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CRS in Guinea-Bissau

Since its independence in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has experienced significant amounts of political and military upheaval. With two out of three Guineans living below the absolute poverty line and an average life expectancy of only 50 years, the population is highly dependent on subsistence agriculture, fishing, cashew nut exports and foreign assistance. However, the combination of limited economic prospects, favorable geography, and weak institutions, has made trafficking in narcotics and diamonds the most lucrative economic activities in the country, deterring NGO and donor investments.

Despite a flourishing black market and other obstacles to stability and economic growth, Guinea-Bissau has substantial potential for economic development of mineral resources. The country’s climate and soil make it feasible to grow a wide range of food and cash crops.  

Despite these many challenges, CRS has been one of the few international NGOs that has continued to address humanitarian issues in collaboration with church partners, government agencies and other humanitarian actors.


People Served: 34,874 (FY 2014: 5,057 direct; 29,817 indirect)

Population: 1,726,170 (July 2015 est.)  

Size: 13,946 sq miles; slightly less than three times the size of Connecticut

Programming Areas

CRS' History in Guinea-Bissau

Catholic Relief Services has worked in Guinea-Bissau for over a decade. CRS' long-term presence and close collaboration with local partners has allowed us to respond effectively to changing conditions within the country, from our neighboring Dakar office in Senegal. 

CRS and its partner, Caritas Guinea-Bissau, are focusing on the nutritional and income needs of breastfeeding and pregnant women and reducing mother and child morbidity and malnutrition through monitoring and community health care services. For example, maternal mortality rates in the regions of Bafatà and Gabú of Guinea-Bissau are among the highest in the world. Contributing factors include poverty, lack of access to health services and cultural norms.

Since 2009, CRS Senegal has worked through Caritas Guinea-Bissau to establish “House of Mothers” locations on hospital grounds that promote healthier pregnancies and safe deliveries. Patients receive health and nutritional education, medical treatment and three meals a day before giving birth accompanied by a skilled attendant at the hospital. Community volunteers are trained to identify and refer high-risk pregnant women to the facilities through an outreach program.