CRS in Guinea-Bissau
With a population of just under 2 million people, Guinea- Bissau is known for its diverse people, vast abundance of natural resources, and natural parks and wildlife. However, a combination of political coups, assassinations and civil wars have resulted in years of civil and military unrest that are, only recently, being subdued. The effects of a turbulent past are still seen in the day to day life of Guineans. Well over half the population is under the age of 25 and over 60% of the Guinean population lives below the poverty line. With a government that spends less than 6% of the annual GDP on health expenditures, a majority of the population suffers from malnutrition, waterborne diseases, malaria and tuberculosis. The country is burdened with a high infant mortality rate and children who do make it past their 5th birthday are expected to live for only 50 years.
Despite an infamous black market and other obstacles that threaten to destabilize the country’s economy, Guinea-Bissau has strong potential to enhance the livelihoods of its poorest communities through its vast supply of natural resources. The country is blessed with weather that promotes the growth of cash crops and the production of mineral resources.
CRS is one of the few International NGOs that continues to address humanitarian needs in the country. Strong partnerships with church partners, government agencies and other humanitarian actors has allowed CRS to expand its reach to some of the most disadvantaged communities. Through our community centered nutrition and health programming we are able to support the government’s work towards building a healthy nation. And through our emergency response projects we are able to ensure that assistance and aid reach the most vulnerable populations.
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.