Saturday, March 22, 2008

National Census Day

On March 21, 2008 Liberians were told to stay in their residences - shops were closed, government building were empty, and the streets, for the most part, were clear. This day marked the kick-off of a three day national census - the first in over 24 years.

Census counters have chalked houses, huts, and property through each of Liberia's 15 counties and crafted a unique list of questions to collect demographic and socio-economic information. A recent Washington Post article numbers but a few of the challenges the national census takers will face. ("Liberia Readies 1st Census in 24 Years")

The Liberians I know have different plans for the day. While some see the process as part of their civic duty and plan to stay home, recognizing that government funds and public services will likely be influenced by the results, others welcome the Friday as just another day off of work to do errands. Many left homes in Monrovia to repatriate to their counties of origin, leaving some skeptical of results and everyone anxious to see results. Others still, are puzzled by the timing of the event.

Good Friday, coincidentally the first day of census, is the biggest church-going day of the year - Easter, this Sunday, is not far behind. It seems strange, then, to schedule a national event that requires citizens to stay in their residence on a weekend when many were planning to travel, or least spend a majority of their time in church. The executive branch explained that the census was scheduled early last year around other events. The Liberia Institute of Statistics & Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), the implementing body does not anticipate skewed results due to Easter weekend.

Most organizations estimate Liberia's current population to hover around the 3.6 million mark, a number based on assumptions about population growth and migration, among others. While the process will most likely encounter minor challenges and setbacks, the National Census will provide valuable data where there has been a shortage of concrete statistics for over two decades.

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