This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Lost Generation in Syria

A new UNICEF report on Syria paints an incredibly grim picture of children as the long-term victims in Syria's civil war. ABC News, among many others, covered the story:
Nearly half of Syria's school-age children — 2.8 million and counting — cannot get an education because of the devastation and violence from a civil war now entering its fourth year, the U.N. children's agency said Tuesday.
Agency officials told reporters in Geneva that another 300,000 Syrian children are out of school in Lebanon, along with some 93,000 in Jordan, 78,000 in Turkey, 26,000 in Iraq and 4,000 in Egypt.
UNICEF estimates 2 million children affected by the fighting are in need of psychological support or treatment. Thousands have lost limbs, parents, teachers, schools, homes and virtually every aspect of their childhood, according to agency officials. And those are the ones lucky enough to be alive.
Overall, the number of children suffering from the civil war has more than doubled to 5.5 million in the past 12 months alone, UNICEF said. Many are forced to grow up fast: One in 10 refugee children is now working, the agency estimates, while one in five Syrian girls in Jordan is forced into early marriage.
The UN report explains the push for early marriage:
Studies have shown an increase in the number of Syrian families pressing their daughters into early marriages either in the hope of offering protection or to help the family economically.
The UNICEF report is 19 pages of tortuous reading about the true torture of Syrians. Without question, the report is designed to stimulate the world into some kind of action to resolve the issue. But, as NPR reported several months ago, the government of Bashar al-Assad is supported by the governments of Russia, China, and Iran.  But there is the complication that Assad is a member of the Alawite Shia Muslim sect, whereas the  majority of the Syrian population (or what's left of it) is Sunni Muslim (although there is evidence that many Syrians are also supportive of Assad). It is reasonable to think that Syria serves as a proxy war for Sunni and Shia Muslims in the region, since it appears that a large fraction of the rebels are from outside of Syria (remember that polio seemed to come to Syria from a person entering the country from Pakistan). This is, of course, part of the battle still raging (albeit at a much lower level) in Iraq where Saddam Hussein--a Sunni Muslim--had control of a largely Shia Muslim population. Removing him from power only seemed to change the dynamics of the hostilities. And these are just some of the myriad complications. But the point of the report is that if some solution isn't found soon, a whole generation may be lost, and that will have huge negative repercussions throughout the region.

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