DRC Moves to Improve Access to Life-Saving Commodities for Mothers and Children

For the first time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 13 life-saving health commodities for mothers and children have been included in the National Health Development Plan (NHDP). These medicines are recommended by the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children (UNCoLSC).

The move by the Ministry of Public Health to include the commodities in the plan was made official at a special session on January 20, 2016, and supported by the USAID-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program, which has worked with the ministry since 2011 with the goal of promoting strengthened pharmaceutical systems that result in a sustainable and positive impact on health. In total, 20 experts from various national and international organizations took part in this special session. These included experts from the Ministry of Public Health, WHO, UNICEF, the Clinton Health Access Initiative, the Family Health Association (Association Santé Familiale in French (ASF/Population Services International), the Integrated Health Project Plus (PROSANI plus), and SIAPS program.

The inclusion of 13 medicines into the NHDP is timely, considering that DRC is a country with one of the world’s highest infant and child mortality rates. Data from the DRC Demographic and Health Survey 2013-14 show that the maternal, infant, and neonatal mortality rates are 846, 104, and 28 per 1000 live births, respectively. Moreover, the findings report that for every 1000 live births, 58 children die before their first birthday.

The 13 life-saving essential medicines for mothers and children help to address the very real public health problem posed by these mortality rates. These commodities are included in the country’s essential medicines procurement plan, developed in September 2014 under the auspices of the Ministry of Public Health through the Directorate of Pharmacy and Medicine in DRC.

During this session, the following actions related to these 13 life-saving medicines were inserted in the NHDP:

  • Guarantee universal access to vital commodities for maternal, infant-child, and neonatal health, placing priority on the 13 life-saving medicines for mothers and children, while ensuring their availability, quality, accessibility, and rational use.
  • Improve the quality of the services and care package provided to the general population, particularly to mothers and children.

Increase the availability of medicines—especially the 13 life-saving medicines for mothers and children—in health facilities in accordance with UNCoLSC recommendations.

To close the session, Dr. Kalume Tutu, National Director of the National Directorate of Families and Specific Groups, representing the Secretary General of Health, shared his appreciation of SIAPS Program support. “We express our sincere gratitude to SIAPS for having provided financial, material, and logistical support to include the 13 life-saving medicines for mothers and children in the NHDP, which will guide interventions for the health sector over five years in DRC,” he said.