The most recent official census by the Comoran government, conducted in 1991, put the islands' population, exclusive of Mahoré, at 446,817. Official counts put the population of Mahoré at 67,167 in 1985 and 94,410 in 1991--a 40 percent increase in just six years.
Average population density in Comoros was 183 persons per square kilometer in 1980. This figure concealed a great disparity between the republic's most crowded island, Nzwani, which had a density of 470 persons per square kilometer in 1991; Njazidja, which had a density of 250 persons per square kilometer in 1991; and Mwali, where the 1991 population density figure was 120 persons per square kilometer. Overall population density increased to about 285 persons per square kilometer by 1994. Mahoré's population density went from 179 persons per square kilometer in 1985 to 251 per square kilometer in 1991.
By comparison, estimates of the population density per square kilometer of the Indian Ocean's other island microstates ranged from 241 (Seychelles) to 690 (Maldives) in 1993. Given the rugged terrain of Njazidja and Nzwani, and the dedication of extensive tracts to agriculture on all three islands, population pressures on Comoros are becoming increasingly critical. A similar situation obtains on Mahoré.
The age structure of the population of Comoros is similar to that of many developing countries, in that the republic has a very large proportion of young people. In 1989, 46.4 percent of the population was under fifteen years of age, an above-average proportion even for sub-Saharan Africa. The population's rate of growth was a relatively high 3.5 percent per annum in the mid1980s , up substantially from 2.0 percent in the mid-1970s and 2.1 percent in the mid-1960s.
In 1983 the Abdallah regime borrowed US$2.85 million from the IDA to devise a national family planning program. However, Islamic reservations about contraception made forthright advocacy and implementation of birth control programs politically hazardous, and consequently little was done in the way of public policy.
The Comoran population has become increasingly urbanized in recent years. In 1991 the percentage of Comorans residing in cities and towns of more than 5,000 persons was about 30 percent, up from 25 percent in 1985 and 23 percent in 1980. Comoros' largest cities were the capital, Moroni, with about 30,000 people, and the port city of Mutsamudu, on the island of Nzwani, with about 20,000 people. Mahoré's capital, Dzaoudzi, had a population of 5,865 according to the 1985 census; the island's largest town, Mamoudzou, had 12,026 people.
Migration among the various islands is relatively small. Natives of Njazidja often settle in less crowded Mwali, and before independence people from Nzwani commonly moved to Mahoré. In 1977 Mahoré expelled peasants from Njazidja and Nzwani who had recently settled in large numbers on the island. Some were allowed to reenter starting in 1981 but solely as migrant labor.
The number of Comorans living abroad has been estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000; most of them lived in Tanzania, Madagascar, and other parts of East Africa. The number of Comorans residing in Madagascar was drastically reduced after anti-Comoran rioting in December 1976 in Mahajanga, in which at least 1,400 Comorans were killed. As many as 17,000 Comorans left Madagascar to seek refuge in their native land in 1977 alone. About 40,000 Comorans live in France; many of them had gone there for a university education and never returned. Small numbers of Indians, Malagasy, South Africans, and Europeans live on the islands and play an important role in the economy.
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