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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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