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Reliable population data are needed for countries to develop policies and programmes. Adding to the demand for data are emerging issues such as climate change, migration, disaster management including humanitarian response, and reliable electoral process for good governance.

Population and housing censuses remain the main source of population data in the absence of strong and well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics systems.

A population and housing census generates data for the number of people in a country as well as how people are distributed and their living conditions. This information is critical for development because without accurate data, governments are not able to make informed decisions about where to spend money on critical infrastructure such as roads, health clinics and schools. Without accurate data, people’s needs cannot be planned for or met.

Although an increasing number of countries in East and Southern Africa are participating in regular population and housing censuses, there is still limited in-depth analysis, dissemination and use of disaggregated, accurate data and information about their populations.

For sustainable development to occur, there needs to be reliable data on population dynamics, youth, gender, and sexual and reproductive health. The information is needed for planning programmes, including preparing for and responding to humanitarian and emergency situations.

Yet, carrying out a population and housing census is an enormous and complex task. Apart from counting people, a census also measures critical issues such as fertility, deaths, housing conditions and people’s movement. The information gathered is used to predict demographic trends, as well as inequalities in wealth, education and employment.

UNFPA’s response

UNFPA works with institutions and assists governments with the conducting of national censuses during the regular round of censuses. The Fund provides the following strategic support:    

  • Resource mobilization and advocacy for political support to the census
  • Providing expertize and strengthening national and regional capacity for high quality implementation of the round of censuses
  • Strengthening partnerships and south-south cooperation
  • Quality assurance and census oversight

The Fund also assists governments and other partners to ensure that the data is disseminated widely and used to inform national development.