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Census plans on track despite displacement

Internally displaced persons prepare a meal at the Mathare police depot, Mathare, Kenya. March 2008.
(Allan Gichigi/IRIN)

The political crisis in Kenya caused major population movements that may require a repeat of cartographic mapping in some areas before the 2009 census, but plans for the official count are on track, a government official told IRIN.

"We are revising our work plan and looking at areas where we might have to repeat cartographic mapping but we expect to hold the census on 25 August 2009 as planned," said Chris Omolo, the census manager and principal economist at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

"We expect to be through with cartographic mapping countrywide by March 2009, May at the latest."

With the support of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and other stakeholders, the development of all instruments for the exercise - manuals, questionnaires, etc - is expected to be ready in time.

Kemal Mustafa, UNFPA representative in Kenya, said early preparation was crucial. "Logistical mobilisation will not be easy as we head up to the census," Mustafa said. "Lack of census data slows down the process through which the government can plan for the numbers of people requiring services."

The January-February post-election violence had affected settlement patterns in parts of the country, Omolo said, but the statistics bureau had yet to assess the extent of this disruption.

"We expect things to go back to normal as we are now seeing many of those who had been displaced returning home," he said. If, by August 2009, there were still internally displaced persons in the country, then "they will be counted wherever they will be".

Nyanza, Rift Valley and Western provinces bore the brunt of the crisis.

''Though we have lost some time because of the crisis, we still expect to conduct the census on time; it all depends on how things settle in the next few months''

"When the violence erupted, cartographic mapping had been done in Nyanza, Western and parts of Rift Valley, excluding Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia districts, where we had just undertaken sensitisation ahead of the mapping," Omolo said. "There are a few areas we may have to go back to and repeat the mapping. We have suspended mapping in some areas where there was massive population movement."

The bureau, he added, was currently focusing on areas least affected by the violence, such as Eastern and Central provinces, where cartographic mapping was ongoing.

"Though we have lost some time because of the crisis, we still expect to conduct the census on time; it all depends on how things settle in the next few months," Omolo said. "We base the census on the people's places of abode and come the census night, we will consider all households wherever they will be."

Given that the post-election crisis later took on ethnic dimensions, Omolo said, the bureau was treating the issue of formulating questions aimed at establishing ethnicity "very seriously".

During the census in 1989 and in 1999, respondents were asked their ethnic backgrounds. But whereas the data regarding ethnicity was made public after the 1989 census, the findings for the 1999 census were not, due to the "sensitivity" of the issue.

The process of formulating the questionnaire for the 2009 census is under way, Omolo said, adding that it took into account compatibility with international standards and past practice.

Zipporah Gathiti, UNFPA monitoring and evaluation officer, said the agency was supporting KNBS in the development of an advocacy strategy, through the establishment of publicity teams that would be sent out on sensitisation campaigns ahead of the census.

The agency was also assisting KNBS in its development of an internet-based software system, the Integrated Multi-sectoral Information System (IMIS), which would eventually make census data available to the public.

Data from the 1989 and 1999 census had been uploaded to IMIS, she said. "A population census is the most comprehensive data collection you can have," Gathiti said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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