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Guinea-Bissau childbirth, a dangerous business

Aisatu had been in labor almost one whole day before the bi-weekly canoe service arrived to Bolama, the closest of the Bijagós Islands to the mainland of Guinea-Bissau. By the time she arrived to Bissau’s hospital, six hours later, the baby was dead. Luckily, Aisatu survived.

This small West African country is one of the most dangerous places in the world for pregnant women and newborns, consistently ranking at the bottom of economic, development and health surveys. When childbirth complications arise, only the capital’s main hospital has with the necessary resources to treat them. Most health facilities are hours away for People in rural areas and they have no electricity. In addition, due to cultural beliefs, many men are reluctant to let their wives give birth in a hospital as they do not want male doctors to treat them. As a result of all that, one out of 18 pregnant women die and 95 newborns die per every 1000 births.

According to the World Health Organization, “maternal and newborn mortality could be cut by nearly three-quarters by improving women's access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including family planning and strategies to prevent or manage abortion-related complications, -within the broader context of efforts to promote human rights, poverty reduction and gender equality”.

Raising awareness

ADPP Guinea-Bissau does its share in the common battle to reduce mortality among pregnant women and children under five. In cooperation with UNICEF and the European Union, ADPP Guinea-Bissau is implementing a three-year program to facilitate access to basic health care for this vulnerable part of the population in the region of Oio, which has a population of 240.000 inhabitants.

The plan includes the training of Community Health Agents and capacity building for hospital and health administration staff with the aim that 80% of the population sees a health officer at least three times a year. The organization also expects that, through the work of the Community Health Agents, at least 95% of needed medicines and medical devices in health facilities become available over the period of 36 months.

“Too often, pregnancy and childbirth put the women of Guinea-Bissau at risk, and too many of the country’s children suffer the effects of malnutrition and inadequate healthcare. This is just a small step to combating this scourge”, affirms M. Andris Piebalgs, Development Commissioner for the EU.