Syria’s real GDP is expected to contract by 5.5% in 2023 following the February 6 and February 20 earthquakes that hit the Northern and Western parts of the country, according to a new World Bank damage assessment.
Economic growth may contract further if reconstruction progress is slower than expected, given limited public resources, weak private investment, and limited humanitarian assistance reaching the affected areas.
The Syria Earthquake 2023 Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA) presents an assessment of the impact of the earthquake on physical assets, infrastructure, and service delivery in the six most affected governorates. It provides a preliminary estimate of infrastructure reconstruction and service delivery restoration needs in the immediate and short-term, based on publicly available information, remote data sources and sensing techniques. The RDNA also analyzes the macroeconomic and socioeconomic impacts of the earthquake to understand anticipated repercussions on the economic outlook and on the well-being of the Syrian people.
According to the Syria Earthquake 2023 RDNA, physical damages caused by the earthquake are estimated at US$3.7 billion, while losses are estimated at US$1.5 billion, bringing the total estimated impact to US$5.2 billion. Losses account for reduced output in productive sectors, lost revenue, and higher operating costs in the provision of services. Housing is the most severely affected sector (24% of total damages), followed by transport, environment (the associated cost of clearing the rubble) and agriculture. In terms of losses, the agriculture sector incurred the heaviest toll with the gap in access to food estimated at US$1.3 billion (83% of total losses). The governorate of Aleppo suffered the greatest damages (44% of total damages, predominantly in housing then agriculture), followed by Idlib (21%). The city of Aleppo also topped the list of mostly affected cities with almost 60% of total damages, followed by Latakia (12%) and Azaz (10%).
Syria’s real GDP contraction is projected to widen by 2.3 percentage points in 2023 because of the earthquake, on top of an earlier projected contraction of 3.2% in 2023 (Syria Economic Monitor – Winter 2022/2023). The additional contraction is primarily driven by the destruction of physical capital and disruptions in trade activity. Inflation is expected to increase substantially, primarily driven by the reduction in goods available, an increase in transport costs, and a rise in overall demand for reconstruction material.
Twelve years of conflict have raised the population’s vulnerability to crises and natural disasters. The earthquake has led to a significant deterioration in humanitarian conditions, particularly at the level of food security and housing precariousness. Vulnerable segments of the population, such as, women, children, the elderly, and those with disabilities, as well as the poor, were hit hardest. Earthquake affected areas were further home to almost 3 million internally displaced people (IDPs) or 50% of Syria’s total IDP population who were already facing severe welfare challenges.
“The recent earthquake exacerbates the already dire consequences of the 12 year-long conflict for the people of Syria”, said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Director for the Middle East Department. “The World Bank hopes that this rapid damage and needs assessment will help inform key players on the needs associated with this devastating disaster and contribute to encourage international response efforts.”
The RDNA estimates recovery and reconstruction needs across the six assessed governorates at US$7.9 billion, with needs in the first year following the earthquake estimated at US$3.7 billion and at US$4.2 billion in the two consecutive years. The agriculture sector registered the largest needs (27% of total needs), followed by housing (18%), social protection (16 %) and transport (12%).
In the early recovery period (up to one-year post-earthquake), response efforts should prioritize the most urgent needs of affected communities, including emergency shelter, food, water, and health services. In parallel and over the two following years, efforts should gradually shift towards rebuilding damaged infrastructure and restoring essential services, as well as supporting affected communities to rebuild their livelihoods and promote sustainable development.
About the Syria Earthquake 2023 RDNA:
The RDNA follows a globally established and recognized damage, loss, and needs assessment methodology jointly developed by the WBG, EU, and the UN. This methodology has been applied globally in post-disaster and conflict contexts to inform recovery and reconstruction planning. This assessment relies on remote data sources including satellite imagery, (social) media analytics, anonymized cellphone data, night lights data, publicly available information, and partner organizations’ data. Whenever possible, RDNAs are carried out with a government counterpart to promote ownership and to validate data. However, given the situation in Syria, this RDNA was conducted solely by the World Bank.
Damages and losses are calculated according to actual or estimated pre-earthquake baseline of physical assets. The RDNA assesses (i) damages to physical assets; (ii) ensuing economic losses; and (iii) the reconstruction and recovery needs. The quantitative results and qualitative analysis of all three were utilized to assess the macroeconomic and socio-economic impact. The RDNA does not consider pre-existing damages caused by the conflict, it only considers damages caused by the earthquake.
The RDNA covers all 6 governorates most impacted by the earthquake: Aleppo, Hama, Idlib, Latakia, Raqqah and Tartous, with an in-depth analysis of 9 cities: Aleppo, Harem, Jableh, Afrin, Ad-Dana, Jandairis, Azaz, Sarmada, and Latakia. The assessment spans 10 distinct sectors and 4 cross-cutting areas and looks at the macroeconomic and socio-economic impacts as well. Results are presented by sector, by city, by governorate, by area of control, and at the aggregate level.
Syria Earthquake 2023 RDNA and Syria GRADE report:
The RDNA follows an initial assessment conducted by the World Bank known as Global Rapid Post-Disaster Damage Estimation (GRADE) that estimated initial direct physical damages in Syria between US$2.7 billion and US$7.9 billion. While the GRADE focuses on physical damages and relies largely on earthquake damage modelling and exposure analysis, the RDNA provides sectoral damages, economic losses, and recovery needs, estimated through various data acquisition and triangulation tools. Difference in the methodology and scope explain the variation in GRADE and RDNA results, however, both estimates broadly fall within the same range.