Mogadishu — The Somali government, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is planning to conduct a comprehensive census that will count Mogadishu residents for the first time since 1975.
Director General at the Ministry of Finance and Planning Abdullahi Sheikh Mohamed said the census count is an effort to "obtain ample information about the number of residents in Mogadishu, which will help in issuing official documents".
Mohamed said that hundreds of high school and university students would be stationed in offices in 16 districts in Mogadishu to help administer the census.
The newly formed Kahda district, home to several military compounds and formerly part of Dharkenly district in southern Mogadishu, will not be part of the census due to security concerns, officials told Sabahi.
"We have started a training course on the principles of statistics and analysis and we have formed committees for population and household census," Mohamed said. "In this regard, we intend to co-operate with our partners from the Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, the Somali Minister of Development and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Interior and National Security."
"We have also asked UN agencies to provide the necessary funding and logistical support in order to assist the census teams that will be moving between the different neighbourhoods and implementing the population count in all its multiple stages," he said.
Before starting the count, the census plan will be presented to a logistical committee for review and then sent to the cabinet for approval, Mohamed said, adding that the exercise would likely begin before mid-March and is expected to be completed in 60 days.
The UNFPA will help monitor the census campaign in Mogadishu.
"After the success of the registration and statistics gathering process in Mogadishu, the Somali government will look into launching a census campaign in all the central, northern and southern provinces," Mohamed told Sabahi. "High school and university graduates will participate in this effort, which will be implemented in large parts of the country."
Hassan Adde, head of the management department at the Ministry of Finance and Planning, said the youths participating in the exercise were selected by community leaders in their respective districts and will be given a stipend of $100 a month.
He said census takers would be divided into groups and dispatched by district to every household in the city to complete the census forms. Internally displaced persons will also be included in the count.
Adde said the Somali government is determined to conduct the census despite the challenges ahead. Somalia's renewal of diplomatic relations with its allies around the world and the return of international and regional organisations to the country gave the government a needed boost, he said.
"We have a long way ahead and a difficult path towards completing the census, but the end result will be appreciated by all of us Somalis," Adde told Sabahi. "Our goal is to come up with accurate figures that will help us build development projects put forward by strategists as a matter of priority."
"We think that having information about the population count will be hugely important in providing basic services for those living in the suburbs, villages, towns and cities," he said. "This includes building hospitals, healthcare facilities, universities and primary and secondary schools, as well as providing electricity and clean water supplies and delivering infrastructure and economic and service sector projects."
According to Doctors Without Borders, Mogadishu's population is estimated to be more than 2 million, half of whom are internally displaced persons.
There is no accurate demographic data on Somalia's population outside the capital, and most censuses conducted before the collapse of the central government and the onset of the civil war were not successfully published, according to the United Nations Development Programme.
Abdinasir Roble Abubakar, who teaches statistics and physics at SIMAD University in Mogadishu, told Sabahi that the Somali government tried to conduct a census in 1986, but the project was stopped in its tracks due to the outbreak of war in the northern and central parts of the country.
He said selecting individuals with scientific and leadership qualities to spearhead the census campaign would help make the population count efforts successful.
He urged officials from the Ministry of Finance and Planning to hold statistics workshops for the contributors, volunteers and others involved in the process to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the data collected.