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Get ready to be counted tomorrow

By | August 23rd 2009

By Kenfrey Kiberenge

Where will you be Monday night? The National Census Committee wants you to be at home for the nationwide exercise that kicks off tomorrow night.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics was yesterday putting final touches on the Sh7 billion fifth National Census.

"Preparations are complete. Final touches are being put on logistics, deployment and security," said Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu, who also co-chairs the National Census Committee.

Population experts have warned that a combination of factors such as ignorance, poor family planning methods and lack of access to family planning services, could work against the country, thereby leading to a population explosion.

The 1999 census by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) had projected Kenya would have a modest population of 35,698,640 by the year 2009.

However, the same agency has returned varying projections in its subsequent economic surveys. In January 2007, KNBS estimated the country’s population to be at 36.1 million, a million people above its 1999 projections.

Other independent organisations have however put the population above the 1999 census projections. The United Nations Population Fund estimated Kenya had a population of 38 million last year, warning that if the current annual growth rate of 2.8 per cent – which is itself considerably higher than the world’s average of 1.2 per cent – the country’s population would stand at 51.3 million in 2025 and 65 million in 2050. The latter reflects an increase of 72 per cent over the current figure.

National Security

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), an independent US Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior US policymakers, World Factbook, has puts Kenya’s population at a 39,002,772.

And the results, shocking or otherwise, could come sooner than expected.

KNBS Director of Population and Social Statistics, Mr Collins Opiyo told The Standard on Sunday the United States Census Bureau has already given them a technology called Integrated Computer Assisted Data Entry that will hasten data processing and make it more accurate.

"The technology enables capturing of the data from the questionnaire via scanning. We have already adopted it. The US is also providing the help we need, including manpower to ensure the census is successful," the director said.

The technology will make the process of data entry, computation and interpretation faster.

The work will be complete in four months instead of two years like has been the case previously when data entry was done manually.

"This technology will assist us because we will be processing about 12 million copies of questionnaires," he said. Security agencies have also been put on high alert to ensure criminals do not take advantage to raid homes. "We have a big budget on security. The enumerators must also be protected, bearing in mind the census will be carried out at night," said Opiyo. The enumerators will be identified by their badges and uniform and will at times be accompanied by village elders.

Cultural Issues

On Friday, Planning Minister Wycliffe Oparanya said the exercise would be conducted during the day in areas that have high rate of insecurity.

Besides security concerns, the enumerators might be forced to contend with resentment from members of the public who may feel uncomfortable with some of the questions on the form.

Particularly, the inclusion of the one’s tribe among the questions has raised eyebrows with most Kenyans and donors reading mischief. However, Oparanya says the question is indispensable, adding the data would help in planning for health, education and cultural issues.

The minister explained that the Ministry of Health, for instance, uses tribe to determine some common diseases among a community and plan for health provision. However, past censuses have been blamed for creating non-existent communities as well as inflating the population figures of some communities for political reasons.

The enumerators will also face difficulties in counting travellers, pastoralists who keep moving from one area to another in search of pasture and the diverse cultural practices in some communities that prohibit counting of women, children and animals.

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