MSF supports a dysfunctional public health system caused by political instability

A former Portugese colony, the West African country of Guinea-Bissau is home to 1.7 million people.

Since independence in 1974, the country has been subjected to considerable military and political upheaval.

The country is one of the largest producers of cashew nuts, which provides a modest living for farmers and is the main source of foreign exchange.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) first worked in Guinea-Bissau in 1998. Our work in the country involves responding to endemic and epidemic diseases.

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MSF's work in Guinea-Bissau: 2015

Due to the political instability and the chronic failure of state institutions, Guinea-Bissau is ranked among the poorest and least developed countries in the world.

The public health system is dysfunctional, which means that many people have no access to medical services, and this is causing unacceptable levels of mortality, particularly among children and pregnant women.


During 2015, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued working in the central region of Bafatá, managing the paediatric ward of the regional hospital.

As the population is scattered in Bafatá, another team worked in four rural health centres to ensure early diagnosis and treatment for children living far from the hospital.

MSF also improved the referral system for paediatric patients so that they were admitted to hospital for care when necessary. More than 30,000 consultations were carried out with children under five, and between September and December many patients presented with malaria as there was an especially sharp peak in cases during this period.  

In July, in response to a measles outbreak in the region, MSF supported the Ministry of Health in vaccinating more than 28,500 children aged between six months and five years.

Working to prevent epidemics

Cholera is endemic in the country and there have been numerous outbreaks over the past decade, especially in the capital, Bissau.

Between July and December, MSF conducted several campaigns in the city to raise awareness about how to prevent the disease.

During this period, MSF also ran training courses on cholera treatment and water and sanitation protocols for Ministry of Health staff.

In addition, in view of the ongoing Ebola epidemic in neighbouring Guinea, MSF assisted with the preparation of the national Ebola response plan.

find out more in our international activity report