DR Congo: Advance Africa Addresses the Needs of Women and Families

Mothers and children waiting at the clinic. In Kasai Province. {Photo by Berengere de Negri, AED}Photo by Berengere de Negri, AED

When Mama Yvette, a pregnant woman in the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), went into labor, she was forced to walk alone through the night in order to reach the Kabongo maternity clinic. She gave birth to quadruplets the next morning. Congolese women like Mama Yvette need better, more accessible care to ensure the well-being of their families. The Advance Africa project strives to make quality FP/RH services available when and where families need them most.

In the DR Congo, being a mother is not easy. Family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services are difficult to access at the community level, if they exist at all. A health center or hospital offering birthing assistance is often more than a day's trek away and the community traditional birth attendants that women rely on often have little or no medical training. Many women have no access to the counseling or family planning methods they need to plan for their families. High rates of infant, child, and maternal mortality reflect the reality of the lives of women and children in DR Congo, and the desperate need for better access to quality FP/RH services.

The Advance Africa project, built on a partnership between Management Sciences for Health and five other organizations, is providing assistance to the Programme de Santé Rurale (SANRU) III project to improve the lives of these families. Utilizing the optimal birth spacing approach to FP/RH service delivery, Advance Africa aims to provide quality FP/RH services appropriate to the needs of displaced women and their families. Spacing births three to five years reduces maternal and child mortality and improves the health of women and families. In addition, training in FP/RH service provision and counseling has strengthened the FP/RH component of the national primary health care package, giving women and families throughout DR Congo improved access to FP/RH services.