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 chronic political instability have created a favorable environment for narcotics trafficking, deterring NGO and donor investments. Despite these many challenges, CRS has been one of the few international NGOs which has continued to address humanitarian issues in collaboration with church partners, government agencies and other humanitarian actors.
CRS’ long-term presence and close collaboration with local partners in Guinea Bissau has allowed us to respond effectively to changing conditions within the country. CRS and its partner, Caritas Guinea-Bissau, have long focused on the nutritional and income needs of breastfeeding and pregnant women and reducing mother and child morbidity and malnutrition through monitoring and community health services. CRS and Caritas have also closely collaborated on programming related to infectious disease control and surveillance with two programs created during and after the Ebola crisis focused on preparedness and prevention, including cross-border collaboration with neighboring Senegal. CRS’ newest and largest program in Guinea Bissau, launched in October 2019, is focused on improving the health and literacy rates of school aged children in five regions of the country. The program provides nutritious, daily school meals, trainings on health and hygiene practices to parents, teachers, and students, and provides deworming medication to all primary and pre-school children in targeted zones.
Programs in Guinea-Bissau
BE SAFE: STRENGTHENED EBOLA COMMUNICATIONS IN SENEGAL AND GUINEA-BISSAU (DFID) – (2014-2015) CRS Senegal implemented a $1.4 million USD DFID-funded Ebola Preparedness program through the Start Network under a consortium led by CAFOD. This project reaches all health districts in 5 regions in Senegal (Tambacounda, Kedougou, Kolda, Sedhiou, and Ziguinchor), and 3 regions in Guinea Bissau (Tombali, Bolama/Bijagos and Gabu). 'Be Safe' increased community knowledge and promote the adoption of protective behaviors to help reduce the likelihood of Ebola and other communicable disease propagation in border communities of Senegal and Guinea Bissau. The project reached more than 1.2 million community members in total, including approximately 300,000 individuals directly, through the training of key local actors, community mobilizations, education materials, radio, and he use of ICT4D innovations.
BE SAFE: STRENGTHENED EBOLA COMMUNICATIONS IN GUINEA-BISSAU (CDC)- (2014-2015). CRS Senegal implemented a nearly $400,000 USD CDC-funded Ebola Preparedness program in partnership with Caritas Bissau. Through collaboration with a number of national health actors, this project is part of a larger Community Event Based Surveillance (CEBS) project being led by the Government of Guinea Bissau’s National Public Health Institute (INASA). CRS and Caritas covered 3 regions in Guinea Bissau (Tombali, Bolama/Bijagos and Gabu) and used community volunteers and existing networks to help communities understand how to participate in CEBS and then support the communities to actively participate and report any identified illnesses/symptoms. This project increased community knowledge and rapidly report suspect cases to local health authorities. The project reached more than 174,000 community members (or 50% of the total population in the 3 regions) through CEBS and outreach activities.
MOTHERHOOD WITHOUT RISK - (2007-2016) Maternal mortality rates in the regions of Bafata and Gabú of Guinea Bissau are among the highest in the world, due in a large part to the lack of access to health services and long distances between expectant mothers and hospital facilities. Since 2007, CRS has contributed more than $587,000 in private funds and worked with its partner, Caritas Guinea-Bissau, to establish “Houses of Mothers” locations on hospital grounds that promote healthier pregnancies and safe deliveries through a program called Maternity Sans Risk (MSR), or Motherhood without Risk in English. As part of the program, community volunteers are trained to identify and refer high-risk pregnant women to House of Mothers facilities through an outreach program. Following their arrival to the facility, expectant mothers receive health and nutritional education, medical treatment and three meals a day before giving birth accompanied by a skilled attendant at the hospital. The project has reached more than 35,000 community members since its inception
EXPENDING FINANCIAL INCLUSION THRUOUGH SAVINGS AND INTERNAL LENDING COMMUNITY (SILC-PSP) METHODOLOGY (2017-2018) : with $ 55,353 from its private funds, and in partnership with Caritas Bafatá, CRS implemented a community-based Micro finance strategy project in order to allow rural and underserved populations in Guinea Bissau to gain inner access on financial mean and support the creation of Income Generating Activities (IGAs) for sustainable economic development named “Using Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) to Expand Financial Inclusion”. The project was implemented in both Bafatá and Gabu regions and targeted primarily women and young people but was also opened to self-interested persons. Through the channel of 16 certified Private Service Providers, the project created 162 (Over 160: 101.25%) SILC groups composed of 4.130 (over 40.000: 103.25%) members mainly women (78.8%) which overpass the targeted number of groups and members as well as the percentage of female inside group. The project timeframe was eighteen (18) months (October 2016 – March 2018). The outstanding loan fund cash mobilized amounts 8.574.750 FCFA with an outstanding value of loan of 1.720.000 FCFA. Their savings equals 9.620.175 FCFA and their social fund is 4.098.875 FCFA
PROMOTION OF EDUCATIONAL AND ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE IN EDUCATIVE COMMUNITIES (MeREECE OR MERIT IN ENGLISH) (USDA/FFE) - (2019-2023) CRS is implementing a four-year (2019-2023) award that will use $17 million USD of donated commodities and funds provided by the US Department of Agriculture Food for Education to implement a school feeding project in Guinea Bissau in partnership with Plan International, Caritas Guinea Bissau and the Ministry of Education and of Health. In total, CRS plans to operate in approximately 350 schools selected from five regions (Oio, Cacheu, Quinara, Bafata, and Gabu), where CRS will support approximately 197,419 unique direct beneficiaries over the life of the project. Among these direct beneficiaries, 120,187 children from primary and pre-schools will be supported. CRS will help support the achievement of both the following general objectives and intermediary objectives:
Objective 1: Improved Literacy of School-Aged Children
Objective 2: Increased Use of Health, Nutrition and Dietary Practices
Increase student attentiveness and attendance by reducing child hunger through nutritious school meals ;
Improve student attendance by establishing child friendly school environments, school libraries and extracurricular learning opportunities; and providing take home rations ;
Increase parents’ and communities’ involvement in education outcomes for their children ;
Improve health, nutrition and dietary practices of teachers, students and parents;
Improve teachers and school administrators’ ability to deliver quality literacy instruction through training and recognizing teacher performance.
People Served: 34,874 (FY 2014: 5,057 direct; 29,817 indirect)
Size: 13,946 sq miles; slightly less than three times the size of Connecticut
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CRS' History in Guinea-Bissau
Catholic Relief Services has had an active presence in Guinea-Bissau since 1988. CRS' long-term presence and close collaboration with local partners has allowed us to respond effectively to changing conditions within the country, from our Dakar office in neighboring Senegal.
CRS and its partner, Caritas Guinea-Bissau, are focusing on the nutritional and income needs of breastfeeding and pregnant women, and on reducing maternal and child morbidity and malnutrition through monitoring and community health care services.
For example, we work in the regions of Bafatà and Gabú, where maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world, intensified by 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. At these sites, 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. The project has reached more than 35,000 community members since its inception.
Within these same communities, CRS is implementing a Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) project to create economic opportunities, helping community members to form groups, pool their savings and make loans. This approach is allowing Bissau-Guineans to access the affordable financial services they require.
In 2015, with the onset of the Ebola virus disease plaguing West Africa, CRS, in collaboration with its partner Caritas Guinea-Bissau, carried out an Ebola awareness and prevention project. The “Be Safe” project increased community knowledge of the disease and promoted the adoption of protective behaviors through the training of key local actors, community mobilizations, education materials, radio, and the use of ICT4D innovations.
CRS continues to strengthen epidemiological surveillance in Guinea-Bissau through community monitoring for early detection and response against potentially epidemic diseases. The project strengthens community participation in monitoring the Ebola virus disease and other communicable diseases, such as Tuberculosis, through monitoring committees and community information. CRS is working closely with the Ministry of Health to address Tuberculosis incidence and prevalence rates which are on the rise.