By ALISON ANIS
TODAY marks the beginning of the national population and housing census, a significant national event this week, The National reports.
This is a time when Papua New Guineans, including babies born last night, will be included in the nationwide population tally executed through the National Statistical Office (NSO).
The population census is held every 10 years. This year's census starts today and ends on Sunday.
That means all 37,000-odd interviewers and supervisors, comprising the census team, would travel to all corners of the country, over mountains and through valleys, and to more than 600 small outer islands of the country, going from house to house to do a national body count.
They, in their white census T-shirts and caps, would be the key players in the event.
The NSO management team is appealing to communities nationwide to welcome them, cooperate with them by providing information required during the enumeration process.
National statistician Joseph Aka and his team had promised at the provincial census coordinators' workshop in May that the census would go ahead this year "come rain, hail or shine".
This was to dispel doubts that the census could again be delayed because of funding and logistical problems as was the case last year.
There have been no reports of hiccups in regards to the moving of census materials from provincial headquarters to the districts, local level governments or wards. It had been the team's biggest worry from the start given the tough geographical locations and problems created by sub-standard infrastructure and transport system.
Aka had assured his team at the outset: "It has been done before and it can be done again."
National Census director Hajily Kele had pointed out before the main enumeration that while most of the census materials had left their "control room" in Waigani, the responsibility was left to the provincial census co-ordinators to move the materials from provincial headquarters to the LLG and wards.
Borneo Pacific Pharmaceutical Ltd was engaged by NSO on a K5 million contract to take care of census logistics.
The last enumeration conducted in 2000 recorded a population of more than five million, with females outnumbering males in the country.
NCD, as the capital, was among provinces which had the highest number of people. Manus and Bougainville had a smaller number of people compared to the rest of the country.
Other independent surveys have placed the population mark at 6.5 million.
But much has happened over the last 10 years. Amid the economic boom, there have been reports of a baby boom, with more than 1,000 babies born in PNG hospitals around the country each month.
Health statistics however reveal that the country has poor health indicators, including high infant and maternal mortality rates, in the Pacific region.
According to the demographic health survey of 2006, five women die everyday during childbirth in PNG.
The statistics also revealed that we have the highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific. HIV/AIDS had taken a toll on many families nationwide. Many are infected and many have died, or are dying from the disease.
The country had also battled diseases such as cholera from natural disasters.
There had many accident-related deaths in recent years, and killing has soared due to increased lawlessness.