An official with the nurses’ union in Guinea-Bissau said on Wednesday that more than 30 people have died because of the national strike that has paralyzed the health care system.
On Monday, a boycott was launched in the small nation of West Africa over working conditions, pay, and other issues. Chronically under-equipped hospitals and clinics have long angered workers and endangered patients.
Nurses’ union spokesperson Garcia Batican Sampaio said, “I hold the government responsible for the death toll and for the boycott that has paralyzed the health sector nationwide.”
Fernando Vaz, a government spokesman, said “those responsible for this tragedy will be brought to justice”.
Guinea Bissau has been plagued by political instability for decades. Since independence from Portugal in 1974, nine coups or attempted coups have hampered the country’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond cashew nut exports.
According to a 2017 UN human rights report that called for comprehensive reform, many of the country’s medical clinics lack electricity or water supply, salaries are low, and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world.
In 2016, 24 patients reportedly died during a health workers’ strike, highlighting the state’s and providers’ failure to provide adequate healthcare.