Polio Vaccination Campaign
In October 2021, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported two polio cases in Bissau and one in Biombo, a region neighboring the capital of Guinea-Bissau. The Ministry of Public Health, with assistance from UNICEF, WHO and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative commenced two polio vaccination campaigns in 2022. “Polio Never Again” vaccinated hundreds of thousands of children in April and June 2022, successfully preventing the spread of the disease, and ensuring that no child in Guinea-Bissau will suffer from polio in the future.

The Vaccination Process in the Polio Vaccination Campaign

Guinea-Bissau’s vaccination campaign involved 3,385 volunteers, split into 677 teams, who traveled door to door in rural communities during the first round of the campaign. UNICEF reports that the campaign began in front of Guinea-Bissau’s Ministry of Public Health on April 27 and decentralized from there. In addition to administering the polio vaccine, teams also administered Vitamin A and Mebendazole.

Upon receiving their vaccinations, vaccination teams marked the children with blue for identification and counted and registered the number of children per household. Purchasing 907,000 doses of polio vaccines and five refrigerators for storage beforehand, the Ministry of Health ensured that the vaccination teams possessed sufficient vaccines when traveling across neighborhoods and villages. Furthermore, Guinea-Bissau’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) strategically planned the targeted households before the start of the campaign, guaranteeing that every child would receive a dose of the polio vaccine.

Succeeding in Spite of Obstacles

Despite the campaign’s eventual success, Guinea-Bissau’s polio vaccination campaign faced several issues throughout the two vaccination rounds. For instance, since Guinea-Bissau contains multiple islands, such as in the Bijagos archipelago which consists of 88 islands, many families frequently traveled between the islands and to the mainland and were hard to track. Coupled with limited transportation methods, vaccination teams often experienced time-consuming routes to vaccinate all children. Fortunately, by frequently interacting with each other, the vaccination teams were able to track down the vast majority of households in Guinea-Bissau.

Another problem that arose during the campaign occurred due to the cashew harvest season, which forced many children to travel to cashew nut fields with their parents. Considering the fact that cashews are among Guinea-Bissau’s top exports, many households rely on cashew harvesting for money, forcing both parents and children alike to take advantage of the short season. Luckily, by consistently interacting and providing updates to one another, the vaccination teams and CHWs were able to track down the majority of households for polio vaccination.

A Brighter Future

By the end of the second vaccination round in June 2022, Guinea-Bissau successfully vaccinated 340,462 children in the nation. With 99.2% of children under 5 vaccinated, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative considered Guinea-Bissau’s polio vaccination campaign a success, with the coordinator of the organization labeling Guinea-Bissau a “pioneer” for reaping such positive results. Furthermore, the vaccination campaign’s strategy also helped create the framework for successive national measles campaigns. Overall, because of such results of its polio vaccination campaign, one can say that Guinea-Bissau has successfully eradicated polio in children for the foreseeable future.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

New Schools
In most cases, high poverty rates and poor education go hand-in-hand with each other. However, some of the poorest nations in the world are taking steps to better their educational systems. One of the best ways to do this is to increase access to education by creating new schools.

La Salle Secondary School, South Sudan

In 2011, South Sudan gained independence and became the world’s youngest country after decades of civil war. Unfortunately, it also became one of the world’s poorest countries with a national poverty rate of 82.3% in 2016.

In addition to its high poverty, according to data from 2018, just about a third of the country’s population is literate. With less than 5% of eligible children attending secondary school and “72% of primary-aged children” not attending primary school in 2017, South Sudan is “the most educationally challenged [country] in the world,” the La Salle International Foundation says.

In response to the issue, in 2018, the De La Salle Brothers established a new all-boys high school in Rumbek. The school can hold more than 300 students and training has been provided to local teachers to ensure that students are receiving the best education possible. Classes at the La Salle Secondary School began in 2019.

Royal International College, Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is located on the West Coast of Africa and is the only African country to have Spanish as its primary language. Despite standing as a resource-rich country thanks to its minerals and oil reserves, it still had a poverty rate of 76.8% in 2006.

Education in Equatorial Guinea is cost-free and mandatory for children up until age 14. However, Equatorial Guinea tends to have “high dropout rates,” and in 2004, just 50% of primary-aged students attended primary school in the country, the U.N. said.

Also, the entire country has only one main tertiary institution for post-secondary students, the National University of Equatorial Guinea. The goal of the Royal International College is to provide more post-secondary options for students while preparing them for the global stage. The Royal International College plans to open in 2023, boasting an internationally accredited curriculum and international teachers. The school will contain 20 classrooms, a computer lab, a science lab, a reading room and various recreational facilities.

Bougainvillea, Madagascar

Africa’s island nation, Madagascar, had a poverty rate of 70.7% in 2012. According to UNESCO, as for education, one-third of Madagascar’s children do not finish primary school. Furthermore, 97% of 10-year-old children in the country do not have the reading skills to “read single sentences,” Forbes reported.

In 2017, primary school enrollment stood high at 76% but took a nosedive to about 24% for lower and upper secondary schools. Even though enrollment in primary school is high, only 7% of children actually finished primary school in 2017.

Thanks to Maggie Grout’s nonprofit, Thinking Huts, Fianarantsoa city welcomed a new school in April 2022 named Bougainvillea. Unlike most schools in the world, Bougainvillea is an entirely 3D-printed school. Planning behind Bougainvillea took seven years; but, the building construction took about three weeks. Bougainvillea allows up to 30 students to learn at a time.

West African Vocational Schools, Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau is a tropical country on the West Coast of Africa. The country’s poverty rate stood at 47.7% in 2018. Education in Guinea Bissau is mandatory for children between the ages of 7 and 14; however, just 55% of children participate in basic education.

The West African Vocational Schools (WAVS) in Bissau have provided more than 1,000 individuals with vocational skills over the last 10 years. In 2020, WAVS expanded, building a 28-acre new campus in the nation’s capital city.

The new WAVS campus aims to train 1,000 students annually, unlike the initial campus, which could only train 1,000 students per 10 years. Once the school opened in April 2022, students had access to English, French and computer classes.

With these new schools bringing educational opportunities to thousands of children, hope exists that the upcoming generation will be well-prepared both academically and professionally. Furthermore, as education continues to improve, the world can possibly anticipate a dip in the global poverty rate.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Guinea-Bissau
On a global scale, human trafficking impacts approximately 40.3 million people, as per a 2016 report from the International Labor Organization. It is a lucrative enterprise that has found a foothold, among other places in West Africa, in Guinea-Bissau. A staggering figure, more than 40% of the people living in Guinea-Bissau, are younger than the age of 15, according to statistics from 2019. Human trafficking in Guinea-Bissau exists in several ways including the transportation and indoctrination of male minors and the sexual exploitation of female minors. Regularly struck with political tumults and social unrest, the country’s populace faces a slew of safety concerns, many of them with roots in criminal activity, such as human trafficking, addictive substances and weapons.

Guinea-Bissau’s Government

The current government, headed by President Umaro Sissoco Embaló, has its hands full with various uprisings and insurrections. The most recent of these to make headlines occurred at the beginning of February 2022 when attackers made an assassination attempt on Embaló’s life. The coup takes place just shy of two years following his controversial inauguration.

Embaló himself is not exempt from accomodating criminals. Drug lord and rabble-rouser Antonio Indjai, for instance, made an appearance at Embaló’s inauguration. This came many years after Indjai’s illegal activity became the subject of international concern.

The persistence of narcoterrorism grew in recent decades, particularly concerning cocaine, as Latin American drug lords saw Guinea-Bissau as a quiet and lax stopover locale in their transport of goods to Europe. Though the drug trade is nothing to scoff at, it is an industry that is subject to trans-continental issues. Meanwhile, another kind of trafficking occurs in Guinea-Bissau on a regular basis and the perpetrators are in the country’s own backyard.

As in many other underdeveloped nations in the region, daily nutrition, general health and unsteady employment are ever-present concerns. Under such conditions, human trafficking in Guinea-Bissau has sprouted up. Boys, for example, often get roped into organized trafficking where they spend their time engaged in begging or other forms of forced labor.

The Different Kinds of Human Trafficking

Religion, which (along with ethnic varieties) affects national politics, also has a bearing on human trafficking in Guinea-Bissau. While approximately a fifth of the country’s population adheres to Christianity, about two-fifths of the country follow Islam. Traffickers often move some Muslim children stealthily and under the cover of night to the neighboring country of Senegal.

Subsequently, traffickers push children into money-making strategies under the guise of religious, Koranic-based education. In these situations, the children are called talibés and the schools are referred to as daaras. According to marabouts, begging is part of the daara curriculum.

The world of trafficking looks different for girls, who often face exposure to sexual exploitation. Otherwise, like many boys, they too must endure forced labor. A number of Guinea-Bissau’s government officials are accused of remaining complicit in human trafficking crimes, such as sex tourism programs operated in the Bijagós islands, just as some officials have been accused of comradery with those involved in the drug trade.

Taking Action Against Human Trafficking

Guinea-Bissau successfully passed an anti-trafficking law in 2011. However, since then, the country has done little to effectively enforce its ramifications. According to the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S. Department of State, the government should seek to multiply and bolster further resources for the Judicial Police and expand much-needed enforcement to places like the Bijagós.

And, according to the 2021 TIP report, Guinea-Bissau, which had maintained a Tier 2 status for several years,  backslid into Tier 3, designated for countries that do not meet the bare “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

The citizens of Guinea-Bissau could benefit from better law enforcement. Guinea-Bissau is taking some measures for improvement. The establishment of the West African Police Information System (WAPIS) in 2015 and its ongoing endeavors to integrate police data systems affiliated with INTERPOL have the potential to aid criminal investigations. WAPIS, implemented by INTERPOL, receives funding from the European Union and “political and strategic support” from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). One of the countries benefiting from the program is Guinea-Bissau. Added national police measures could help crack down on human trafficking.

Local organizations like the Association of the Friends of Children (Associação dos Amigos da Criança or AMIC) and SOS Talibé Children (SOS Crianças Talibés) serve as beacons of hope. These organizations support children displaced and harmed by human trafficking in Guinea-Bissau and also advocate for policy decisions geared toward combating the destructive trade. With financial aid from the European Union, the AMIC has rescued more than 1,600 children since 2005.

With help from charity organizations and stronger law enforcement, Guinea-Bissau can better address its human trafficking epidemic.

– John Tuttle
Photo: Flickr

Guinea-Bissau
Guinea
-Bissau, a West African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean, is known for cashew nut farming, which amounts to “90% of the country’s exports,” serving as “a main source of income for an estimated two-thirds of the country’s households.” However, almost 70% of the country’s population lives in poverty.  Among the issues of poverty that plague Guinea-Bissau is food insecurity, low educational attainment and inadequate healthcare. The World Food Programme (WFP), in particular, supports Guinea-Bissau by tackling several issues through humanitarian aid and support.

Food Insecurity and Education

In Guinea-Bissau specifically, the WFP focuses its efforts on supplying “nutritional support” to roughly 96,000 citizens. Data indicates that about a quarter of Guinea-Bissau’s population endures chronic malnutrition. Therefore, in specific, the WFP’s nutrition programs work on combating malnutrition among children younger than 5 as well as “pregnant and nursing women.”

On top of food and nutrition support, the WFP also focuses on education in Guinea-Bissau. In 2014, the overall literacy rates of young citizens aged 15-24 in Guinea-Bissau stood at just 60%. A specific strategy the WFP employs to tackle both food insecurity and low educational attainment rates are supplying meals to more than 173,000 school students to encourage students to attend school. Furthermore, “take-home food rations for female students” aim to “encourage girls to attend and remain in school” since rates of school completion for girls are disproportionately low. The hope is for the WFP to assist the Guinean government in taking over this school feeding program.

In order to strengthen the long-term food security of Guinea-Bissau, the WFP is helping rural people gain access to “social services and markets.” In addition, on June 24, 2021, the WFP provided “agricultural tools and seeds” to about 120 female farmers for the purpose of growing food in their local communities. For short-term food security, the WFP delivered 80 million tons of rice across villages in Guinea-Bissau.

COVID-19 in Guinea Bissau

The WFP is also assisting Guinea-Bissau to better manage the COVID-19 crisis within the country. By October 1, 2021, Guinea-Bissau reported more than 6,000 COVID-19 cases and 140 deaths. As a low-income country with a GDP per capita of just $727, the nation does not have adequate funding or resources for resilient and effective healthcare facilities as well as a strong and efficient COVID-19 response.

The WFP supports Guinea-Bissau with supply chain management of essential COVID-19 resources such as “personal protective equipment, medical equipment, medicines and hospital lab supplies” and delivers these resources to health facilities across the country.

Looking Ahead

Guinea-Bissau faces significant challenges regarding poverty, food insecurity education and healthcare, among other issues. Through how WFP continuously supports Guinea-Bissau, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, conditions in the country can improve. With both long-term and short-term humanitarian efforts, hope exists for the people of Guinea-Bissau to rise out of poverty as resilient, empowered and productive individuals.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Guinea-BissauFemale genital mutilation in Guinea-Bissau, also known as FGM, is the complete removal of the female external genitalia. It is a traditional cultural practice that young girls and women in Guinea-Bissau suffer. More than 400,000 girls and women have experienced an FGM procedure within Guinea-Bissau. If the practice of FGM does not end, half of the females in Guinea-Bissau will, unfortunately, experience FGM by the year 2030.

FGM is supposed to “guarantee” a female’s virginity and fidelity after marriage. Certain communities conduct FGM to elevate the sexual pleasure of men. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), communities view FGM as “a necessary part of raising a girl and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.” The unnecessary procedure of FGM violates women and can impact their entire lives.

About FGM in Guinea-Bissau

Women in Guinea-Bissau have experienced torture and mistreatment for decades. If a female refuses to undergo FGM in Guinea-Bissau, those within her town may harass her and she will most likely have trouble finding a husband. The percentage of FGM procedures in Guinea-Bissau during the year 2014 was 44.9%. However, from the year 2014 to 2018-2019, the percentage increased to 52.1%. Due to the fact that many cases of FGM occur in girls from infancy to age 15, Guinea-Bissau has seen an increase in sexual and reproductive services.

Types of FGM in Guinea-Bissau

Furthermore, female genital mutilation in Guinea-Bissau consists of four different types of procedures. Additionally, many of the procedures occur with no anesthesia whatsoever. The main two that practitioners use in Guinea-Bissau are Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce, whereas Type 2 comprises partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora.

After females experience FGM, they have to remain immobilized from hip to ankle for 40 days to allow for healing after the surgery. According to the Journal of Medical Ethics, “Several studies have indicated that many girls are subjected to FGM several times, particularly if the members of the family or their social network are not satisfied with the result of the first procedure.”

An uproar has occurred due to the fact that unnecessary FGM procedures are happening across rural and eastern parts of Guinea-Bissau. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “In several countries, harmful practices meant to control women’s sexuality have led to great suffering. Among them is the practice of female genital cutting, which is a violation of basic rights and a major lifelong risk to women’s health.” Several long-term risks of FGM are difficulty during childbirth, sexual dysfunction and psychological effects.

Plan International

Since about 52% of females have undergone Type 1 or Type 2 FGM, more than a handful of people are speaking about FGM’s harm. For instance, some sections of Guinea-Bissau are addressing and doing public proclamations to stop FGM. In addition, the girls and women who have endured the procedure are encouraged to use their experience to educate others on the dangers of FGM so that the practice can come to a complete end.

An organization that seeks to advocate for those who have undergone FGM is called Plan International. This organization is fighting for women’s rights and has partnered with Nickelodeon and The Body Shop to raise awareness and take action about the FGM issue. A 52-year-old woman named Siren from Guinea-Bissau shared her story with Plan International to inform and educate others about her experience and how she overcame FGM.

Plan International is working with community leaders in Guinea-Bissau like Sawandim Sawo, who performed FGM for 18 years before Plan International informed her of the dangers of the practice. As a result, Sawo joined Plan International to raise awareness by speaking to men, women and children. Plan International encourages girls to raise awareness about FGM in their communities by performing songs and creating poetry and drawings.

Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP)

In addition, Tostan is a human rights organization that emerged in 1991 to educate African-Americans who had little to no schooling. Tostan began advocating for an end to FGM through the Community Empowerment Program (CEP) in Guinea-Bissau in 2008. CEP allows people to share human rights knowledge and connect with others through the program. More than 8,000 communities, including some in Guinea-Bissau, have decided to abandon the FGM practice as a result of CEP’s efforts.

Often, practitioners use unsterilized scissors, razors or even a piece of glass to perform FGM procedures. Additionally, they frequently use the same tools on dozens of girls on the same day. Due to this course of action, a significant percentage of HIV transmission occurs as a result of FGM surgeries. Approximately 5.3% of the women’s population in Guinea-Bissau are living with HIV.

The practice of FGM is a violation of women’s rights and human rights. However, organizations such as Plan International and Tostan are raising awareness and speaking to communities about female genital mutilation in Guinea-Bissau. Such efforts can educate and inform people in Guinea-Bissau about FGM and how to eradicate it.

– Carolina Reyes
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guinea-BissauWith a population of 1.8 million, about 69% of people in Guinea-Bissau live below the poverty line and 25% experience chronic malnutrition. In addition to working toward reducing poverty, there is a focus to improve education in Guinea-Bissau, which faces many struggles, including low enrollment rates, limited financial support and gender inequality.

Education Statistics in Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau, the literacy rate is around 53%. Only 30% of children begin school at the specified age of six. According to a study conducted by UNICEF, as a result of late enrollment, a significant proportion of children in lower primary grades are overage. As of 2010, 62% of children finished their basic education. About 14% of those in grade one end up completing grade 12. Additionally, out of the 55% of children who attend secondary school, about 22% complete it. As of 2014, the net primary school attendance was 62.4%. Lack of accessibility to school, especially in terms of secondary education outside of urban areas, contributes to these statistics.

Schools also receive insufficient funds for quality education and have to rely on families for support. Adequate standards for physical school buildings and textbooks are also lacking. Teachers tend to lack a proper level of competency in regard to the subject they teach and have insufficient teaching materials. According to a text published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “At a level corresponding to the fifth year of primary education, teachers fail to answer a quarter of the questions on Portuguese and under a half of those in mathematics arising from the syllabus for their pupils.” Furthermore, many schools fail to offer a full curriculum and 46% of teaching days from 2016 to 2017 were lost because of teacher strikes. More than 20% of students aged 7 to 14 years old reside over half an hour from a school and distance decreases their likelihood of attending. Furthermore, many students, the majority being girls, drop out of school due to early marriage and child labor.

Gender Inequality

A gender gap is prevalent within Guinea-Bissau’s education system. Of children aged 10 to 11 years old, 17.5% of boys are not attending school as opposed to 25.7% of girls. Among impoverished families, boys are 1.8 more likely to reach grade six than girls. In general, boys are 1.5 times more likely than girls to take part in General Secondary Education. Moreover, boys obtain 59% of public resources for education, while girls get 41%.

The gender inequality in Guinea-Bissau’s education system leads to consequences, such as child marriage among girls. About 54% of women without an education experienced child marriage, as opposed to the 9% of women who achieved secondary education or higher. The average age of a woman without education for the first delivery of a child is 18.2 years old as opposed to 21.4 years old for a woman who studied for 14 years. Women who received an education of 14 years have an average of about 1.2 kids. On the other hand, women without education have an average of 3.3 children.

Decreasing the gender gap in Guinea-Bissau’s education system would lead to benefits for not only women but the entirety of the population. Women who achieve higher education are 50% likely to vaccinate their children under the age of 5, whereas the likelihood for women without an education is 26%. Furthermore, the likelihood of women who did not attend school using a net to prevent malaria for their children under the age of 5 is 71%, as opposed to 81% among women who studied for at least six years.

The Quality Education for All Project

In July 2018, the World Bank developed the Quality Education for All Project in Guinea-Bissau. The goal of the Project is to improve the overall environment of schools for students from grade one to grade four. Through the Project, the World Bank aims to reduce teacher strikes by providing training. The World Bank also plans to update the curriculum taught as well as educational supplies and materials. Furthermore, the Project encourages greater community involvement in the management of schools.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

UNICEF aims to improve the quality of education in Guinea-Bissau, especially with regard to early childhood, through partnership and the rehabilitation of classrooms. Alongside PLAN international, Handicap International and Fundação Fé e Cooperação (FEC), UNICEF monitors schools by training 180 inspectors who are responsible for over 1,700 schools. The monitors focus on teacher attendance as well as the process in the classroom. In order to establish standards, such as National Quality Standards and Early Learning Development Standards, UNICEF also partnered with the Ministry of Education. UNICEF launched Campaign “6/6” to encourage the enrollment of children in school beginning at age 6 and maintaining their attendance throughout primary education.

Response to COVID-19

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which coordinates with UNICEF, allocated $3.5 million to Guinea-Bissau for a COVID-19 response from 2020 to 2021. Through its grant, GPE plans to achieve greater health standards in schools and training among community members to increase awareness of COVID-19 prevention. GPE also supports a radio distance education program as well as a distance program that addresses gender-based violence and the inclusion of children with disabilities. UNICEF broadcasts programs three times a day for radio distance learning. Additionally, GPE aims to assess preschool and primary age students to gather further information about learning loss and to create a program for children out of school.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Innovalab Fights Poverty
Guinea-Bissau is a country made up of 1.8 million people comprising diverse ethnic groups, different religions and languages. About half of the country’s populace lives in urban cities such as Bissau (the capital), and the other half of the population lives in rural areas and depends mostly on subsistence farming. The country, which was once a Portuguese colony, is currently one of the poorest countries in the world, struggles with a large foreign debt and has become a centerpiece for the trade of Latin American drugs. InnovaLab, a social enterprise based in Guinea-Bissau, is working to improve conditions in the country.

The Situation in Guinea-Bissau

According to an interview with a past missionary from BMS World Mission who served in Guinea (Guinea-Bissau’s neighboring country), the general West African populace faces many challenges to development. These challenges include the lack of access to sanitary water, lack of access to healthcare and the lack of social mobility. While there are some houses that had solar panels installed to conserve energy, this was not a norm. Most of the populace had to deal with power outages as and when they came.

Despite the country having an abundance of natural resources, Guinea-Bissau faces a chicken and egg problem with regard to its efforts to fight persistent poverty. The country faces constant political and economic stagnation due to the deep-rooted problems within the country. As a result, the population is largely dissatisfied. For instance, one of the recurring problems is that schools do not operate on a daily basis. Additionally, workers do not always receive their wages. Lack of access to a sustainable income and public services limits the long term growth and development of the country’s human capital. This in turn stalls solutions to these underlying problems.

Furthermore, the country heavily relies on receiving international aid due to the ongoing domestic instability. International donors do not always release the funds on time, which leads to frequent protests.

InnovaLab Fights Poverty by Promoting Entrepreneurism

InnovaLab fights poverty by setting up an entrepreneurial ecosystem amidst all the country’s uncertainties. It does this by supporting and mentoring people through online courses, boot camps and technology-driven initiatives. The founder of InnovaLab is Adulai Bary. InnovaLab was born in 2015 out of the movement of the increasing presence of startups in the markets. Bary’s idea for InnovaLab focuses on helping to generate employment, reducing incidences of crime and helping to promote small businesses.

InnovaLab fights poverty in Guinea-Bissau by playing a key role in the backbone of the country’s economy. It connects public and private sector organizations to work on innovative projects around new technologies and increased job opportunities. The organization emphasizes the importance of mentoring and incubation resources that it provides to its members. It offers personal business coaching and exclusive invitations to educational and networking events. It also provides consulting on revenue growth and sales to these budding entrepreneurs.

InnovaLab is also opening up a co-working space for people to brainstorm and collaborate in a safe environment. It hopes to attract small businesses, freelancers and startups. These organizations would benefit from 24-hour access to working facilities, free WiFi and housing for a maximum of 15 people. InnovaLab also has an acceleration and expertise center that provides professional services such as finance, legal and accounting services to entrepreneurs. InnovaLab fights poverty by providing opportunities for business owners to get a more in-depth understanding of the problems and opportunities for improvement.

Progress Thus Far

InnovaLab has succeeded in helping various local projects and online businesses come to fruition. Examples of InnovaLab’s success stories include Bandim Online (an e-commerce site for domestic products), a community ICT school, Big Technology (a service supplier company) and UBUNTU (a solar energy project). InnovaLab has a variety of other promising entrepreneurial ideas that have yet to meet the funding requirements. Notably, a total of 5,000 people benefitted from InnovaLab’s educational courses, and 20 new enterprises were incubated by InnovaLab’s efforts. More recently the organization has responded to the impact of COVID-19 on the business environment and economy of Guinea-Bissau. InnovaLab held a virtual forum on the 17th to 19th of July 2020 to initiate and spearhead the brainstorming and collective efforts of private and public sector workers in the fight towards dealing with the pandemic.

In the midst of domestic challenges and uncertainties, InnovaLab is a breakthrough in the entrepreneurial space of Guinea-Bissau. It provides sustainability for small businesses to flourish with the right mentoring and resources. InnovaLab fights poverty by creating a counter-culture to poverty in periods of instability by supporting the growth and cultivation of businesses and startups.

Mariyah Lia
Photo: Flickr

Health in Guinea-Bissau
A former Portuguese colony with almost 2 million inhabitants, Guinea-Bissau is a small country located on the Atlantic coast in West Africa. The nation achieved its independence in 1973 but remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world, ranking 178th on the Human Development Index. Health in Guinea-Bissau is a complex issue as more than two-thirds of the country’s population lives in poverty. Today, Guinea-Bissau struggles with providing quality health services to its citizens. With the country spending an average of just $91 per person per year on healthcare, international aid could provide the country with an opportunity to modernize and expand its healthcare system. Here are eight notable facts about health in Guinea-Bissau.

8 Facts About Health in Guinea-Bissau

  1. The infant and maternal mortality rates are alarmingly high. While the infant mortality rate has decreased fourfold over the last 30 years, it still remains the fourth highest in the world at 85.7 per 1,000 live births as of 2015. The maternal mortality rate ranks as the 18th highest in the world at 549 deaths per 1,000 live births. An increase in the measles vaccination rate links to recent reductions in infant mortality. In order to lower the maternal mortality rate, the country needs more trained midwives, hospital buildings for child-delivery and better education for women and girls about pregnancy and childbirth.
  2. The nation’s COVID-19 response has been strict and largely effective so far. Guinea-Bissau had just over 2,200 recorded cases of COVID-19 and only 34 COVID-19-related deaths at the end of August 2020. The government ended a mandatory nighttime curfew in late July 2020 after success in mitigating the spread but it still requires citizens to wear masks in public spaces.
  3. Guinea-Bissau has seen continued success in immunization against measles. In 1990, just 53% of infants from 12 months to 23 months received a measles vaccine. By 2010, that number rose to 76% and today, 86% of Guinea-Bissau infants receive a measles vaccine.
  4. Life expectancy is rising but remains below the global average. Guinea-Bissau is far behind the global average life expectancy of 72 years. In 2018, the nation’s average life expectancy at birth was only 58 years. Despite this, the average life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau is 11 years longer today than it was in 1990 at just 47 years. Compared to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, the country is nearing the regional average of 62 years. If Guinea-Bissau remains at peace and healthcare access improves, life expectancy should continue to rise.
  5. The country sees repeated cholera outbreaks and continues to be at a high risk of further outbreaks. Guinea-Bissau has experienced six large outbreaks of cholera over the last 30 years. The largest outbreak came in 2005 when cholera infected 25,111 people and 399 died. The conditions in the country have not changed substantially from the most recent outbreak in 2012, leaving Guinea-Bissau vulnerable to further outbreaks.
  6. The birth rate has consistently decreased for 30 years. The birth rate in Guinea-Bissau decreased from 6.6 births per woman in 1990 to 4.5 births per woman in 2018.
  7. Trained doctors do not tend to stay in Guinea-Bissau for long. There are only three pediatricians, one anesthetist and 34 midwives in the entire country to serve a population of over 700,000 children and 1.1 million adults. Doctors leave the country at high rates in search of better living conditions and higher wages across the world.
  8. Rural populations lack access to healthcare. Around 50% of Guinea-Bissau’s population lives in rural areas with extremely limited access to healthcare. However, international aid organizations like Doctors Worldwide Turkey provide free services to the rural population for brief periods of time.

To improve health in Guinea-Bissau, the nation needs international aid and assistance in building and organizing its struggling healthcare system. Once back on its feet, Guinea-Bissau can work to improve even more areas of life.

– Jeff Keare
Photo: Flickr

What You Need to Know about Tuberculosis in Guinea-Bissau
West Africa is a region that has experienced exposure to many different diseases and illnesses. This is the result of poor health care and poor quality of living conditions. Examples of some diseases and illnesses are malaria, yellow fever, cholera and typhoid. When it comes to the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, a specific infectious disease has plagued its people for a long time. This disease is tuberculosis (TB). Many prevalent risk factors of the country are the leading causes of this disease, which has made it difficult to slow down the progression of tuberculosis in Guinea-Bissau. Tuberculosis is the sixth highest cause of death in the country.

Tuberculosis Risk Factors

A major reason for the rise and continuance of tuberculosis in Guinea-Bissau and in many African countries is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who have HIV are 19 times more likely to develop active TB. A survey by the United States Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found a TB prevalence rate of 134 out of 100,000 people.

Suboptimal living conditions and poor immune systems as a result of having HIV have made it very difficult to combat tuberculosis in Guinea-Bissau. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with HIV infection, the elderly and young children are at risk of contracting TB. Poor medical facilities, poor access to health care, mistreatment and not having the supplies to correctly cure the disease can certainly lead to people spreading and dying from tuberculosis.

Mortality Demographic

The mortality rate of the disease among children under the age of 5 in Guinea Bissau gives a major indication of just how significant of a problem tuberculosis is for the country. The Bandim Health Project (BHP) conducted a study of children under the age of 5 living with an adult with TB. The study compared the mortality rate of those children with the mortality of children in the general population. Children under 5 years of age who experienced exposure to an adult with TB had a 66% higher mortality than unexposed children. Once exposed to the disease, there was a high risk of death six months after exposure. Children 3 or 4 years of age were highest at risk for death.

Treatment and Widespread Vaccination

It is possible to cure tuberculosis with proper treatment. The End Tuberculosis Strategy that the WHO implemented has a vision of ending the global tuberculosis epidemic. The vision involves providing the right care, supplies and medical professionals to regions where people are most at risk. The BHP has also directly involved itself in helping the country stop the spread of TB. In addition, the project is introducing and testing the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine (BCG). The BCG is a vaccine that can attack tuberculosis in the body.

BHP researched children who received the vaccine at birth and compared them to those who did not. The result showed a reduction in a third of child deaths from any disease. A barrier to getting more people in Guinea-Bissau vaccinated is the accessibility of BCG to families. The more vaccine coverage that BHP can provide to children and people who both have and do not have tuberculosis, should drastically limit risk factors toward stopping tuberculosis in Guinea-Bissau.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau, a small country in Western Africa, has a low life expectancy of 57.67 years.  However, life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau of both men and women increased by seven years over the last 17 years. In 2001, life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau was 50.368. Currently, men in Guinea-Bissau have a life expectancy of 55.6 while women have a life expectancy of 59.62. The increase in life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau is due to improvement in health care services, education, preventive measures and a reduction in child mortality.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guinea-Bissau

  1. Child Mortality: The infant mortality rate in Guinea-Bissau continues to decrease. Child mortality was 125 for every 1,000 children in 2008 and that number decreased to 81.5 for every 1,000 children in 2018. Guinea-Bissau’s investments to provide mothers with children under the age of 5 with better access to health care contributed to the reduced child mortality rate. In addition, a U.N. report determined that an increase in vaccinations was extremely effective in reducing the child mortality rate. This was possible because of collaboration from organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and GAVI. However, there is still more that people can do to improve life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau, such as training more medical professionals to help with childbirth. In 2014, only 45 percent of childbirth had trained professionals available. The leading causes of death for children under 5 are communicable diseases, particularly malaria, diarrheal diseases and respiratory illnesses.
  2. The Leading Causes of Death: The leading causes of death in Guinea-Bissau in 2012 were lower respiratory infections including whooping cough and infection of the lung alveoli, along with HIV/AIDs, malaria and diarrheal diseases. Although malaria-related death is common, that number is declining due to both government and donor efforts from organizations like the Global Fund. These efforts include providing insecticide-treated bed nets and increasing education about malaria.
  3. Spending on Health Care: In Guinea-Bissau, both the government and individuals spend little money on health care. In 2016, the per capita average that people spent on health care was $39 while the government spent 6 percent of its GDP on health care. A U.N. report stated that in 2001, the African government pledged to increase health care expenditures to 15 percent. However, Guinea-Bissau has not yet reached that goal. In addition, the most vulnerable population that suffers from preventable illness and diseases, women and children, receive less than 1 percent of health care funds.
  4. Politics: One of the reasons the government faces difficulty in increasing health care funding is because of instability in Guinea-Bissau’s politics. Since Guinea-Bissau’s independence in 1974, the country has had four successful coups and 16 failed coups. The instability causes constant changes in government officials who are responsible for policies.
  5. National Institute of Public Health: In 2011, the creation of the Instituto Nacional de Saúde Pública (INASA) or the National Institute of Public Health helped bring different components of Guinea-Bissau health care together in order to provide adequate services. INASA works with both international donors, institution and the government to help with disease surveillance and preparation for health emergencies. The responsibility of INASA is to help create health policy in the country as well as to help place health care workers and officials throughout the country.
  6. Lack of Trained Medical Personnel: Guinea-Bissau does not have enough health care workers. It has 1.7 doctors for every 10,000 people, 1.4 midwives and nurses for every 1,000 people, three pediatricians and four obstetricians. For example, in 2014, Guinea-Bissau lost some of its health care workers due to brain drain (trained medical personal moving to other countries). In addition, the lack of adequate pay and failure by the government to pay its medical workers on time have led to strikes. According to a U.N. report, Guinea-Bissau would need to create incentives in order to better retain its health care workers.
  7. Training of Health Care Workers: Training health care workers in Guinea-Bissau is difficult because the country relies on international help from countries like Cuba. One of the main problems is that the training material is in Spanish instead of Portuguese. In addition, some of the reading materials are in e-book formats and students may not have access to computers to read the content. Furthermore, during medical training, there are not enough specialists to oversee or conduct the necessary training. There is hope, however, as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is helping provide some advanced training for medical professionals who require it.
  8. Vaccine Coverage: Although the lack of political instability has limited government spending in health care, Guinea-Bissau’s coverage rate is 80 percent due to help from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other non-government agencies. Children receive rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines to help with respiratory and diarrheal illnesses.
  9. Accessibility to Health Care Facilities: In Guinea-Bissau, it can be difficult to visit a medical facility because of the lack of adequate roads. Although there are motorized boat ambulances, it can still be difficult to get to a medical facility in some regions in Guinea-Bissau. However, there are plans to build surgical centers in places like the Bijagos region to provide better access to health care.
  10. Community Health Programs and Workers: Community health programs and outreach have been effective in helping with the Guinea-Bissau health care system. These programs that community health workers (CHW) administer provide a community-based approach in helping with the health needs in Guinea-Bissau. Programs include spreading knowledge of childhood nutrition, malaria prevention, pneumonia and household hygiene, and providing several health services. There are around 4,000 community health workers and they are each responsible for visiting 50 households every month. During their visits, community health workers encourage families to adopt the 16 key family practices that can help reduce the number of diseases children may experience. These family practices include the promotion of mosquito nets and six months of breastfeeding, and handwashing, etc.  Community health workers also play a vital role in helping with literacy because of the high illiteracy rate in the country.

Although Guinea-Bissau’s life expectancy is low, there is hope that it will continue to increase due to continuous investment by international donors and non-government organizations. One of the best ways that Guinea-Bissau can provide better health care for its citizens is to strive to be more politically stable.

– Joshua Meribole
Photo: Flickr