Located on the coast of West Africa, the Republic of Guinea-Bissau has a small, young population of 2 million people, two-thirds of whom are under age 30. About one-fifth of the population lives in the capital of Bissau and along the coast. As a coastal country, Guinea-Bissau has countless islands dotting the shoreline, with unique natural features and wildlife. Predominantly Muslim and Christian, Guinea-Bissau’s population comprises several ethnic groups such as Fulani, Balanta, Mandinga, Papel, and Manjaco. Crioulo is the lingua franca, while Portuguese is the official language.
Guinea-Bissau was ruled by Portugal until 1974, and since independence, the country has experienced decades of political instability marked by a civil war and several coups. The result is a fragile country with high levels of unemployment, a weak economy, widespread corruption, and endemic poverty. Several public institutions are challenged, including an underdeveloped education infrastructure.
Despite its many economic and political challenges, Guinea-Bissau has seen improvements in recent decades; the under-five mortality rate has declined significantly since 1990, from over 200 deaths per 1,000 live births to under 80. Similarly, life expectancy continues to improve—but it still ranks among the lowest in the world. Despite some improvements in overall population health, top causes of death include neonatal disorders, diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, ischemic heart disease, stroke, tuberculosis, malaria, road injuries, and meningitis. Additionally, cases of measles have been increasing annually, posing a significant public health challenge.
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