A CLOSER LOOK:
THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Omba is 28 years old and has six children. She only wanted two, but when she got married she knew nothing about contraception. She and her husband are unemployed and worried that they won’t be able to feed their large family. Recently, Omba heard about the five-year contraceptive implant. She wishes she could get one but has no money to pay for it.
Omba’s situation is typical of women in the DR Congo—but it is a situation the present government has vowed to change. In November 2013, DR Congo took an important step forward by making a powerful, public commitment to FP2020. At the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Mr. Kwete Dieudonné, Advisor to the Prime Minister, delivered the government’s inspiring new pledge: to triple the number of women with access to modern contraception, to allocate millions of dollars to family planning and to develop programs and policies that will empower women and protect girls.
In the 12 months since that announcement, the government has moved briskly on its commitments. The first step came with the launch of the Plan Stratégique pour la Planification Familiale 2014–2020, unveiled in February 2014. The plan lays out the roadmap for the next six years, with detailed objectives, timetables and clear guidelines for budget allocations and policy provisions. It was the result of painstaking collaboration between the government and numerous stakeholders—NGOs, religious institutions, donors, and the private sector—and represents a genuinely workable vision for the future.
Development partners are stepping up, too. In DR Congo, international donors play a major role in supporting family planning activities. USAID and UNFPA are the largest donors, with important support also provided by the Government of Canada, DFID and the World Bank. Private foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, furnish significant funding as well.
Photo by Dominic Chavez/FP2020
In February 2014, Tulane University announced a new community-based family planning program in Kinshasa. Named the ACQUAL Project (for Access and Quality), the US$1.7 million initiative is funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Tulane is a longtime development partner of DR Congo, and maintains a detailed website that tracks all the family planning activities in the country. The website even includes an interactive map of clinics and pharmacies in Kinshasa that offer contraceptives.
For DR Congo’s ambitious family planning program to succeed, it needs good data. Researchers from the University of Kinshasa School of Public Health and Tulane University are now hard at work mapping contraceptive use across the country. They are using PMA2020, an innovative data-collection project that replaces traditional pencil-and-paper surveys with mobile phone technology. PMA2020’s data collectors are local women trained to interview residents and enter the responses into smartphones; the data is then uploaded to a central server. While the legwork can be grueling—the data collectors walk dozens of miles along muddy streets, mapping thousands of homes—the resulting database will be invaluable. PMA2020 issued its first indicator brief for DR Congo in May 2014.
Sources: Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health; Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine; PMA2020.
5. Omba’s story is from the Names not Numbers website: http://names-not-numbers.org