• Short Summary

    The first national census day for twelve years is scheduled to be held in Peru on June 4.

  • Description

    The first national census day for twelve years is scheduled to be held in Peru on June 4. On that day thousands of social workers and government officials will conduct the census alongside teachers and students specially trained for the task. They hope to achieve an accurate population count, which is estimated at 13.5 million.

    One aspect of the census has been pinpointed as a "nightmare project" by officials. In Lima, hundreds of shanty-towns, known as "barriadas" sprawl over the surrounding hillsides. Three-hundred of these areas have been recognised as towns and the government has renamed them "pueblas jovenes" or young villages. Some 800,000 people, mostly drawn from rural areas, live in these slum areas.

    Conditions are very difficult for the people there, with a high incidence of disease and malnutrition. There are no resident doctors or police. The laws are their own, with methods of peace-keeping and self-help varying from area to area. Census takers, who have to count dwellings as well as people, do not yet know how they will tackle the problem of the shanty-towns there wood and cardboard dwellings merge indistinctly into each other.

    SYNOPSIS: This barriada or shanty-town on the hills surrounding Lima, is expected to pose a problem for Peru's census takers next month. The first national census in twelve years is expected to result in a figure of around thirteen and a half million. But nearly one million live in these slums around Lima.

    Census officials have been going from door to door in these areas asking people to stay at home on the fourth of June, the day of the census. Thousands of social workers and government officials will work alongside specially trained teachers and students to gather information.

    Ernesto Sanchez Silva, known to the people as "Poncho Negro" is probably the best known figure in the history of the barriadas. The shanty-towns began when people from the rural and mountain regions begin drifting to the outskirts of Lima in 1940, putting up their ramshackle dwellings made of cardboard and wood. Their settlements were technically illegal, but it was not until 1960 tat a special law was passed to prohibit further settlement. Poncho Negro views the forthcoming census with suspicion and sees it as a double edged sword, which could help the government identify the most needy areas or give them an excuse for weakening the potential power of self-supporting and self-styled barriadas.

    Census takers have been working closely with city architects, for they must count dwellings as well as people. Planning maps are being used to familiarise the census takers with the complex and interlocking system of straw, wood and cardboard dwellings.

    Most of the people in these areas lack basic amenities such as fresh water. There are no resident doctors and disease and malnutrition are commonplace. The laws are their own and are enforced with varying effectiveness, depending on the people in each area. Unemployment is high, with few jobs available for them either in the barriadas or in the centre of Lima. Their outlook is uncertain, as many experts say that reform cannot be achieved without completely destroying the shanty-towns and their attendant sub-culture.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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