Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, September 22nd, 2017

CSO Estimations and Population Census in Afghanistan

The Central Statistics Organization (CSO) of Afghanistan has estimated the country’s population to be around 29.2 million people including 14.2 million women. In its 1395 solar year’s statistical yearbook released on Tuesday, the Organization estimated that 6.9 million people live in urban centers and 20.8 million in rural areas. There are many other estimates as well in the book regarding population, agriculture, education, health, stock, industry, construction, rehabilitation, energy, services, foreign business, currency and foreign aid. However, it is disheartening to see that these estimates are not based on any comprehensive census data; rather they are based on obsolete data and varied sources.
The most reliable information about the whole population within a society can only be measured through a comprehensive scientific census. Afghanistan's first census carried out in 1979-80 could not be completed because of the political changes in the region. For almost thirty-six years the country has depended on the same data, which contained major errors. Later on, a census was scheduled for 2008, but it was further postponed for 2010, and again it could not be conducted that year as well. Estimations that are available as that of 2010 are also with many controversies. They are derived from the incomplete census of 1979. The most current statistics are also based on the same projections. These estimations are not considered true representative of the people of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the structure of Afghan society has been very diverse. The estimations depicted today about Afghanistan's demography by many statistical sources are overwhelmingly opposed by different ethnic groups in the country. They believe that these estimations tend to misrepresent different ethnic groups. Such controversies in the country can serve as severe blow to democratic evolution and can discriminate the people from their true representation in the government.
The statistics by CSO are also dependent on the earlier incomplete projections and many other sources. These sources are diverse in nature and do not unify into a single whole homogeneously. Moreover, some of the data are based on samplings; though they can have certain accuracies in some specific areas, they are not always useful for making projections about the population as a whole. In fact, nothing can substitute a comprehensive and scientific census, and in case of Afghanistan this substitution becomes even more difficult as there has never been a complete census in the country.
The diverse and suffering people of Afghanistan have been in dire need of such census. Large amounts of funds and support have poured in Afghanistan for the last few years but because of no detailed data available for its population, the deficiencies have not been identified appropriately and the funds and supports have not been able to be used effectively and for the required areas.
It is important to understand that a reliable information through comprehensive census is of utmost importance for policymaking, planning and decision making and administration. The authorities relevant to public administration can receive valuable information from census data, which makes them capable of making better decisions and design effective policies and arrangements. Apart from that the same data and information can be really helpful in management and evaluation of programs in education sector, housing, health facilities, labor force, transportation and other necessary areas that are essential for public welfare. Without reliable census data, the deficiencies and the shortcomings in the areas mentioned above cannot be ascertained and the authorities cannot carryout effective decisions on how and where to allocate resources and how often to do so. One of the most important uses of the census data is in the demarcation of constituencies and the allocation of representation to governing bodies. This use of census data can be helpful in providing just government system, which is one of the most basic requirements of a democratic society. Proper representation of the people in accordance to their number and their constituencies strengthens the grass root democratic patterns and provides a platform to resolve conflicts and to give every member of a society representation in the government. This concept is the true demand of diverse societies, like that of Afghanistan, which is composed of various races and ethnic groups.
Afghanistan requires a comprehensive and reliable data about its people, not just weak projections, and the solution lies in a comprehensive, detailed, scientific and unbiased population census in the country. The relevant authorities in the country must take practical measures in order to facilitate such a census. International community along with UNFPA, that are determined to carry on population census in all the countries of the world that have been suffering in this regard, can cash the opportunity in Afghanistan to inculcate in the minds of the concerned authorities and common people the importance of a detailed population census. The government, simultaneously, must make sure that all efforts in this regard are facilitated in the best possible way and with complete devotion and sincerity.