Syria: 83% of Lights Extinguished After 4 Years of Crisis

A Syrian family uses candles to get light at their home in a district of Damascus on November 17, 2013 as Syria's capital and parts of southern Syria suffered a prolonged power outage. File photo

Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organizations has revealed as the fourth anniversary of the conflict approaches on March 15.

Satellite imagery showing the number of lights visible over Syria in March 2011 and in February 2015. 83% of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there. Image courtesy of #WithSyria

Analysis of satellite images by scientists based at Wuhan University in China, in co-operation with the #WithSyria coalition non-governmental organisations, has shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011. 

“In the four years since this crisis began, Syria’s people have been plunged into the dark: destitute, fearful, and grieving for the friends they have lost and the country they once knew, ” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.  “In the four years since the crisis began, there is at present very little light in this tunnel. Over two hundred thousand people have been killed and a staggering eleven million have been forced to flee their homes. Syrians deserve much better from the international community – it is past time to show that we have not given up and will work with them to turn the lights back on…”

“Satellite imagery is the most objective source of data showing the devastation of Syria on a national scale”,Dr. Xi Li, lead researcher on the project, told Human Rights Watch. “Taken from 500 miles above the earth, these images help us understand the suffering and fear experienced by ordinary Syrians every day, as their country is destroyed around them. In the worst-affected areas, like Aleppo, a staggering 97% of the lights have gone out. The exceptions are the provinces of Damascus and Quneitra, near the Israeli border, where the decline in light has been 35% and 47% respectively.”

Dr Zaher Sahoul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, said: “The rise of terrorist groups crossing borders has spread fear and focused the world’s attention on Syria – but it has distracted governments from the suffering of ordinary Syrians and the abuses committed by all sides in this conflict. Every day Syrian medics, aid workers and teachers are taking enormous risks to help their neighbours and loved ones, while the international community continuously fails to pursue a political solution and an end to the violence and suffering.”

In 2014, the UN Security Council adopted three resolutions that demanded action to secure protection and assistance for civilians in Syria. Since then, thousands of Syrians have been killed, and more people have been displaced or are in need of help than ever before. A new report “Failing Syria” released today by Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children and others accuses warring parties and powerful states of failing to achieve what these resolutions set out to do.


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