Guinea lies on the coast of Western Africa with a population of about 12.4 million people. The country’s population has steadily grown in the past few decades due to declining mortality rates and sustainable fertility rates. However, healthcare infrastructure in Guinea still faces many issues.
Officials have attempted to address these problems over the years, but they became glaringly apparent when the Ebola outbreak began here in 2013. Since then, the government has been working with international organizations to improve the overall healthcare infrastructure. Here are four facts about the healthcare infrastructure in Guinea.
Independence meant a lack of early infrastructure
The French ruled over Guinea — or French Guinea as it was known then — until the country gained independence in 1958. As with many colonized states, the transition to independence was hindered by a lack of infrastructure and resources, in addition to Guinean officials’ refusal of French aid due to a fear of neocolonialism. Things temporarily improved in the 1980s when Lansana Conté came to power, but the situation continued to deteriorate as reforms came too slowly and conflicts increased within and around the country.
An attempt at improvement was made in the early 2000s
Although Conté was largely unpopular and many called for government reform, there were attempts in the 1990s and early 2000s to improve healthcare within the country. Some progress had been made in mortality rates for children under the age of five, but fertility and maternal mortality rates remained high. The government increased healthcare expenditures in the mid-1990s, yet 48 percent of these expenditures only benefitted the wealthiest 20 percent of the population while only 4 percent went to the poorest 20 percent. In the early 2000s, these improvements came to an end despite the fact that 10-15 percent of citizens were still permanently unable to afford healthcare.
Ebola virus exemplified the weaknesses of the healthcare system
The latest and harshest Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December of 2013. The healthcare infrastructure in Guinea was largely unprepared for a mass disease outbreak which is shown in how rapidly the disease was able to spread. Of the three most affected countries — the other two being Sierra Leone and Liberia — Guinea ranked lowest in healthcare expenditures. It faced serious staffing shortages, even with aid from the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders, as well as a lack of care delivery to rural areas where the epidemic began. As of April 2016, after the worst of the outbreak had passed, 2,544 people had died in Guinea.
Improvements were made to directly address problems associated with the Ebola virus
The Guinean government’s response to the Ebola outbreak was poor, but it is working toward preventing this kind of epidemic from occurring again. The focus of improvement is now on governing and strengthening the healthcare infrastructure in Guinea. This is being carried out through the Health Commission established in the National Assembly by USAID. USAID sponsored workshops for the commission that has resulted in a 2.4 percent funding increase for healthcare. It also plans to work with urban and rural community leaders to create a more efficient response to healthcare needs throughout the country.
Guinea has long lagged behind in healthcare, but the government is trying to rectify this. Its lessons were learned the hard way through uncontrollable crises and death for which the country was simply not prepared. However, what matters most is that legislators and leaders are now putting in the work to implement efficient and sustainable healthcare for all citizens.
– Megan Burtis