MONROVIA – The initial 10 days stipulated for the conduct of the 2022 national population and housing census has elapsed, however, only 40,027 people, representing less than five percent of the estimate, have been counted so far.
The slow pace of the counting, according to the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) is mainly due to logistical challenges and difficulties in reaching hard-to-reach counties in the Southeast and lack of adequate awareness.
By FPA Staff Writer
“We need to engage the communities – social mobilization is critical at this stage – we need to get out and move door-to-door and publicize the census. We need to engage influential people to ensure that census happens,” said LISGIS technical while updating the Vice President and Representatives of Foreign Missions on the progress of the census.
The census is very crucial at this time because its results would help the National Elections Commission to reapportion electoral districts for the 2023 elections.
Stakeholders such as institutional leaders, clergy, school authorities, and community leaders, including chiefs, elders, and student organizations have been called on to get involved in sensitizing members of the communities and congregations on the importance of partaking in the census and being counted.
The December 2 deadline, a revision from the timeline of November 11 to 22 may be impossible to accomplish due to the challenges confronting the conduct of the census. LISIGIS, however, expressed optimism of reaching the target and the deadline.
However, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor expressed her doubts over the completion of the census on December 2. She proposed December 10 as a realistic date for the completion of the overdue exercise.
With the census deadline extended for the second time, it would seem that LISGIS must pull all stops in order that the new timeline leading to December 10 is achieved with a significant share of the population counted, as much as 90 percent or better.
The 2022 census is the first in 15 years though the Constitution requires that a population census be held every 10 years.
In view of the challenges with logistics and the upcoming Christmas festive season with many people traveling domestically in and out of the country, experts who prefer anonymity say the credibility of the data cannot be guaranteed.
Experts say in order for a population census to the credible, it must have universality, individual enumeration, the simultaneity of enumeration (meaning counting must occur at or about the same time), periodicity, publication, and dissemination. Since counting is being done at the same time households are being enumerated, the time lag between the actual counting of people in all parts of the country could be compromised due to domestic travel. This is what census experts refer to as the floating population, including transients (homeless residents) and people who travel away from home for work or business.
Friday, November 11 was announced in a Proclamation by President George Manneh Weah to be a public holiday allowing people to stay home to be counted, but it has now become glaring that the level of preparedness to conduct the census at the time of the proclamation was zero.
It is believed that Wilmot Smith, who was the Deputy Director General for Operations at LISGIS was dismissed by the President last week due to the floppy note on which the census began. He was dismissed along with the Deputy Director General for Statistics, Alex Williams.
LISGIS authorities are reportedly asking for more money from the Census Basket Fund to promulgate the new timetable and have asked cultural leaders such as Julie Endee to support the Census.
Liberia’s international partners, especially the technical support staff at the UNFPA is also criticized by experts for not monitoring the activities to ensure that preconditions to conduct a census were being achieved based on funding allocation and disbursement.