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Up-to-date and reliable national data on population is critical for evidence-based planning and decision-making that aim to bring progress and sustainable development in South Sudan, according to Vice President James Wani Igga at the launch of the 2021 Population Estimation Survey (PES) in Juba on Thursday.

“Insufficient data is a major challenge to evidence-based planning and programming in South Sudan. At present, population data available for the country is derived from the 2008 population and housing census, which was conducted when South Sudan was still part of the Republic of Sudan,” the Vice President said.

The PES, which will be conducted from May 1-15, is a hybrid census that will count people in households in selected areas of the country. The information to be obtained from the sample sites will be used to come up with modelled data for the areas not reached by the survey until an estimation is generated for the whole country. Results from the survey will guide the planning for the conduct of a full population and household census in 2022-2023.

Partners doing development, peacebuilding and humanitarian work in South Sudan would benefit from the survey as information generated will support a more efficient use of limited resources and ensure that programmes are responsive to the needs of the people.

During the launch, Mr. Jamal Arafat, acting UN Resident Coordinator, said the United Nations in South Sudan is committed to support PES to its completion in terms of funding, technical assistance and logistical support. The PES requires a total budget of USD 3 million to be fully implemented.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has raised more than USD 1 million, which has been utilized for trainings for the National Bureau of Statistics and other partners, procurement of high-resolution satellite imagery equipment, and recruitment of field personnel, among others. Other UN agencies such as IOM, WFP and UNAIDS, UN Women and FAO have provided digital tablets for enumeration and financial support amounting to about USD200,000.

The Governments of Sweden and Ireland have also contributed USD 400,000 and USD 300,000, respectively for the national survey. The neighbouring Kenyan government has sent census gadgets in support of the PES.

Mr. Arafat emphasized the importance of an up-to-date population data in monitoring the country’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “More than 80 per cent of the 230 indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals require population data for monitoring. It is about time that we accurately track South Sudan’s progress on the SDGs, identify the people most in need of our assistance, and develop programmes that will ensure that no one is left behind,” he said.

Mr. Isaiah Chol, chair of the National Bureau of Statistics which is taking the lead for the national survey, said that aside from the full-fledged census in 2022-2023, the PES will also serve as bridge for conducting a Demographic Health Survey and a Demographic Dividend Survey. Information from the survey results will be used to develop modelled infrastructure data for water and sanitation, lands, settlements, roads, education, health, agriculture, and other services.

UNFPA, the data agency for the UN, has brought in international experts from the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) Project, to support the generation and validation of geospatial data. Partners for the GRID3 include the Columbia University, WorldPop and Flowminder. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UKAid.