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C-Change Organized Conference to Revitalize Family Planning in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Monday, December 14, 2009

First Lady Mme. Marie Olive Lembe Kabila officially launched the National Conference to Reposition Family Planning held on December 8-9 in Kinshasa. The conference marked a recommitment to family planning (FP) efforts by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), donors, and NGOs.

First Lady Marie Kabila of DR Congo addresses Family Planning Conference

The first lady attested that "this is an issue that concerns us all. No one among us wants to lose a child, a loved one we waited nine months for, and no man wants to see his wife left on the delivery table.” She appealed to the government to intensify efforts to reposition FP and said it is  “inadmissible [that] women continue to die as they are giving life."

Held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two-day conference is the culmination of six months of collaborative discussions by the National Reproductive Health Program (PNSR) of the Ministry of Health, USAID, UNFPA, and other key ministries, stakeholders, and donor agencies. Over 150 participants attended, including government dignitaries from all 11 provinces. C-Change directed this effort for USAID as part of its country program activity.

When we look at the health context in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly the situation of maternal, newborn and child health, we see an alarming situation. All the indicators are in the red,” noted Dr. Marie-Louise Mbo, head of the PNSR. Dr. Mbo stressed the importance of high-level political support and consistent budgets for FP. Other key recommendations included a draft law by the National Assembly in support of repositioning FP as well as creation of an interagency committee among partners and donor agencies to promote FP.

FP needs in the DRC are significant—there are 10 million women of reproductive age, but only 7% use a modern method whereas 16% did in 1990. Health indicators for reproductive health (RH) and child health have deteriorated alarmingly. One in 29 women die of causes related to birthing, and infant mortality is estimated at 92/1,000 in the first year.

USAID has been supporting a renewed effort with $8.4 million in FP programming in the DRC. US Ambassador to the DRC William Garvelink pointed out that unmet need for FP is high at more than 24% (DHS 2007).  One study estimated that satisfying this unmet need could avert over 18,000 maternal deaths and 850,000 child deaths.
  Banner at Family Planning Conference Kinshasa Dec 2009

A technical committee of FP and RH experts led by Dr. Alois Nguma of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kinshasa, prepared and presided over the Conference. During the first day, technical experts presented information on the current situation and critical need for FP services in the country, and on strategies for improving the delivery of these services. The second day consisted of working groups where participants developed recommendations and a plan of action to revitalize FP in the DRC.

For additional information about C-Change's work in DRC, click here.

Three main results of the conference expected to emerge over the coming weeks are:

1) Strengthened steering committee mechanism: This is essential as a permanent, standing, inter-governmental and civil society entity responsible for FP/RH and population advocacy, monitoring and awareness raising across all levels of government and society. Such a committee will be a centerpiece of national efforts to bring cohesion, continuity and coordination to heretofore largely scattered and frequently uneven efforts to expand FP/RH programs and services. Donor agencies' assistance will be vital - that is, irreplaceable - for making this entity permanent even as government agencies attempt to allocate increased resources to FP/RH programs. 

2) Coordinated cross-sectoral strategy and plan: This is essential for expanded, integrated FP/RH programs, as well as renewed population policies and programs that will factor in demographic growth projections, estimates of FP/RH commodities over the coming years, and mechanisms for integrating health, educational, housing, food and nutrition and employment needs into the highest levels of governmental planning and budgeting processes. 

3) Planned communication and promotion: A coordinated and cross-sectoral plan and program to communicate, promote, and publicize use of FP/RH services by couples of reproductive age through behavior change communication, community mobilization, expanded and improved FP/RH services at village level, health centers, clinics, hospitals and private health care facilities, local and national media communications, faith-based organizations and educational systems.














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