OP-ED: Reflecting on Somalia’s Progress to Achieve a Population and Housing Census on World Population Day
Today, we commemorate World Population Day, a global event that highlights the importance of population issues. The population count plays a crucial role in determining the distribution of resources and assistance to different regions and communities. It also helps the government make informed decisions on how to meet the specific needs of its people based on their demographics.
At UNFPA, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, we understand the significance of data and demographic information in shaping our strategies and achieving our objectives effectively. Through our expertise in population and development data, we strive to find solutions to the challenges humanity faces today. By focusing on birth spacing, maternal health, and gender-based violence, we aim to create infinite possibilities for a better world. Population and demographic data are essential tools in mapping and addressing inequalities and meeting crucial developmental needs.
In recent years, Africa has witnessed a wave of population and housing censuses. Countries like Egypt, Algeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana, and Nigeria have successfully conducted these censuses or have plans to do so. In Somalia, where I currently lead UNFPA’s country program, the government plans to conduct a population and housing census in November 2024 with our support. This census will provide vital information on population size, distribution, and demographics, enabling targeted service delivery to those in need. It will also help in democratic representation, national planning, and protection of minority rights. Additionally, it will enhance preventive and mitigation measures for climate-related challenges and displacement.
In preparation for the census, a delegation from UNFPA and the Somali government visited the National Institute of Statistics in Rwanda. This visit allowed us to learn from Rwanda’s success in conducting a census and understand the critical roles and collaborations needed for a successful census. Rwanda’s experience is particularly relevant to Somalia as it demonstrates how post-conflict societies can recover and rebuild.
One key lesson we learned from Rwandan officials is the importance of making the census a top priority for the government. This commitment from the highest level of governance helps mobilize technical and financial support from local and international partners. Partnerships will be crucial for Somalia’s success, and UNFPA will continue to support the government in its preparations for the census.
Our goal at UNFPA is to empower individuals to live quality lives and ensure the well-being of all, especially young girls. By focusing on gender equality and empowering women and girls, we create thriving communities. We believe that the upcoming census in Somalia will contribute to a more inclusive society and equip the country to address future demographic changes.
As the Country Representative of UNFPA in Somalia, I am optimistic about the transformative impact the census will have on the country. Together, we can build a better future for all.