country's 23 million inhabitants are living "below the poverty upper line."
ESCWA said that Syria's total GDP losses had reached around 47. 9 billion dollar up to the second quarter last year, adding that the country suffers a growing deficit in trade.
The recession have bloated budget deficit, with inflation running as high as 70 percent last year. Economists warn the Syrian economy will be further ravaged, unless the government takes drastic measures to help it recover once again.
The crisis drew radicals from about 80 countries, who have joined the rebels battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad's administration. The government has lost swathes of lands before it finally decided to launch its wide-scale offensives to drive rebels out of the captured lands and cut off their routes of weapon supply.
The radical groups have unveiled their intentions, mainly the establishment of a conservative Islamic regime that should apply strict Sharia law instead of a democratic one. Such a motive has turned other more moderate rebel groups against them.
The opposition's inter-fighting and extremist views have given the Syrian troops more energy to proceed with their battles.
The Syrian army recently scored some important victories against the rebels in the countryside of Damascus and in the central province of Homs.
The latest offensive is now taking place in the rebel-held town of Yabroud, north of Damascus. Syrian troops are storming the key town and stripping the rebels of their key existence between Damascus and Homs province, also cutting them off from their smuggling route to the nearby Lebanese town of Ersal.
The inter-fighting and division among the Syrian opposition parties, in addition to the rising popular resentment of the prolonged crisis and its devastating outcome, have buoyed the government's stand.
These indicators show that the Syrian government has made tangible progress on al-Qalamoun front, the last rebel stronghold near Damascus and their main route for weapons supply.
Over the past few months, the international community has ostensibly supported the idea of finding a political solution to the long-standing conflict. Their efforts resulted in convening the so-called Geneva II conference.
However, the first two rounds of talks in Geneva made no tangible results, as the Syrian government wanted to prioritize countering terrorism, while the oppositional Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition umbrella in exile that negotiated on behalf of the opposition, said it wanted the establishment of a provisional government without a role of President Assad.
The Syrian government accused the coalition of working only to obtain authority without a real weight on ground, as other opposition groups and rebels as well said it does not represent them.
Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, held the coalition delegation responsible for the outcomes of the first two rounds of Geneva II talks. He said the opposition and the states standing behind it foiled the conference, because the coalition went to Geneva with only one aim -- to take over power.
"Syria has withstood (the crisis). Syria is working to defeat this conspiracy (anti-government rebellion). The sovereignty of Syrian people and the unity of Syria are the ideas that we are still working to consolidate," Mekdad said.
The Syrian government has recently inspired that the crisis is about to end and attention has been shifted to post-crisis reconstruction, after national reconciliation has succeeded in a number of Syrian areas.
"Obviously, many of those who have been politically misguided, are now returning under the state's umbrella. There are real achievements on ground by the Syrian army ... in addition to the national reconciliation instances across Syria," Mekdad said.
Still, the political solution for the three-year-old conflict has not been reached.
UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday appealed once again to the international community to reenergize Syria peace talks to end what is now "the world's biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis" after three years of bloodshed.
"I deeply regret the failure of the international community, represented by all of us in this hall, the region and the Syrians themselves, to put a stop to this appalling conflict," he told an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly on Syria. Full story
BEIRUT, March 14 (Xinhua) -- At the time when the Syrian crisis enters the fourth year, the Syrian refugees in Lebanon numbering over 957,000 are still suffering from miserable living conditions and they are pessimistic about the end of violence in their homeland.
In the eastern Bekaa region, a number of Syrian refugees gather around a small TV unit placed over a wooden box to follow the news regarding the latest developments of the battle of Yabroud, the clashes in Aleppo and the armed conflict between the rival fundamentalists namely ISIS and AL-Nusra Front, and the future of the Geneva peace talks on Syria. Full story