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.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Famine Looms

While the rich countries worry about a flood of refugees, and the Middle East continues to cope with armed conflict (thus generating many, if not most, of the refugees), a less noisy crisis is looming--that of famine, especially in Africa, but also in the Middle East. The full report is available here, and Reuters has the story summarized:
Global food crises worsened significantly in 2016 and conditions look set to deteriorate further this year in some areas with an increasing risk of famine, a report said on Friday.
"There is a high risk of famine in some areas of north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen because of armed conflict, drought and macro-economic collapse," the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) said.
FSIN, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme and the International Food Policy Research Institute, said the demand for humanitarian assistance was escalating.
FSIN said that 108 million people were reported to be facing crisis level food insecurity or worse in 2016, a drastic increase from the previous year's total of almost 80 million.
The four countries named above as facing a high risk of famine share many things in common, but an important demographic characteristic of all four is high fertility and thus high rates of population growth:

Nigeria: TFR of 5.5 (but nearly seven in the northeast)
Somalia: TFR of 6.4
South Sudan: TFR of 6.7
Yemen: TFR of 4.2

These countries all need assistance with food and contraception. 


  1. Thank you for this Dr Weeks.

    I have a question, and I'm not trying to be insensitive or crude. But I'm wondering about the intersection of history, demographics and famine.

    Specifically, I'm wondering if famine is not part of the natural self-regulation of the local environment to shed excess population.

    As you point out, all to these regions have very high fertility. If they had lower fertility is it not likely that there would be no famine, or that the famine would be much easier to address?


    1. See my post on 1 April 2017 for my reply, along with additional comments from Abu Daoud.