With a population of 1.9 million in west Africa, Guinea-Bissau its people face chronic instability and economic inequality.
Almost 70% of the population live on less than $1.90 a day and more than 10% are food insecure. The life expectancy is 58 years.
Healthcare experts say that there are many issues to medical attention that patients face such as fake medication, shortages of equipment and medical expertise, and frequent strikes by health workers.
Aissatu Forbs Djalo, a doctor at Simão Mendes and member of the national health workers’ union, says salaries are too low and often go unpaid. Doctors are paid on average £250 a month and nurses up to £130.
“The government budget does not allow the health system to pay the doctors what they need,” says Djalo. “A lot of people die from diseases that can be prevented,” says Djalo. “If someone has a cardiovascular illness, they may die due to lack of specialists, and we do not have diagnostic equipment.”
In 2016, Guinea-Bissau had one doctor for every 10,000 people.
Political instability has crippled public services. There have been 10 completed or attempted coups in the country since independence in 1974.
“Until we have a stable government, which can complete its tenure, we will not be able to stabilise the public sector,” says Dr Magda Robalo, high commissioner for Covid-19 and a former health minister. “For you to have money to pay workers, you need to be able to collect money." Robalo says, “We can build a bottom-up system that can take care of people far away from the hospitals.”
According to Unicef, 66% of the population live more than 3 miles from a health centre.