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Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world. Years of political instability and economic stagnation have had a serious impact on the health system.

Since independence in 1974, the country has been subjected to considerable military and political upheaval. The country is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. In 2016, continuing political instability further weakened its crumbling health system.

Endemic poverty, limited access to education, safe drinking water and sanitation, and a health care system in need of reform, have lead to massive issues in maternal and child health, as well as sexual and reproductive health. Médecins Sans Frontières first worked in Guinea-Bissau in 1998.

Guinea-Bissau suffers from massively inadequate healthcare services. In 2017, there were only three pediatricians, four obstetricians, around 35 midwives, and one anesthetist in the whole country.

Managing Child Mortality 

In the central region of Bafatá, MSF continued working to reduce childhood mortality by managing the regional hospital’s neonatal and paediatric wards and running a nutrition program for children under 15 years of age. Teams also support four health centres in rural areas and train community health workers to diagnose and treat diarrhoea, malaria and acute respiratory infections, and to detect and refer patients with malnutrition.

In Simao Mendes national hospital, in the capital Bissau, MSF supported activities in the paediatric intensive care unit and in the neonatal intensive care unit (PICU). The team worked closely and successfully with the Ministry of Health’s paediatric and maternity services to reduce the very high child mortality rates in the units, which were mainly due to neonatal sepsis, lower respiratory tract infections and malaria.

Paediatric project in Bissau

Fighting Malaria 

To face the yearly seasonal increase of malaria cases, MSF doubled the bed capacity of the regional hospital during the months of higher incidence and implemented a seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) strategy for the first time in the country. As a result of the team’s advocacy and training initiatives, funds were allocated for SMC in other regions of Guinea-Bissau.

As malaria is one of the most prevalent diseases in the country, many children with fevers are misdiagnosed and summarily treated with antimalarial drugs. To prevent this practice, we initiated a study to document the epidemiological profile of the diseases found in Bafatá and create a simple diagnosis tree to allow medical personnel to correctly diagnose a child’s illness and treat it effectively. 

Find out more about Guinea-Bissau