The health care system is inadequate. Aid from UNICEF and the World Health Organization has enabled Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world, to strengthen its health management and decentralize the health system in the country. The emphasis is on preventive medicine, with small mobile units serving the rural areas. Between 1990–94, children were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 95%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 74%; polio, 68%; and measles, 65%. In 1990–95, only 53% of the population had access to safe water and only 21% had adequate sanitation. As of 1999, there were an estimated 0.2 physicians and 1.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people. The birthrate was an estimated 38.9 per 1,000 people as of 2002 and the general mortality rate was 15.1 per 1,000 people. Infant mortality was estimated at 126 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000. Life expectancy was 48 years for males and 51.3 years for females in 1999. An estimated 20% of all births are low birth weight. The fertility rate was 5.8 children for each woman during her childbearing years (2000).
As of 1999, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at 17,000 (including 2.8% of the adult population) and deaths from AIDS that year were estimated at 1,200. HIV prevalence was 2.5 per 100 adults. An estimated 1,500 children age 15 or younger were living with HIV/AIDS and about 4,300 children have been orphaned by the disease.
Malaria struck nearly 158,748 people in 1993. The total goiter rate was 32.3% of school-age children in 1996.