Despite the abundance of natural resources in Guinea, its population endures high poverty and malnutrition rates. Since 2000, the country has experienced socio-economic adversity. Governance problems, limited economic progress and the overall deterioration of the economy have undermined living conditions.
The poverty rate rose from 40 percent in 1996 to 49 percent in 2004. During the same period, the share of the population living in extreme poverty has grown significantly from 18 percent to 27 percent. Lately, Guinea has shown signs of socio-political instability.
Even though several neighbouring countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire) have been ravaged by internal conflicts, Guinea has remained a haven of peace. For this reason, the country's Forest region has long been host to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone, and more recently to some 4,000 Ivorian refugees.
The continued presence of refugees has contributed to the widespread decline of the Forest region. According to a recent food security survey, 40 percent of its inhabitants are now food-insecure. The two regions hardest hit by poverty and illiteracy remain Upper and Middle Guinea. These two regions also suffer from chronic food insecurity.
The majority of the population relies on subsistence agriculture without any financial safety net and are especially vulnerable to small-scale natural disasters (floods, late rains, etc).
- School Feeding Programme, in Middle and Upper Guinea: the government aims to give a basic education to all Guineans by 2013. Its main priority is increasing primary school attendance, especially among girls. To this end, WFP has implemented a school feeding programme in Middle and Upper Guinea which feeds nearly 122,000 students in the 2005-06 school year. In participating schools, each student receives a hot lunch every school day, giving them the sustenance they need to learn. Girls in fourth to sixth grades also receive a take-home ration, giving parents an added incentive to keep them at school. The programme aims to boost school enrolment and attendance rates as well as sensitise communities to key concepts in food security and hygiene. Although the programme was only launched in March 2002, attendance and performance have already risen in targeted schools.
- Community-based Rural Development in Middle and Upper Guinea: WFP food assistance supports the Government's efforts to improve the living conditions and food security of poor rural people in Middle and Upper Guinea, by focusing on women's income generating activities, natural resource management and rural infrastructure through food-for-work and food for training. In 2006, these activities will benefit to an estimated 35,000 people in Upper and Middle Guinea.
- Emergency Food Aid Programme in Forest Guinea: the current project started in January 2005 and assists people going hungry in emergencies resulting from armed conflicts in neighbouring countries. The programme is currently focusing on assistance to Liberian and Ivorian refugees living in seven refugee camps. WFP provides food to 45,000 Liberian and Ivorian refugees whose economic self-sufficiency is limited. WFP also supports Supplementary and Therapeutic Feeding Centres for both the refugees and host population surrounding the camps. In early 2003, WFP started an emergency school feeding programme in Forest Guinea to support host communities. Currently 65,000 primary school children are benefiting from this activity.
- Nationwide air operations with links to neighbouring countries : an 18-seater WFP aircraft transports humanitarian passengers five days a week to locations throughout Guinea (Conakry, Kissidougou and N'Zerekore), Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The flights are free of charge for all employees of humanitarian agencies. The plane is also used for diplomatic missions and medical evacuations. The air operation plays a key role in responding to emergency situations by transporting goods and people, particularly in areas of instability and where ground transport is difficult.