Guinea Bissau, a small coastal country in West Africa, is set to boost health communication for tens of thousands of its citizens who live in remote locations, such as Varela, a fishing community about a three-hour drive from Bissau, on the Senegalese border.

In May 2016, HC3 launched a social and behavior change communication (SBCC) program in Guinea-Bissau to strengthen the country’s capacity to respond to potential health crises such as cholera or Ebola. Ranked number two in infant mortality worldwide, the country has one of the weakest health systems, a direct consequence of the government’s instability due to just under a dozen political coup attempts since the country’s independence from Portugal in 1974.

Guinea-Bissau is a coastal nation of 1.7 million people, roughly the size of West Virginia, with dozens of ethnic groups and divisions among animists, Muslims and a small Christian minority. The country’s geography includes floodplains, forests, cashew plantations and rice paddies, and is vulnerable to intense seafaring traffic through a vast network of isolated islands. Under such circumstances, establishing strong communication that links all people, cultures and health needs may be the most effective way to save lives.

Boosting Guinea-Bissau’s Emergency Preparedness

HC3 partnered with Guinea Bissau’s Center for Health Information and Communication (CICS) at the National Institute for Health (INASA), to find needs and tools specific to the country and its population. To this end, HC3 held a number of workshops, exercises and team enhancing techniques to assist INASA in assuming national leadership in health communication, with a special focus on emergency preparedness against potential epidemics, such as cholera or Ebola, but also to combat endemic disease burdens such as measles and pertussis, among others.