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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Sunday, February 28, 2016

South Sudan Seems to be Sinking Fast

Back in 2011 I commented on the birth of a new nation--South Sudan--which had essentially "divorced" itself from Sudan. Here's what I said about it at the time:
The population of the new country is estimated to be somewhere between 7.5 and 9.7 million, and it is described by everyone as one of the poorest nation's in the world, although it does have oil reserves, and apparently has been getting some direct foreign investment from China. However, there are still rebel groups working in the new nation, so it will probably have a rocky start to life, hampered by very low levels of literacy, and very high rates of infant and maternal mortality.
Sadly, it seems that things are probably worse now than at the country's "birth," as Nicholas Kristof reports in today's NYTimes
It’s impossible to calculate the death toll, but it seems to me plausible that as many civilians are dying in the war here in South Sudan as in Syria. One reason it’s hard to estimate is that many civilian deaths here come not from bullets or barrel bombs, but from starvation and disease arriving as a direct result of war and ethnic cleansing.
I’ve been traveling through some of the areas most affected by fighting, in both government- and rebel-controlled areas, and they are in ruins that remind me of Darfur. Villages have been burned, hospitals pillaged, schools closed, boys castrated and women kidnapped and raped. It is easier to find women and girls who have been gang-raped than who are literate; in one village, a traditional birth attendant told me that she had recently assisted with 10 pregnancies caused by soldiers.
Roads are dangerous and often impassable, and there are no real government services — except executions.
It is not the kind of place where the Demographic and Health Surveys can go (nor is Sudan--the most recent DHS there was in 1990), so we can't know for sure what is happening demographically. All we can be sure about from Kristof's first-hand report is that it isn't good.

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