In Brief

Syrian Civil War: Six years on

As one of the most severe humanitarian crises since World War II enters its seventh year, what has changed?


This week will see the Syrian Civil War – one of the bloodiest wars of the last 70 years – enter its seventh year.

The war, a power struggle between President Bashar al-Assad, Sunni rebel groups and other militant factions, has given rise to the extremist Islamic State group (IS), which routinely recruits children to fight and has claimed responsibility for numerous atrocities across the region.

The complex, multi-party conflict has claimed almost 500,000 lives, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and has displaced millions of people, creating a refugee crisis across Europe and the Middle East.

After six years, where are we now?

What started as a series of anti-Assad protests in 2011 has led to an all-out war that has spiralled out of control. The fragmented nature of the conflict and the rise of extremist forces have led to an almost total breakdown of normal civilian life in the country.

While the progression of the conflict has stagnated in recent years into an ebb-and-flow territorial war, the last two months have seen Kurdish and Arab coalition forces – backed by the US-led coalition – besieging territory held by ISIS in eastern Syria.

Numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have used the six-year anniversary of the war to give updates on those affected by the conflict. 

Deadliest year yet for children

In a report titled "Hitting Rock Bottom", Unicef gave a grave analysis of the deteriorating situation for children.

"Children have paid the heaviest price in the conflict, and in 2016 their suffering hit rock bottom in a drastic escalation of violence," it said.

"Nearly 6 million children now depend on humanitarian assistance, with almost half forced to flee their homes."

The report claims that at least 652 children died last year, a 20 per cent increase in the number killed a year earlier.

Unicef believes that over 850 children were recruited to fight for various groups in 2016, double the number estimated for 2015.

Doors slammed by rich countries

Oxfam is taking aim at the growing wave of anti-migrant sentiment around the world. 

"Those who have fled Syria are seeing doors slammed in their faces as rich countries across the world enact policies hostile towards refugees," an Oxfam report said today. 

It has also heavily criticised Donald Trump's blanket ban of migrants from Syria entering the US, as well as the UK government's cancellation of the so-called Dubs Amendment to give asylum to unaccompanied Syrian child refugees.

Mental health crisis

Save the Children released a study regarding the mental wellbeing of children in the rapidly worsening conflict. The study claims that one in four children in Syria are at risk of severe mental health disorders. 

The organisation interviewed 450 subjects and found signs that many had been traumatised by six years of war, and were "living in an almost constant state of fear" even after escaping from the war zone. 

Parents claim their children are showing more aggressive behaviour, suffering from bedwetting and speech impediments, and in some cases attempting suicide.

At present, almost all major NGOs are claiming that verified instances of murder, maiming and kidnapping are on the increase in Syria. 

Although bombing campaigns in eastern Syria may liberate the regions from the threat of Islamic State, an effective and safe resolution to the conflict looks a long way off at present. 

Infographic by for


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