Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a Western African country located between Mali to the northeast and Sierra Leone to the southwest. With a population of 12.41 million and a total gross domestic product (GDP) equivalent to $11.4 billion, Guinea is one of the poorest nations in the world. Guinea’s poverty has limited its ability to develop the infrastructure necessary to sustain the health of its citizens. The people of Guinea have historically faced widespread public health risks such as malaria and Ebola. Infrastructural improvements resulting from domestic and global efforts are improving healthcare in Guinea.
The Problem: Lack of Healthcare Spending
As of 2018, Guinea’s per capita GDP of $920.80 amounted to only 7% of the world’s average. Within this figure, Guinea’s healthcare spending averaged the equivalent of $34 per capita. This minute healthcare budget has led to a variety of public health problems in Guinea, especially before 2014, such as:
- Maternal & Under-5 Mortality: Guinea’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Between 2006 and 2012, an average of 724 mothers passed away per every 100,000 live births. Guinea’s under-5 mortality rate is also a global stand-out. In the same time frame, an average of almost 120 children under the age of 5 passed away per every 1,000 births.
- Malaria: Malaria has historically been troubling for Guinea, taking more lives annually than any other disease and ranking as the country’s top public health concern. The disease strains Guinea’s healthcare system and heavily contributes to its under-5 mortality rate. Malaria causes 31% of consultations, 25% of hospitalizations and 14% of hospital deaths of children under the age of 5.
- Epidemic Risk: From 2014-2016, Guinea endured the worst of the Ebola epidemic. Originating in Guinea and spreading to nine other countries, reports determined there were a total of 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths. Guinea was ill-prepared to face this outbreak due to limited resources and is at even greater risk from faster and more infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
Despite these issues, healthcare in Guinea is showing significant progress thanks to a combination of domestic and global efforts beginning in 2014. In the midst of the 2014 Ebola epidemic, the United States, alongside almost 30 other countries, co-initiated the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). The agenda focuses on struggling countries at high risk for infectious diseases like Guinea, equipping them with the resources to improve health systems by revitalizing their physical and organizational infrastructure. The GHSA would mark the beginning of a series of legislation to improve the capacity of Guinea’s healthcare system through infrastructure improvement. Here are the top three infrastructure changes for healthcare in Guinea.
3 Infrastructure Changes for Healthcare in Guinea
- Emergency Operations Centers: The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) helped create a system of public health Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) in 2015. These centers successfully responded to yellow fever, anthrax and Lassa fever in Guinea. They also strengthened vaccination campaigns for polio, tetanus and measles.
- Health Commodities: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to increase the capacity of Guinea’s public health systems by providing resources such as health training, equipment and technical assistance to struggling communities. The USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program, launched in February 2017, has helped maintain a continuous supply of these commodities.
- Epidemic/Pandemic Preparedness: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aims to help communities prepare and respond to health crises such as epidemics and pandemics. In conjunction with USAID funding, the IFRC created the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) in 2017. This program strengthens the ability to prevent and address infectious diseases in Guinea and seven other countries. The infrastructure created through this program will continue to help in the preparation and response to such global crises as the COVID-19.
These global efforts have already proven effective. Guinea’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 724 per 100,000 births in 2006-2012 to 576 in 2017. Similarly, the under-5 mortality rate dropped from 120 per 1,000 births to about 100.
While Guinea’s mortality rates may be decreasing and its healthcare improving, there is still much the country needs to do to attain a suitable healthcare system: even the country’s lower mortality rates are still among the highest in the world. Guinea must maintain and push forward global initiatives for better infrastructure for the sake of its livelihood.
– Asa Scott