Guinea-Bissau, like the rest of the world, was also affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and, precisely, registered the first positive cases on March 25, 2020. A few days later, on March 28, the state of health emergency was declared and in July confirmed Covid cases had exceeded one thousand.

We must not be fooled by the absolute low number of infected people, because the population of Guinea-Bissau is approximately that of a medium-large city (about 1.9 million people) and, obviously, the monitoring of the epidemic cannot be as punctual as in European countries due to the lack of health facilities.

In any case, measures have also been taken here to stop the spread of the virus and Magda Robalo has been appointed commissioner for the management of the pandemic, in the past already at the forefront of the fight against cholera, malaria, measles and ebola.

In Guinea-Bissau, the main prevention measures were: the imposition of social distancing, the limitation of movements, the closure of borders, the reduction of shop hours and the suspension of “Lumos”, or trade fairs. .

Mani Tese is active in Guinea-Bissau in various projects and regions of the country. In particular in the Cacheu region, with the project “Protection and durable solutions for refugees and asylum seekers in Guinea-Bissau” co-financed by UNHCR, between May and June 2020 it decided to launch an investigation, in collaboration with local communities, to understand what are the effects of preventive measures on people’s lives and what the primary needs may be in this period of emergency.

Methodology of the survey

To maintain social distancing, Mani Tese opted for a telephone survey to be carried out in 34 villages in the Cacheu region which host a total of 4,957 refugees and naturalized persons. Later, the villages became 33 due to problems encountered in telephone communications with the village of Bagui.

Three people per village were interviewed for a total of 99 people. The selection criterion was 2 women and 1 man and of these 2 had to be refugees and 1 citizen. The interviewee’s privacy was preserved since only sex, age and status (citizen or refugee) and not identity were recorded.

Results of the survey

The survey results highlight an important impact of the restrictions on the economy of the intervention communities (Cacheu region). On the one hand, in fact, the suspension of agricultural fairs has the consequence of slowing down local trade; on the other hand, the closure of the borders disadvantages the villages near the border with Senegal that live off cross-border trade. 84.8% of respondents therefore said that the pandemic and government restrictions had a strong impact on the sale of products.

According to the survey, families who live thanks to the marketing of cashews, which represent the main product of the region, have had a particularly negative impact. 63.6% of these families, in fact, were forced to sell cashews below the market price. Another 32%, on the other hand, will keep a significant portion of the cashews waiting for better prices.

The restrictions for the prevention of Covid therefore have an important impact on the economic situation of most of the respondents. The suspension of trade fairs and the closure of borders, especially in the world, have led to a contraction of family income (losses compared to the previous year between 20% and 80%), with a direct and immediate impact on consumption habits, especially related to food. In fact, if before the pandemic most families ate three meals, in April only two were eaten in almost all cases.

From a social and community point of view, the state of emergency decreed by the government has led to a significant change in the way of life in all intervention communities, as during this period, people have stopped carrying out socio-cultural activities such as wedding parties, traditional ceremonies and anything that can bring people together. In addition, most of the interviewees stated that they respect preventive measures such as frequent hand washing, social distancing and the use of masks.

Conclusions: what are the needs of the communities?

Respondents were finally asked: what help would you ask the government now? 87 people responded for food aid, 16 asked for agricultural seeds, and 12 of the respondents requested an increase in materials for the prevention of Covid-19 and to continue with awareness in the communities.

These responses and the overall analysis of the survey helped us understand the main and priority needs of the intervention communities. After an initial distribution of food and basic necessities carried out in May, then another was followed in December to respond even more effectively to the needs of the communities.

In total Mani Tese together with UNHCR delivered: 32,000 kg of bags of rice, 1,480 liters of vegetable oil, 1,000 kg of onions, 2,360 liters of vinegar, 480 buckets for hand washing, 2,268 bars of soap, 1,560 liters of bleach and 2,600 fabric masks.

Here are some photos of the delivery of the goods:

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consegnati primi materiali prevenzione covid19 guinea bissau_mani tese 2020_4
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