22 Aug 2014

Syria deaths at 191,000: ‘It’s not a number, it’s people’

The number of people to die in Syria has risen to over 191,000 in three years, but the conflict has “dropped off the international radar”, says the United Nations commissioner.

The last time the UN issued a figure on the number of fatalities was in July 2013, when it said that 100,000 people had died.

This new figure is based on data from five separate organisations dedicated to collating the time and location of fatalities, and did not include detail about an estimated 52,000 other deaths that have been recorded but which don’t have conclusive details.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay’s spokesman presented the report, Everybody Counts, and condemned the international community’s “paralysis” over Syria.

Ms Pillay is due to step down from her role, and in her last address to the UN Security Council criticised the panel’s indecision and said its failure to act had cost “hundreds and thousands of lives”.

Rupert Colville said on Friday that the increase in the death toll was so high because the new figure includes additional fatalities from earlier periods. “It is an indicative number based on very, very precise number of data of individuals killings. And the most important thing to remember about any number is that this is not a number, it’s people. People are dying every single day,” he added.

191,369 deaths

The exact figure of confirmed deaths is 191,369, 85 per cent of whom were men and 9 per cent were women. The sex in the remainder of cases were unknown.

At least 8,800 of the victims were confirmed as children, although the age of most victims is unknown.

Ms Pillay’s office said in January that it had stopped updating the death toll in Syria, blaming the lack of access on the ground and an inability to verify data. It has also refused to endorse other counts by organisations like the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Mr Colville added: “With additional killings reported from the earlier period, in addition to around 62,000 new killings in the year covered by this new analysis, the total has actually together more than doubled the number documented a year ago, which we announced in 2013.

“As the report explains, unfortunately this is probably an underestimate of the real total number of people killed during the first three years of this murderous conflict.”