Population Matters

Accurate information on population trends is essential for developing sound policies that affect the daily lives and wellbeing of millions in Afghanistan. Policies can only reflect the needs of people on the ground if they are supported by solid population data, such as the numbers and distribution of populations, their gender profile, socioeconomic status, and access to services, among other indicators. 

Accurate information on population trends is essential for developing sound policies that affect the daily lives and wellbeing of millions in Afghanistan. Policies can only reflect the needs of people on the ground if they are supported by solid population data, such as the numbers and distribution of populations, their gender profile, socioeconomic status, and access to services, among other indicators. 

Years of conflict have contributed to a devastating brain drain. This has meant that updated data has not been available for decades and the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) of Afghanistan, the government body responsible for collecting and analysing data, has suffered a loss of critical skills and capacity. 

The last census was conducted in 1979 and was itself incomplete, yet it forms the basis for extrapolations that affect policymaking in 2014. Meanwhile, political insecurity and capacity considerations have posed challenges to plans for a new census (last proposed in 2008). Although there has been some progress in conducting nationally sampled surveys, such as the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment 2011-2012, the Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2010-2011 and the Afghanistan Mortality Survey 2010, most databases do not form part of an integrated nation-wide statistical system. 

To address this, the CSO is now implementing the Socio-Demographic and Economic Survey (SDES), a detailed population analysis which will eventually be conducted in every province of the country.

UNFPA achievements

  • The Central Statistics Organization, with technical support from UNFPA, has conducted a Socio-demographic and Economic Survey in six provinces of Afghanistan, in lieu of a census. This represents the first time in 30 years that robust and up-to-date demographic data is available to support policy making in Afghanistan.
  • Geographical Information System surveyaccompanied the SDES, which provided an accurate mapping of communities, including local schools, hospitals and mosques, and will be an invaluable aid in granular disaster planning.
  • UNFPA has provided technical support to CSO staff,helping to improve survey planning, data collection, processing, analysis and data dissemination.
  • UNFPA supports members of parliament to develop better legislation, by supporting the drafting of laws and laying the groundwork for the use of robust national population data for policy and planning.
  • Population and Development Forum was established for the lower house of Parliament.