Over the last 50 years, USAID has collaborated closely with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve the health of the Congolese people. But still, today, due to crippling poverty and persistent conflict, the DRC has among the lowest levels of human development in the world, according to the UN Development Program. Health services are too far away, too expensive, and too poor quality to contribute to long-term health; life expectancy in the country is just 48.
USAID works in 80 rural and peri-urban health zones in the southeastern provinces of Katanga, South Kivu, East Kasai and West Kasai to improve access to care. In coordination with the Government of the DRC, USAID is improving health systems to reduce neonatal, child, and maternal mortality while reducing new incidence of preventable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
The DRC has one of the highest rates of malaria-related deaths in the world. In 2007, less than one in ten Congolese households owned or slept under mosquito nets. Since late 2010, when DRC was selected as a focus of the President’s Malaria Initiative, USAID has provided a comprehensive malaria prevention package in 70 health zones and is in the process of expanding its efforts to an additional 68 zones. This work includes providing insecticide-treated bednets, training for healthcare professionals in diagnosis and treatment, and drugs that reduce malarial anemia among pregnant women.
Although HIV prevalence in the DRC’s general population is 1.3 percent, in pregnant women, it is much higher –4 percent. Less than one in 20 mothers have access to services that will prevent them from passing on the disease to their children, and less than 15 percent of HIV/AIDS positive Congolese have access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs. Through the President's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), USAID focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in the states with the highest prevalence of the disease: Kinshasa, Matadi, Lubumbashi, Bukavu and Kisangani. We are also scaling up activities to prevent mother-to-child transmission to 80 supported health zones. USAID also supports government institutions and social mobilization campaigns that employ proven educational and behavior change techniques such as game shows and soap operas.
Maternal and Child Health
Worldwide, five countries account for half of all child deaths in the world, and the DRC is one of them. Through the Child Survival Call To Action, USAID is increasing availability of and access to low-cost, high-impact services in 80 health zones, targeting 80 hospitals and 1,425 health centers and community care sites in South Kivu, Katanga, East Kasai and West Kasai provinces. These services, which will reach over 12 million people, are in line with the DRC Health System Strengthening Strategy and Ministry of Health Minimum Package of Activities and include:
- Birth preparedness and maternity services
- Treatment of obstetric complications and disabilities including fistulas
- Newborn care and treatment
- Immunizations including polio
- Treatment of child illnesses including malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition
Family Planning and Reproductive Health
The DRC’s annual population growth rate is one of the highest in the world, and many women who report that they would like to plan and space births have no access to modern contraceptive methods. The goal of USAID’s family planning and reproductive health work is to provide women with information and quality services. Social marketing and mass media campaigns provide information about the range of affordable and modern contraceptive methods such as condoms, pills, injectables, and intra-uterine contraceptive devices, as well as traditional methods such as cycle beads. USAID also engages community leaders and church organizations to address gender-related and other cultural barriers to voluntary family planning.
Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation
Due to lack of sanitation, poor hygiene practices, and contaminated drinking water, diarrhea is the third highest cause of child deaths in the DRC. To address this issue, USAID is increasing access to potable water, strengthening the community and health zone capacity and encouraging hand-washing with soap, safe water storage and correct and consistent use of latrines. These programs utilize low-cost technology and engage women as decision-makers to influence change in their communities.
Forty-three percent of children in the DRC have stunted growth and nearly one in ten suffers from acute malnutrition. USAID supports vitamin A supplements, iron supplements and social and behavioral change communication at the facility and community levels in 80 health zones.
The DRC ranks 10th of the 22 countries that account for 80 percent of the world’s TB cases. One of the leading causes of death in the country, TB particularly affects individuals in their economically productive years, striking a blow to not only family health but family income. A major constraint in managing TB in the DRC is frequent stock-outs of routine TB drugs resulting in fewer patients receiving regular treatments, if any. USAID is extending TB treatment and prevention services to health centers in rural areas, mobilizing communities in fight against TB, supporting TB provincial coordinating offices and central drug management, and fighting increasingly virulent strains of multi-drug resistant TB.
Last updated: May 10, 2013