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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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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Thursday, March 3, 2011

More Demographic Fallout From the Libyan Revolt

Amid the violence in Libya, guest workers from African and Asian nations are leaving in droves--or at least they are trying to leave. The New York Times reports that 180,000 people are piled up at the Libyan borders with Tunisia to the northwest and Egypt to the east. 

Appealing for international help on Wednesday, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said: “We need concrete action on the ground to provide humanitarian and medical assistance. Time is of the essence. Thousands of lives are at risk.”
Several aid groups were operating on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders, handing out food and supplies to the refugees and assessing the situation for providing more help.
But it was the Tunisian border that worried aid groups the most.
“There is an absolutely mammoth task that is absolutely imperative” to ease pressure on the border area, Sybella Wilkes, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency in Geneva, said Wednesday. “The capacity of the border area is bursting.”
At the same time, the disruption of the oil supply from Libya has caused a sharp increase in gas prices, as anyone who drives already knows, and this is cascading into higher food prices because so many of the inputs to agriculture depend upon petroleum.
The Food Price Index, which monitors average monthly price changes for a variety of key staples, rose to 236 points in February from 231 points in January, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.
It was the highest level since FAO began monitoring prices in 1990.
"Unexpected oil price spikes could further exacerbate an already precarious situation in food markets," David Hallam, director of the Rome-based FAO's trade and market division, was quoted as saying in a statement.
"This adds even more uncertainty concerning the price outlook just as plantings for crops in some of the major growing regions are about to start."
FAO economists warned that food prices were likely to remain high until the outlook for this year's harvests is known by around April.
Since high food prices have been one of the elements behind popular unrest in developing nations, this situation is naturally causing a lot of global jitters.

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