The Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 2,500 people in Guinea, revealed how little access to medical care rural Guineans had. The health situation has improved slightly post-Ebola, but without donor money, the system would grind to a halt.
Of every 1,000 babies born in Guinea, 123 die before their fifth birthday. Thousands of babies die from preventable causes each year. For every 100,000 live births, 724 women die.
Guinea has the world’s second-highest rate of female genital mutilation (FGM), after Somalia – 97% of women between 15 and 49 have been cut. Women who have had FGM are twice as likely to haemorrhage during childbirth, and haemorrhage is the leading cause of mothers dying in Africa.
Medicine is in short supply, and health workers’ salaries rely on selling enough of it. This leads to staff shortages; most health centres have one or two health workers when they should have eight.
“The needs are identified, but the money is just not coming from the government,” says Guy Yogo, Unicef’s deputy representative in Guinea. After Ebola, the government increased its contribution to health from 2.66% to 4.66% of GDP, and has committed to 7% for next year. According to Yogo, however: “The minimum is 11-15% if you really want to have an impact.”
There is also an endemic problem with the UN’s approach.
“They give out supplies like sweets,” says Yolande Hyjazi, the country director of Jhpiego, an international health organisation. “The UN system is: what the government asks for, they buy, and that’s it. We’ve seen a lot of vacuum extraction equipment, but if you ask the staff about it they say: ‘I don’t know [what it is], the UNFPA [UN population fund] sent it.’ They give equipment without training.”
Even when staff do know how to use it, obstetric equipment does not solve a problem many women have – getting to a clinic.
Harriet Somadouno, a 20-year-old farmer in her third trimester, walked 17km to Kondiadou for a checkup, carrying 10kg of peanuts on her head to sell at the market en route.
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