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The Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
The Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.
(United Nation Relief and Works Agency/Getty Images)

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Syria's collapse, in 7 charts

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Since the war in Syria began in 2011, more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than half of Syria's population has been displaced from their homes. Devastation on this scale is almost impossible to understand in the abstract: What does that kind of disaster do to a country? These numbers on indicators that feel familiar — things like GDP and school attendance rates — can help show how utterly the war has gutted this once-stable nation.


Syria's economy has totally collapsed

Getting reliable numbers on Syria's economy is tough. But a solid estimate, from a UN-funded study by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, found that Syria's GDP shrank by a staggering 62 percent between 2011 and 2014. Here's some perspective on how bad this is: Between 1929 and 1932, the worst years of the Great Depression, global GDP fell by 15 percent. Syria's depression is more than four times as severe.

Image credit: (Zack Beauchamp/Vox)


Extreme poverty has skyrocketed

Extreme poverty — defined as people living on $1.25 a day — was basically unheard of in Syria before the war began. Today it includes more than half of the population.

Image credit: (Zack Beauchamp/Vox)


Life expectancy has declined to what it was 50 years ago

Advances in health care and economic growth mean that for the past four decades, most people around the world have lived longer, healthier lives as the years have gone on. That was true in Syria too — before the war began. Today life expectancy in Syria is about what it was in 1967.

Image credit: Zack Beauchamp/Vox


Syria's health care system is collapsing in real time

As the situation in Syria gets worse, the country becomes less able to provide basic services. Its health care system, in particular, is a disaster. Doctors can't access the medicine they need; some hospitals are damaged or destroyed entirely by the fighting. A full 58 percent of Syrian hospitals are either partially functioning or entirely shut down. This chart shows just the decline over the past few months — surely a fraction of the change since the war began.

Image credit: (Zack Beauchamp/Vox)


Basic services like vaccination are declining

As Syria's economic and social infrastructure falls apart, citizens can't get their most basic needs satisfied, and the country slides backward. Polio was officially eradicated from Syria in 1999, yet the collapse in treatment led to an outbreak in 2014. Now experts are warning of a cholera "epidemic" breaking out in Syria, owing largely to the unsanitary conditions many displaced and impoverished Syrians are now forced to live in.

Image credit: (Zack Beauchamp/Vox)


Most Syrian kids are no longer in school

The war is doing damage that will last for decades. A generation of Syrians are growing up without access to education, which will make it that much harder for Syria to rebuild a modern economy when the war finally ends.

Image credit: (Zack Beauchamp/Vox)


Relief efforts are badly underfunded

The world simply isn't doing what it could to help Syria. This chart shows World Health Organization requests for operations serving Syria and Syrian refugees in the prior four years, and what funding governments actually gave them. As you can see, the WHO didn't get nearly as much money as it requested. Syrians fleeing the fighting are met with an underfunded, overwhelmed relief effort.

Image credit: (Zack Beauchamp/Vox)

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