This blog originally appeared on the Every Woman Every Child Blog on August 1, 2016
Every woman and every child should have access to lifesaving health care. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), far too many women, children, and adolescents continue to die from preventable conditions. The country’s maternal mortality ratio is among the highest in the world at 846 deaths per 100,000 live births. Chronic malnutrition (also known as stunting) among children under five persists at 43 percent. A major driver of neonatal and maternal mortality is the poor quality of care in the country’s health facilities. Though 80 percent of women in the DRC deliver in a health facility, the coverage rate for emergency obstetric care is just 5 percent.
“The needs for women and children’s health [are] extensive,” the Honorable Dr. Felix Kabanga, the DRC’s Minister of Health, said recently. “We have just started to make progress on this.”
Making improvements to the DRC’s health system is not as simple as identifying problems and pointing to solutions. For the DRC, one of the poorest countries in the world, one of the biggest obstacles to change is financing. Without more funding, it is nearly impossible to put solutions into motion.
The DRC is making additional financing a reality with assistance from the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in support of Every Woman, Every Child. The GFF, launched in 2015, is a multi-stakeholder partnership that seeks to close the $33.3 billion global funding gap for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH). The DRC, in partnership with the GFF, is leading the development of an Investment Case, in which countries prioritize activities to achieve their desired RMNCAH results.
The DRC’s Investment Case will focus on two high impact actions: an integrated health care package for maternal, neonatal, and adolescent health, with an emphasis on family planning and nutrition, and interventions in water and sanitation, which are essential to improving the country’s health care system. Systematic improvements will be made in the areas of human resources; the management and supply of medical drugs and governance; health information systems; and the management of public and external financing for RMNCAH. The Investment Case will serve 13 provinces inhabited by over 38.7 million people who represent 46 percent of the country’s total population.
Reaching consensus on what to prioritize in the DRC’s Investment Case has been a participatory process, involving a wide range of stakeholders including civil society, the private sector, bilateral, and multilateral organizations. Consultations and meetings also yielded real progress in addressing problems, such as parallel financing and overlapping funding. A uniquely strong GFF partnership in the DRC, comprised of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank, contributed to the creation of stronger solutions.
“The GFF process in the DRC has been extremely helpful in convening partners around common objectives and aligned financing, which in some ways was even more valuable than the additional funding that had been available,” Health Minister Kabanga said at the Global Financing Facility (GFF)’s Investors Group’s meeting last month. “The challenge of alignment of partners had been great, despite having a national health development plan…The GFF process managed to get them all involved in the same conversation, on the same page, and [to] bring all the priorities together. As a result, the financing could be aligned so that there wasn’t duplication but also more effective use of existing resources.”
The DRC’s Investment Case, expected to be completed this month, will be a major step in finding new financing for RMNCAH in the country. The DRC is also making progress in developing a corresponding health financing strategy, which will promote financial sustainability to accelerate RMNCAH advancements and Universal Health Coverage. It is hoped that these planned investments, over time, will make it possible to dramatically improve the health and well-being of children and women throughout the DRC.