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A second time for census enumerator: Survey will be an instrument for progress

Juba, South Sudan – It was a hot summer day with temperature peaking at 38 degrees Celsius. Sweat trickling down his face, Malish John Clement was determined to complete his task for the day – to visit as many households as he can for the Population Estimation Survey (PES) currently taking place nationwide.

“Accurate data on the population is important for development planning. It will impact on the improvement of social services and infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, community health centers, as well as public utilities like water supply,” Mr. Clement patiently explains in local Arabic to members of a household who wanted to know more about the survey.

The exercise is not new to the 38-year-old soft-spoken enumerator. He also served as an enumerator during the 2008 Population and Housing Census when South Sudan was still part of Sudan.

Despite the discomfort of working under the heat of the sun, Mr. Clement expresses excitement to be part of the very first population survey, a milestone for for South Sudan – now an independent country – 13 years after the Sudan census.

Mr. Clement is hopeful that the enumeration would achieve its ultimate goal of bringing development to his country. Once the survey is completed, South Sudan will finally have a more reliable population data that can be used by government, development partners, NGOs, the private sector, and other stakeholders to plan for a more responsive development assistance and programming.

“So far so good,” Mr. Clement shares as he clutches to his chest a clipboard that holds the survey questionnaires. “Some houses we visited were empty. Some households took a long time before answering our knocks at the gate. But I exercise patience. I am happy that majority of the people are receptive.”

He says the awareness campaign in the media tremendously helped in spreading the information about the PES. Equally important is the support and involvement of local leaders as it builds confidence and trust among the community members towards the enumerators and the whole purpose of the survey itself.

Nyakuron West community leader James Amudi, who accompanied the enumerator in the house-to-house visits, couldn’t agree more. He says there is no reason why community leaders should not cooperate. “The successful completion of the exercise will help local leaders to develop plans to deliver social services that will be more responsive to the needs of the community,” he explains.

The National Bureau of Statistics leads the conduct of the PES in collaboration with UNFPA and the Geo-Referenced Infrastructure and Demographic Data for Development (GRID3) project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UKAid.

“Data that will be generated from the Population Estimation Survey will be used for policy formulation, planning and monitoring for development programs and humanitarian response, delivery of social services, governance reforms, and very importantly, in preparation for a national election,” according to National Bureau of Statistics Chairperson Isaac Chol.

The survey is also supported by the Irish Aid, WFP, UNDP, UNAIDS, UN Women, UNHCR, IOM, FAO, UNICEF and UNMISS.

- Text and photos by Juma Delu