WB Helps DRC Strengthen Health Systems to Improve Women and Children’s Health; Prepare for Potential Ebola Outbreaks

December 18, 2014

WASHINGTON, December 18, 2014—The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a total of U$226.5 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to strengthen its health systems to improve maternal and child health services. The project will also support an Ebola preparedness plan for DRC and enable the country to be better equipped to respond to anew Ebola outbreak. 

Economic growth in the DRC which has been impressive in recent years has not translated into achieving better health and other human development results.

While infant mortality has fallen from 148 per thousand to 104 per thousand in the last five years, other challenges remain.  For example, 43 percent of women are affected by domestic violence and poor access to health services.  Almost half of all children under the age of five are malnourished. Fertility rate has increased from 6.3 to 6.6 with 7.4 in rural areas. Furthermore, despite having a large number of trained midwives and assisted deliveries being at 80 percent, the maternal mortality rate is very high at 846 deaths per 100,000 births, which suggests poor quality services

Increasing women and children’s access to improved and affordable health services by focusing on better governance and stronger health systems is a key priority for the government and an important element in our Country Assistance Strategy for the DRC,” said Jan Walliser, World Bank Acting Country Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Building the capacity to deliver quality neonatal and child health treatment is critical for poverty reduction in the country.”

The government priority is to achieve universal health coverage targeting pregnant women and children under five and has mobilized all the technical and financial partners toward this goal.  The World Bank has aligned its interventions along those of UNICEF, the Global Fund, GAVI and UNFPA with the aim that such collaborative approach will contribute towards the provision of an integrated package of services implemented offered to a larger portion of the population.  According to Hadia Samaha, the World Bank Task Team Leader for the PDSS Project, “This alignment of development partners will contribute to strengthening the health system and will also improve use and quality of care as well as achieving better maternal and child health results.”  

The $130 million IDA* credit and $90 million IDA* grant along with the $6.5 million grant from the Health Results Innovation Trust Fund for the DRC Human Development Systems Strengthening for Better Maternal and Child Health Results Project (PDSS) will scale up Performance Based Financing (PBF) approach targetting about 23 percent of the population in four provinces (Equateur, Bandundu, Maniema, and Katanga). It is expected that this strategy will strengthen the quantity and quality of services and improve governance, transparency and accountability of the health system.

Under the project, financial incentives will be provided for household visits to improve preventative care as well as improve social behaviors towards healthy choices. It will also focus on nutrition, HIV/AIDS and neglected tropical diseases in addition to maternal and child health.

The project will help DRC in its efforts to increase the country’s overall disease preparedness and to minimize the health risks from a new outbreak of Ebola. It will provide essential equipment, supplies, drugs and vehicles that are critical in ensuring that the country is prepared for an Ebola outbreak in DRC.

“By financing an integrated package of services and strengthening the health systems in DRC the project will help improve the use and quality of health for women and children and also contribute to the overall level of emergency response preparedness, which is vital to counter communicable disease outbreaks such as Ebola,” said Samaha.

* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 112 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent going to Africa.

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