Paynesville – Preparation for the conduct of Liberia’s first digital population and housing census continues to garner momentum with the deployment of geographic mappers across the country.
The role of the mappers, among others, is to demarcate enumeration areas through the creation of area maps for the Liberia 2021 National Population and Housing Census (NPHC)..
At a program marking the official send-off or deployment of GIS Mappers to the field on Wednesday in Paynesville, the Government led by Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, and its partners including the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the Embassies of Sweden and Ireland, called on the mappers to fully exercise their duties to the fullest as the success of the impending census rests on their commitment, honesty, and service to the nation.
Making remarks, VP Howard-Taylor called on every Liberian to see reason to go back home or county of origin during the census to be counted in order to boost their community’s population to attract development and enforce the government’s decentralization program.
“Even if there’s is a need to go to your county’s capital and get counted there, it will begin to shift the decentralization process as it is based on pure numbers. I want to encourage all of us as the team gets out to go home and get counted,” she urged.
Also speaking, House Speaker, Dr. Bhofal Chambers stressed the importance of census as it drives development and called on the geographic mappers to be ‘dutiful and meticulous’ in the discharge of their duties so that everyone can be counted.
“I believe you are clothed with the spirit of effervescence and seems to be vivacious and enthusiastic young people wanting to go and count our people. Census is necessary… We want to urge all of you to be dutiful, to be meticulous in your work so that our people can be counted.”
Most Accurate, Up-to-date Census
Launching the official sendoff, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. pledged the government’s continued support to the process and revealed that US$1 million has been disbursed to LISGIS in this current fiscal budget. The Executive, he said, will be requesting another US$1 million for LISGIS in the next six-month budget that begins in July this year, and which will mark the transition to a calendar year budget.
Mr. Tweah noted that the Liberia 2021 National Population and Housing Census will be the first digital and most reliable census, and called for a sustained awareness through the media to ensure the entire populace is informed.
He said: “What we now know in the decade or more since we have that census, we believe that this census will be the most accurate, most up-to-date and most reliable in the history of the country; taking advantage of digital advances in technology.”
It has been more than 10 years since Liberia’s last conducted a national population and housing census back in 2008. The government is behind its constitutionally mandated time frame to conduct what will be Liberia’s second post-war census.
In July 2020, the Legislature adopted a Joint Resolution #003/2020 which set the date of the National Population and Housing Census on Monday, March 8, 2021. But the exercise was not held. Officials blamed the COVID-19 outbreak as reason behind the latest delay.
However, the LISGIS’ Director General, Prof. Francis Fonanyeneh Wreh, speaking at the event expressed optimism, saying “From all indications, the conduct of Liberia’s second post war census is at hand.”
Prof. Wreh said as part of its main functions and responsibilities, LISGIS is about to conduct the 5th National Population and Housing Census, and the first census to use digital technology after the 1962, 1974, 1984, and the 2008 censuses.
This, he noted is being made successful with support from the Government of Liberia, UNFPA, the World Bank, Governments of Sweden and Ireland and other development partners.
“From all indications, the conduct of Liberia’s second post war census is at hand. The law permits it, and the urgency demands it. The country’s readiness goes back to the signing of the Census Project Document with partners in October 2019.”
He also pointed out that as the Government of Liberia continues to present programs aimed at accelerating its agenda, the need for evidenced based decision making is of high consideration; and the successful implementation of these programs require a reliable and regularly updated data, representing the various characteristics of the population, comparable to both regional and international development plan.
‘Select Census Day‘
Despite the deployment of the geographic mappers and implementations of series of activities for a successful conduct of Liberia Census 2021, a specific date for the census is yet to be announced.
Speaking at the event, the Resident Representative of UNFPA, Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi seized the moment to call on the Legislature to issue a new proclamation since the March 8, 2021 date did not hold.
“We would count on the Speaker and the House of Representatives as well as the President Pro-Tempore and the Liberian Senate to issue a new proclamation on the new date for the conduct of the census, commonly called “census Day”. Due to COVID 19, the date set in the Proclamation has elapsed and the new date is now urgently awaited,” he urged.
But Speaker Chambers, in respond said the resolution should first derive from the Executive before it can be acted upon by the Legislature.
The UNFPA’s boss also called on Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah, who serves as Chairman of LISGIS’ Board of Directors to rally his colleagues from all Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to nominate technical staff on the Census Technical and Steering Committees, and also for his leadership of the Census Commissioners Forum.
“These committees provide oversight and necessary accountability and transparency, and stakeholders’ buy-in,” he said.
The UNFPA has been one of the strong and reliable partner of the Government of Liberia in designing the census project to provide complete coverage of support, utilizing agencies’ comparative advantage to achieve the overall goal of strengthening data systems in Liberia.
Dr. Ndyanabangi said, since the partnership, a lot has been achieved including the acquisition of state-of-the-art technology, Satellite Imagery for Liberia, Google Cloud Storage Services, Survey 123 application, Tablets, Vehicles, and human expertise are all in place.
On top of these successes, he added, is the training of 200 field mappers, supervisors, and coordinator in the use of modern digital mapping applications that are expected to be deployed nationwide today, April 2.
He congratulated them for availing themselves for the ‘great and critical’ task, adding “You are the privileged ones, having been selected from thousands around the country and trained with the latest technology.”
He continued: “You have a national duty and task, as the success of this census rests on your commitment, dedication, honesty, and service to the nation. This is a beginning of a process that will take us through a long journey, and so we will count on you. You will go down in history for the work you will do, either bad or good. PLEASE DO YOUR BEST.”
Further in his remarks, the UNFPA’s Resident Representative said the government and its partners have accomplished a lot in a short a time in the face of COVID 19 due to strong partnership building, increased donors interest and support, overall strengthening of capacities and efficiency of the Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, recruitment of good local and international staff and Government ownership, which we think needs to improve.
Notwithstanding the successes, he mentioned that there are few challenges including bad and impassable road conditions; weak coordination mechanisms by the implementing agency and census budget shortfall.
He thanked the Embassies of Sweden and Ireland, the World Bank, ECOWAS, the Government of Liberia, and the United Nations System in Liberia for their financial support.
Meanwhile, the main purpose of the send-off, as outlined by the UN official, is to seek the Government of Liberia and the entire citizenry’s buy-in in helping to create awareness, participation, cooperation, and support for the mapping exercise nationwide. The GIS Mapping exercise, he noted, is the most critical and crucial in the conduct of a successful census because it sets the stage for all other stages, adding “It has to be done correctly or all other aspects of the process will be wrong.”
Earlier in his speech, he named the there phases of census as the preparatory or pre-enumeration stages, enumeration stages, and data processing, analysis, dissemination, and utilization of the results. Currently, he said the government is at the preparatory or pre-enumeration stage which dominantly deals with mapping, questionnaire design, and pilot testing.