The Syrian civil war was responsible for the deaths of 76,021 people in 2014 alone, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. And nearly half of the dead were civilians.
The UK-based watchdog group said that 17,790 civilians, including 3,501 children and 1,987 women, were killed as a result of the conflict. Last year was the deadliest since the Syrian civil war started in 2011.
The United Nations said in August that at least 191,369 people have died since fighting began, nearly 31,000 of which were killed in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Some estimates put the actual number at over 200,000, but the organization was unable to confirm more than 50,000 deaths. Millions of Syrians have fled the war-torn nation to escape the fighting, while millions more are considered internally displaced.
The United Nations’ World Food Program announced in December that it had raised approximately $80 million to continue its food aid program to refugees from the civil war. The program was briefly suspended due to lack of funds. “Syria has become the defining humanitarian challenge of our times, and it’s important that the kind of offers of help that we’ve seen today keep coming in,” Antonio Guterres, the U.N.’s high commissioner for refugees, said at the time.
Pro-democracy protests against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011 were met with violent crackdowns by pro-government forces. Syria quickly spiraled into civil war, as pro-Assad groups battled various militant groups that sprang up. The resulting power vacuum allowed for the rise of the brutal Islamic State group, formerly known as ISIS. The faction seized control of vast tracts of land in Syria and Iraq last summer, with the Syrian city of Raqqa serving as a de facto capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate.
The Islamic State group’s stated goal is to form a modern theocratic state. The group became known for its brutal tactics, including the summary execution of civilians and the beheading of kidnapped journalists such as Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff. President Barack Obama announced the formation last September of a U.S.-led coalition to conduct airstrikes in Syria to “degrade and destroy” the group, which has taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
This story has been updated to note the correct number of civilian casualties in the conflict.