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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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Can the Central African Republic Survive?

I last blogged about the Central African Republic (CAR)  three years ago, and things were bad then. Now, they're even worse. The country was the topic of discussion at the UN Security Council this week, but it's not clear that the UN's approach of just trying to keep a lid on violence is doing very much. The country is also the victim of a huge humanitarian crisis, created by a near-genocidal culture clash, as the Economist has explained:
Few countries have been dealt a worse hand by geography and history than the CAR. It is not just landlocked; it is farther from the coast than anywhere else in Africa. Moreover it is in an unstable neighbourhood, sharing borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan. The diamonds under its soil are valuable enough to be worth fighting over and portable enough to fund militias. It has mostly been ruled by dictators since independence in 1960.
The most recent crisis started in 2013 after Seleka militias ousted the government and installed the country’s first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia, before burning villages and massacring civilians. The militia that formed to oppose them was itself soon going door-to-door, killing Muslims, until a French military intervention—some reckon its seventh in the country—put a lid on the fighting.
The CAR is one of those "troubling" African countries, as Hans Rosling put it in his last interview with the BBC, and that is a genuine understatement. Despite very high fertility and mortality levels that are among the world's highest, the population is still projected  by UN demographers to double in size between now and the middle of this century--assuming that genocide is avoided and recognizing that out-migration options are fairly limited, given the instability of neighbors. What no one seems to be talking about is something that the country really needs--family planning to reduce fertility and maternal and infant mortality. The Trump administration's reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule would rule out help from the U.S., but other countries need to step in. The situation reminded me of the cartoon below that was published after the most recent UN Population Conference in Cairo, which was held back in 1994:

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