Health conditions in the Republic of Guinea are among the poorest in the world as classified in 1993 by the UNDP. Its population of approximately eight million people have a life expectancy at birth of only 39 years, while the average in sub-saharan Africa is over 50. The infant mortality rate is 155 per thousand live births and the mortality rate for children under age 5 is 44 per thousand. This figure represents 50 percent of all deaths in the country. In addition, maternal mortality is also high at 8 per thousand pregnancies and a crude birth rate of 45 per thousand.
In the industrialized world, having a family member seriously ill or handicapped is the exception rather than the rule. In the tropics, however, disease is a way of life. Everyday Guineans contend with the illnesses found all over the world, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease, AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections; as well as the many fatal and debilitating diseases that are predominately found in the tropics. Respiratory diseases, malaria, diarrhea, onchocerciasis, leprosy and other preventable and treatable ailments such as measles, tuberculosis, pertussis, poliomyelitis and tetanus account for three quarters of reported cases of morbidity. In both rural and urban regions, the inaccessibility to potable water and poor sanitation are the primary causes of parasitic and endemic diseases, especially among children under the age of five.
These figures are dramatically disparate from those of the United States in which the infant mortality rate is approximately 9.8 per thousand and the life expectancy is over 75 years.
The Guinean Ministry of Health and Population has made numerous attempts to improve the overall administration of the country's health care system. Limited resources and increasing demands, however, consistently disrupt distribution of health care services and often favor urban centers at the expense of rural areas. In Guinea over 73 percent of the population live in areas inaccessible to health care services provided in urban centers. In addition to being underserved, Guinea's rural population is largely illiterate. This adds to the challenge of reaching these communities.
The Republic of Guinea has an area of 94,926 square miles-over twice the size of Pennsylvania-with a population of about 8,000,000. Despite the fact that the Republic of Guinea is endowed with rich natural resources, such as bauxite, iron ore, diamond, gold, uranium, cobalt, oil and gas, etc... it has been classified by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as the least developed country in the world.