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

 

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Guinea-Bissau

Once considered as a possible model for African development, Guinea-Bissau is now one of the poorest nations in the world. The nation has struggled to recover from instability created by a string of military coups in the 1980s. Now, the population is crippled with human trafficking, poverty and low literacy rates. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Guinea-Bissau.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Guinea-Bissau

  1. Guinea-Bissau’s population is among the poorest in the world. In 2017, the nation’s GDP per capita was $1,700, ranking it 178 out of 214 nations. The main source of income is substance farming of products like cashews, coconuts and Brazil nuts. Those three crops account for 92 percent of the country’s exports. Furthermore, 67 percent of the population lives below the global poverty rate, 20.7 percent do not have access to improved water sources and more than three-quarters of the population lives in areas without improved sanitation.
  2. Healthcare is exceptionally rare in Guinea-Bissau. Diseases such as HIV, cholera, malaria, typhoid fever and yellow fever are rampant. Almost all medical facilities are located in the capital. There is only one hospital bed per 1,000 inhabitants. These facilities are highly inadequate and poorly funded as medicine only accounts for 5.6 percent of the GDP.
  3. Bissau-Guineans have an average life expectancy of 61.4 years. The nation’s life expectancy ranks among the lowest in the world. High infant and maternal mortality rates contribute to low life expectancy. There is little medical help for giving birth, making it very dangerous. In fact, one in every 19 mothers dies in childbirth. The infant mortality rate is among the highest in the world at 54.8 per 1,000 births.
  4. Caritas Internationalis has a strong presence in Guinea-Bissau. The organization was established in 1982 and operates 41 parishes and missions across Guinea-Bissau. Caritas assists in healthcare accessibility, job training, food security and emergency support. Its most impressive feat was the establishment of 24 different nutritional rehabilitation centers, which monitor vulnerable children and provide support for struggling parents.
  5. As a whole, education is seriously underfunded, accounting for roughly 2.1 percent of the nation’s GDP. Only 60 percent of the nation is literate. However, fewer than half of Guinean-Bissau women are literate. There are two universities throughout the country and several vocational schools. While education is supposed to be compulsory, only 65 percent complete the basic level of primary education. Instead of going to school, many children work to help provide an income. In 2017, 169,200 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were working.
  6. Children suffer from malnutrition. Anywhere from 11 percent to as high as 51 percent of Bissau-Guineans are food insecure, causing malnutrition. Roughly 15,000 children do not have enough to eat. Malnutrition has serious effects on a growing body. A lack of calories leads to underdevelopment, stunted growth and weakens the immune system.
  7. Of all the top 10 facts about living conditions in Guinea-Bissau, human trafficking presents the most danger for the developing country. For boys and girls alike, human trafficking is an unfortunate reality. Many boys who attend Quranic schools end up being forced into begging or labor by corrupt leaders of these Quranic schools. Traffickers have little trouble moving these boys through Guinea-Bissau’s weak borders. Bissau-Guinea girls suffer from sex trafficking and forced street vending. Many girls are recruited believing they will be models, but they are forced into prostitution instead. The government is on the Tier 2 watchlist, meaning it does not meet the standards for human trafficking, but it is making changes. In 2015, the government identified a single trafficking victim for the first time in 10 years.
  8. In March, Guinea-Bissau held a peaceful and successful voting day for the national assembly. U.N. officials hope that this vote will finally put an end the political turmoil that has plagued the nation since 2015 when then-President José Mário Vaz dissolved the government. This election was one of the final steps taken by the U.N. Integrated Peacekeeping Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS). This office aimed to reform Guinea-Bissau’s political structure as well as reinforce and rebuild political authority.
  9. Voz di Paz and the U.N. Peacekeeping fund are working together to empower women in Guinea-Bissau. Child marriage is a problem with 24 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 being married before they were 18. Furthermore, 45 percent of women ages 15 to 49 have undergone genital mutilation. The organization Voz di Paz is looking to kickstart culture change. In 2017, Voz di Paz consulted with women across Guinea-Bissau and identified four obstacles that hinder women. These obstacles are social pressure to conform to norms, the distortion of differences between men and women in politics, weak female solidarity and a lack of women within the Defense and Secretary forces. Voz di Paz presented this information at a conference with 50 participants from different communities. The result of the conference was a film produced in January 2018.
  10. The NenitaSá Engineering Foundation seeks to boost education and technology skills. One of their main projects is the STEM after-school club. Through this club, NenitaSá hopes to elevate Bissau-Guinean children’s skills in the engineering field, allowing them greater opportunities to find jobs throughout the world. On a large scale, NenitaSá hopes to increase education levels across Guinea-Bissau, especially for women.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Guinea-Bissau reveal that its citizens are struggling. However, international organizations are taking notice and are striving to institute positive change in this small, West African country.

Andrew Edwards
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Aid to Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau is a small country in Western Africa that is facing very big problems. Like many former colonies, Guinea-Bissau has long grappled with political and social instability. As a result, the country is very poor, with over two-thirds of the country living below the poverty line. Due to this reason, its citizens are very dependant on U.S. foreign aid.

Many observers admit that Guinea-Bissau’s history of political instability is the prevalent cause of the nation’s poverty. Accordingly, this instability has played a crucial role in the prevalence of a depressed economy and a large amount of drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau, both of which add to the current destabilization of the small African nation.

Having in mind that the instability in Guinea-Bissau is a consequence of drug trafficking and poverty, U.S. foreign aid to Guinea Bissau has focused recently on tackling the drug trade and implementing governance reform. According to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. top priorities in Guinea-Bissau are the promotion of security sector reform, combat drug trafficking, prevention of infectious disease, and implementation of multi-sector reforms. It is understandable that successful implementation of these measures will improve stability in Guinea-Bissau, resulting in increased investment, sustainable development and reduced poverty.

How will U.S. foreign aid to Guinea-Bissau benefit the United States?

As a very poor and unstable nation, the benefits of foreign aid to Guinea-Bissau adhere closely to the conventional wisdom on the subject of foreign aid. To clarify, at the heart of the argument for giving aid to foreign countries is the development of countries that are helped, and increase in their self-sufficiency, which is beneficial for everyone. Foreign aid can help countries and regions become more stable by improving the quality of life while also helping to tackle destabilizing factors. In the case of Guinea-Bissau, this means helping to end the endemic problem of drug trafficking as well as protecting against the outbreak of Ebola and other diseases which could spread to the U.S.

For these reasons, it is no surprise that U.S. funding of counternarcotics and activity in Western Africa has increased in recent years. This includes the capture of various high-level figures in Guinea Bissau. The logic behind this is that by giving foreign aid (including aid to stem drug trafficking), the development of a sustainable economy can be achieved, while citizens of Guinea will become self-sufficient and able to earn a living legally.

Once this environment becomes a reality, Guinea-Bissau could then act as a player who will reduce instability in the region, leading the way to more American investment and the opening of a new large market for American goods. It is also the hope of the U.S. that such aid will create a strong mutually beneficial economic relationship between the two countries.

War on terrorism

One final way in which U.S. foreign aid to Guinea-Bissau benefits America is through terrorism reduction. In recent years U.S. anti-narcotics assistance to Guinea-Bissau and to the region of West Africa has sought to collect intelligence on terrorist activity and illicit trafficking in the region, two issues that are often interrelated. Therefore, by assisting Guinea-Bissau and other West African nations in tackling drug trafficking, the U.S. is also cracking down on the funding of terrorist groups in West Africa. The result is not only the creation of a safer West Africa but a safer and more stable global environment where the risk of terrorist groups targeting the United States is minimalized.

Although U.S. foreign aid to Guinea-Bissau is still ramping up, there are signs already that these actions will have a tangible impact on this small country, West Africa and the United States. There are already signs of progress, and there is hope that continued aid to impoverished West African countries will help to stabilize the region and the world.

Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Guinea-Bissau
Guinea-Bissau, a former colony disputed by Portugal, France and Great Britain, is located on the west coast of Africa. The country is bordered by Senegal and The Gambia and is a mostly low-lying country. Its economy relies largely on agriculture, yet much of the land remains uncultivated due to unsustainable practices and unstable political conditions. Because of this, sustainable agriculture in Guinea-Bissau is more vital than ever.

Background and Past Issues

The economy of Guinea-Bissau is mostly agricultural but also includes forestry and fishing. Guinea-Bissau produces its own food, and farming is largely based on local subsistence. Some of the most common crops grown in the country are rice, vegetables, beans, cassava, peanuts, potatoes and palm oil. They also raise livestock and catch fish and shrimp, which are used locally as well as exported.

Due to the vast subsistence farming and importing, crop failure and rising prices can be devastating to the population. Guinea-Bissau was hit hard by the global food crisis in 2008 when they could not afford international prices and lacked the resources to keep up with food production. The country has also been affected by the practice of slash-and-burn agriculture, which causes soil fertility to decline. Lastly, a lack of resources has allowed much of the fertile land in Guinea-Bissau to go uncultivated.

Finding Solutions

Sustainable agriculture in Guinea-Bissau has become vital to solving these problems. In a direct response to the crisis in 2008, the revitalization of agriculture and specifically rice production became priorities. Several regions within the country have suitable land for rice production, yet these lands were uncultivated and caused citizens within these regions to fall into poverty, as they are isolated from other areas of food production.

With new sustainable practices, rice production has now doubled in these areas. The European Union has also created a financing program to rehabilitate 300 kilometers of road in the area, allowing for a more efficient transport of goods. More sustainable practices and projects like these are also vital to combating climate change, a problem the country has been facing the effects of for years.

Future Projects

Guinea-Bissau has also turned to cashew nuts to enhance production. In 2013, cashew nuts accounted for 87.7 percent of the country’s total exports. The industry has been increasing since the late 1990s, and now 85 percent of people living in rural areas depend on these orchards in some way for their livelihoods. This has allowed for great economic improvement, yet the lack of biodiversity involved with this monocultural practice leaves citizens extremely vulnerable. If crops failed or were struck by disease, hundreds of thousands of citizens would be negatively affected.

The most important feature of sustainable agriculture in Guinea-Bissau is now education. Non-governmental organizations like Agrisud International are working with people within the country to promote and teach more sustainable practices. They have also been working with the country’s government to make these practices public policy. With the continued support of international organizations and the government, Guinea-Bissau’s agricultural practices will only continue to improve.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in Guinea-Bissau
Since the early 1980s, one of Guinea-Bissau‘s main goals has been to develop and improve its fundamental facilities and services. Some of the needs for successful infrastructure in Guinea-Bissau include improvements to:

  • Transportation
  • Electricity Access
  • Telecommunications

 

Transportation

With 2,734 miles of roads in Guinea-Bissau, only 10 percent are paved. This has attracted foreign aid in the form of sealing the main road to the northern border and constructing a major bridge at Joao Landin.

Guinea-Bissau has many rivers that can be accessed for coastal shipping, but the water transport needs major improvement. Bissau is the main port, and there have been plans for a European Union-sponsored deep-water port that will specialize in minerals and link to Guinea by rail.

Since the elimination of the privatized national airline, Guinea-Bissau has had to rely on foreign-owned carriers. The Guina-Bissau civil war that lasted from June 7, 1998, to May 10, 1999, severely disrupted flights and the main airport reopened in July 1999. In 2000, the country had about 29 airports but only three with paved runways.

 

Electricity

Guinea-Bissau has one of the lowest electrification rates in Africa. This rate indicates the number of people with electricity access as a percentage of the total population. Electricity is not accessible to a large part of the population, mostly due to corruption and inefficiency. The country is completely dependent on petroleum products, despite its own high energy potential, especially in hydroelectric power.

 

Telecommunications

The government of Guinea-Bissau announced its intention to liberalize the telecom industry, extend telecommunications to the whole country and introduce a cellular network. The internet access for the network would be provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In 1997, there were 8,000 telephones in the country, and in 2000, there was one internet service provider with about 1,500 internet users. As of July 2016, less than 1 per 100 people in Guinea-Bissau had a fixed phone line, but more than 70 percent of people had a mobile cell phone. The country now has five internet service providers and about 66,000 internet users.

 

Rehabilitation Projects

The World Bank conducted various projects to improve the infrastructure of Guinea-Bissau. The goal of its Social and Infrastructure Relief Project (SIRP) was to improve job opportunities and financial status for low-income workers through the support of activities with high social and economic benefits. The bank committed $15 million to the project.

Results for the SIRP in Guinea Bissau were satisfactory. There continues to be a need for assistance in the development of more detailed procedures and in fully implementing the introduction of the accounting system.

The purpose of the bank’s Multi-Sector Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (MIRP) was to improve the access to power, water and road infrastructure services. The World Bank committed $5 million to the project, but the results were not as successful as the SIRP.

Initially, the program leadership expected the private sector to participate and contribute to the energy and water sectors. However, the willingness of the private sector to get involved in a volatile political environment was overestimated and unrealistic. Additionally, there was an imbalance of supervision between project groups. 

With continued efforts to improve the infrastructure in Guinea-Bissau, the country is headed for advancement and progress.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Guinea-Bissau
Hunger in Guinea-Bissau is a fact of life. Slightly less than triple the size of Connecticut, Guinea-Bissau is a small West African nation of a mere 1.7 million people. Unfortunately, Guinea-Bissau is also among the world’s poorest countries, with exports in 2016 totaling a mere $163 million. Of this figure, approximately 80 percent of exports come from cash crops, specifically cashews. As a result of the economy relying on cash crops, therefore, over two-thirds of Bissau-Guineans live below the poverty line.

With much of the nation’s food being exported, rather than consumed, hunger in Guinea-Bissau is a pressing issue. One in 10 people in Guinea-Bissau is food insecure, with the figure being as high as half of people in rural areas. According to the World Food Programme, hunger in Guinea-Bissau is plagued by three key factors: political instability, irregular rainfall and fluctuating rice and cashew prices on the global market.

 

Politica and Hunger in Guinea-Bissau

 

Guinea-Bissau’s political struggles stem from the current president’s dismissal of prime minister Domingos Simoes Pereira, a politician popular among the people for his work with Western leaders donating to Guinea-Bissau. The national parliament has not met in over a year, and the instability has caused severe issues with access to electricity and water. By prolonging water shortages as a result of political deadlock, Guinea-Bissau struggles to properly irrigate its crops and feed struggling communities. Resolving the deadlock is critical to solving other more pressing matters.

Of course, the issue of water shortages is not helped by irregular rainfall patterns that have likely emerged as a result of climate change. As the nation’s prime exports are agriculturally-based, it is clear that reliable weather patterns are vital to sustaining not only the economy, but the very survivability of the people, as hunger in Guinea-Bissau will only worsen if crops continue to fail. An acute lack of rainfall will also lead to the spread of desertification.

With little industry in the country, even by African standards, Guinea-Bissau is among the most vulnerable countries to the negative effects of climate change, especially given the country’s reliance on agricultural goods to support both the economy and themselves. Sustainable and responsible water usage practices must be undertaken when water is once again made available after the resolution of the political stalemate.

Finally, there is the issue of fluctuating prices. Despite the suspension of donor flows into the country following the dismissal of Pereira, Guinea-Bissau’s economy actually grew at approximately 5 percent in the past two years. With two-thirds of the nation reliant on cashew exportation, however, price shocks to the international cashew market are capable of crippling entire communities and worsening issues of hunger in Guinea-Bissau. In order to combat this extreme vulnerability, the country must diversify its economy far beyond cashew production and exportation, and eventually beyond agriculture as well.

The situation is desperate, but not hopeless. In order to reduce and eventually eradicate hunger in Guinea-Bissau, the first issue to address must be that of the controversial political deadlock in the capital. In doing so, more urgent issues can be addressed by political leaders. The implementation of sustainable water practices and diversification of the entire national economy will alleviate the suffering of communities across the small West African nation and prevent them from happening in the future.

Brad Tait

Photo: Flickr