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“Guinea-Bissau must immediately address the critical needs of the poorest” – UN poverty expert

BISSAU (28 February 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda, today called on the political and military authorities of Guinea-Bissau “to address the critical needs of the poorest and most marginalized as a matter of priority.”

“The people of Guinea-Bissau cannot wait any longer for state policies to become effective,” Ms. Sepúlveda said* at the end of her visit to the country. “All State authorities must act with the vision to ensure that all women, children, young adults, and future generations to come, will have a better life in Guinea-Bissau.”
           
“Guinea-Bissau has an opportunity to progress, but it must agree on a common vision which moves the country’s politics away from short-term power struggles and towards working for the well-being of all members of society, especially those living in abject poverty,” the human rights expert stressed.

The Special Rapporteur noted that steps adopted to improve the country’s legal framework have had limited success in improving the situation of the poorest Guinea-Bissauns. “Development depends on giving priority to investment in social services such as health and education and the strengthening of the agricultural sector to ensure food security,” she stressed.
 
Ms. Sepúlveda was struck by the extent to which the social and financial wellbeing of the community and households rely entirely on women. “Women and girls are Guinea-Bissau’s foundational pillar, yet their reward is a neglect of their rights and needs,” she said.

“They have limited access to services such as education, health and justice and are victims of sexual violence, exploitation, forced marriage and adolescent pregnancies, despite their tireless effort to secure the wellbeing of their families and communities,” the expert underscored.

Compared with men, women suffer from less access to health services, higher incidence of HIV/AIDS, lower levels of school enrolment, lower literacy rates, reduced incomes, higher rates of unemployment and greater difficulties in overcoming poverty. “The incidence of women living with HIV/AIDS and rates for maternal mortality in Guinea-Bissau are among the worst in the world,” she warned.
 
“I am leaving the country with a profound sense of admiration for the resilience and courage of Guinea-Bissaun women,” the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said.

The human rights expert visited the Biombo, Quinhamel, Mansoa, Bissorã, Mansaba and Nhacra regions, where she met with Government officials, civil society organizations and communities living in poverty.

In her preliminary findings at the conclusion of her visit, Ms. Sepúlveda called for systematic structural changes to tackle impunity, ensure access to justice, address education and agricultural reforms, and address gender inequality. She also provided specific recommendations in the areas of health, education, employment, social protection, and access to land, and gender equality.

The Special Rapporteur will present a full report on Guinea-Bissau to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014.

(*) Read the full end-of-mission press statement by Ms. Sepúlveda:
In English: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14290&LangID=E  
In Portuguese: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/EPoverty/NewsID=13229-LangID=P.doc

ENDS

Magdalena Sepúlveda was appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in May 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She is independent from any government or organization. Learn more, visit:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/SRExtremePovertyIndex.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Guinea-Bissau: http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/africaregion/pages/gwindex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva: Michael Ferguson (+41 22 917 92 60 / srextremepoverty@ohchr.org)
In Bissau: Leilani Elliot (+245 613 6047 / elliottl@un.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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