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Liberia: US$18.9 Million Census Set for March 2021

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Monrovia – Liberia’s next round of National Population and Housing Census is now all set for March 2021. This census, which is expected to be the fifth in Liberia’s 172-year history, is likely to reveal the country’s constantly growing population. 

The first four modern censuses in 1962, 1974, 1984 and 2008 revealed how the population had increased differently beginning at 1.1 million, 1.5, 2.1 and 3.5 million respectively. 

This round of census, which was postponed in violation of the Constitution, which mandates in Article 39: “The Legislature shall cause a census of the Republic to be undertaken every ten years,” is expected to be the first census to use digital technology at all phases of preparation, geographic planning, census-taking, data management, processing, tabulation, publication, archiving and dissemination, according to Professor Francis Fonanyeneh Wreh, Director-General, Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), the arm of the Liberian Government statutorily responsible for this exercise.

Speaking on why the census, which should have been held in 2018 by law was delayed, DG Wreh said it was due to “untimely and inadequate funding. This is one major reason why the 10-year periodicity of census taking as enshrined in the United National Principles and Recommendations was slightly exceeded.” He added, however, “We are still operating within the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Censuses (2015 – 2024).”

He told the gathering that his institution, working along with the specialized UN organ, the United Nations Fund for Population (UNFPA), developed a comprehensive Census Project Document (CPD) that will serve as source for support and resource mobilization for all processes of the 2021 Census undertaking. 

Prof. Wreh spoke Tuesday, October 8, at the signing ceremony of the CPD and put the cost of the census at US$18,880,533.94.

He called on Liberia’s development partners to participate in this massive project, which according to him, promises to make available tools for development policymaking, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development programming. 

“This document covers the evaluation of the 2021 Census processes, the expected structure of the 2021 National Population and Housing Census Secretariat, roles and responsibilities of different census committees, the institutional capacity assessment of the National Statistics Office (NSO) for a successful conduct of the census in order to find response to need requirements and to proactively fill the gaps.”  

According to him, together with UNFPA, LISGIS has been able to finalize important items including the CPD, census budget analysis and census operations, census activity detail, census advocacy concept note, advocacy and communication strategy, census project implementation manual, assessment of the statistical capacity of LISGIS, guidelines for selection of technologies for Liberia 2021 NPHC, a six-month census fast track work plan and report of the second nationwide assessment for statistical capacity.

Also speaking on behalf of the UN Family, UNFPA Resident Representative Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi said it was a defining moment that signals the official start of the census program after he and others had signed the CPD.

“The CPD was developed with Government of Liberia and UNFPA upon joint consultation on the details of program content, outcomes, output, indicators, milestones, strategies and activities that will collectively deliver the census,” Dr. Ndyananbangi said.

Describing the CPD as a very important milestone in the cooperation between both parties, he hoped that the collaborative efforts that they have achieved this far will continue; adding: “We can collectively work towards putting the country on course to fully achieve the census program goals.”

He disclosed that all the UN organizations involved with the census will combine their efforts and resources in support of a common goal of improving availability, storage, accessibility and utilization of reliable data for effective planning, monitoring and evaluation at central and decentralized levels in Liberia. 

“The objective of this is part of United Nations’ support to the improvement of data for development planning, monitoring and evaluation in the implementation of the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and other international development frameworks that the Government is a signatory to,” he added. 

According to the UNFPA Resident Rep., their collaboration with LISGIS strengthen its capacity at central and decentralized levels for the management of an effective and efficient information system and ensure that statistical units in the emerging decentralization program are equipped with reliable and accurate data for local council management and development program.     

Also speaking, a representative of the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia, stated that they have donated 70 million Swedish Krona (US$7,038,850), which according to her, is a large chunk of the US$18.9 million needed for the census.

She called on the Liberian government to take ownership of the project and to make its contribution, too.

The ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Amb. Babatunde Olanrewaju Ajisomo, pledged the full dedication of the regional body’s radio— ECOWAS Radio— to fully broadcast everything pertaining to the census as its signal is heard in every nook and cranny of Liberia. 

Representative Larry Younquoi stated that from their side at the Legislature, they will use their oversight power so that the census processes can go on as scheduled. 

Also speaking, Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah praised the partners and the government for achieving a milestone by the signing of the CPD; adding: “This formally commences the Census 2021.”

Min. Tweah disclosed that so far the government has given US$1 million and it placed US$2 million in the 2019/2020 national budget, which will bring the total to US$3 million. According to the Minister, the amount is part of the US$6 million the government pledged toward the census process. 

Among other things, he stressed that communication should play a very key role in the census processes. The Finance Minister promised to work assiduously with the LISGIS team to ensure that a very good communication strategy is put in place so as to achieve the desired result of the census.   

The Census Project Document (CPD) was signed by Min. Tweah, LISGIS DG Wreh and UNFPA Resident Rep. Ndyanabangi.    

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