Countries of West and Central Africa


UNICEF Guinea-Bissau

© UNICEF Bissau
© UNICEF Bissau

Guinea-Bissau is a fragile post conflict country, with weak infrastructures and private sector. It is still recovering from the armed conflict of 1998-1999, which resulted in political instability, insecurity, weak law enforcement and economic stagnation. The population is estimated at 1.6 million with 900 thousand of children under 18 years of age.

The country ranks 175 out of 177 nations according to the 2008 UN Human Development Index. The socio-economic and financial situation has continued to deteriorate and children’s life conditions are getting worse.

Guinea-Bissau is one of 39 countries considered by UNICEF as facing an emergency situation according to the Humanitarian Action Report 2008.Child Survival
Children do not have access to basic health services in both rural and urban areas. Cost and distance are barriers to health care. Facilities that exist tend to be without maintenance, budget and are inadequately supplied.

Child mortality rates are rising. Since 2000, the infant mortality rate has increased from 124 to 138 and the under-five mortality rate from 203 to 223 per 1,000 live births, according to the results of the 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2006). The main causes of childhood deaths in Guinea-Bissau are diseases which are easily preventable, including malaria, acute respiratory infections and diarrhea.

Less than 50% of children under five receive adequate malaria treatment. Malnutrition is a serious problem, with 4% of children severely malnourished and 19% suffering from moderate malnutrition. Less than 1% of households consume adequately iodized salt. Only 16% of newborns are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of their life.

The maternal mortality ratio is one of the highest in Africa, at 1,100 per 100,000 live births. Only seven countries have higher maternal mortality ratios, including Afghanistan, Niger and Chad.

Child mortality rates are increasing. Maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Only 60% of the population has access to potable water and that has not improved since 2000. The health outcomes for the children and women of Guinea-Bissau are poor and associated with a health system that is under-funded, inefficient and very weak in terms of infrastructure, equipments and qualified human resources.
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UNICEF Guinea Bissau / G. Pirozzi
© UNICEF Guinea Bissau / G. Pirozzi

The education system in Guinea-Bissau is very weak. More than 45% of school-age children do not have access to school owing to lack of infrastructures and of qualified and motivated teachers. Only 28% of children of primary school age (7-12 years old) are enrolled in school. Some 37% of primary school attendants are aged between 13 and 17 due to the high repetition rate (15%). Only 12% of girls complete the primary cycle against 18% of boys as a result of girls work in household chores, agriculture and small business. Only 28% of children, 7-12 years old, are enrolled in primary school.

Some 37% of teachers have no teaching skills and only 14% of schools offer a complete primary cycle of six years. The inadequate curriculum, school manuals and school infrastructures, and frequent and long teachers strikes contribute to high drop-out and repetition rates, especially for girls. Gender disparities were reduced in the three regions of UNICEF intervention during the period 2004-2007 where 80% of boys and 75.5% of girls were enrolled and reached grade five. The attendance rate increased from 41% in 2004 to 57% in 2006 – 55% for girls and 59% for boys.
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The judicial system and social protection structures are very weak or non-operational due to lack of law enforcement, of funds and absence of qualified human resources. Other barriers to the fulfillment of children’s rights are the lack of knowledge, as well as negative cultural practices and behaviors. Talibes children (who attend Koranic schools and frequently are beggars), and children being trafficked into neighboring Senegal are becoming a pressing issue. According to a study completed in 2006, there are over 2,000 child talibes in Guinea-Bissau, and the majority of the estimated 120,000 talibes children in Dakar, Senegal are from Guinea-Bissau.

Only 39% of children under five years have been registered at birth. The most commonly mentioned reasons for non-registration are the high cost (34%); long distance to a registration office (26%) and no knowledge of where to go for birth registration (19%). Nevertheless there are untold reasons for not registering children in some ethnic groups, based on traditional beliefs and practices that prevent parents from giving a name to a child before a certain age. Female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) continue to be a common practice, affecting 45% of women aged 15-49 years. Early and forced marriages are also quite common in Guinea-Bissau.
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It is estimated that every year some 5,000 HIV positive women give birth – only 1% of them has access to ARV and other preventive methods to protect their children from HIV/AIDS. Knowledge of HIV/AIDS is still limited, with only 19% cent of the population capable of identifying methods of prevention. The youth remain extremely vulnerable to HIV infection with only 17% of young women between 15 and 24 years have comprehensive knowledge of prevention measures.

Children in Guinea-Bissau are severely affected by HIV/AIDS. The prevalence among pregnant women is estimated at 7%. Every year some 5,000 HIV positive women give birth. In 2007 only 1% of them had access to prevention of mother to child transmission interventions, exposing about 1500 newborns to HIV infection.  ARV treatment is provided to only 860 adults and 39 children.
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UNICEF Bissau Country Programme 2008-2012



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