Distribution and quality of emergency obstetric care service delivery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: it is time to improve regulatory mechanisms

Dieudonne Mpunga Mukendi, Faustin Chenge, Mala A. Mapatano, Bart Criel, Gilbert Wembodinga

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Background: The Demographic and Health Survey 2013-14 indicated that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is still challenged by high maternal and neonatal mortality. The aim of this study was to assess the availability, quality and equity of emergency obstetric care (EmOC) in the DRC.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 1,568 health facilities selected by multistage random sampling in 11 provinces of the DRC was conducted in 2014. Data were collected through interviews, document reviews, and direct observation of service delivery. Collected data included availability, quality, and equity of EmOC depending on the location (urban vs. rural), administrative identity, type of facility, and province. Associations between variables were tested by Pearson's chi-squared test using an alpha significance level of 0.05.ResultsA total of 1,555 health facilities (99.2%) were surveyed. Of these, 9.1% provided basic EmOC and 2.9% provided comprehensive EmOC. The care was unequally distributed across the provinces and urban vs. rural areas; it was more available in urban areas, with the provinces of Kinshasa and Nord-Kivu being favored compared to other provinces. Caesarean section and blood transfusions were provided by health centers (6.5 and 9.0%, respectively) and health posts (2.3 and 2.3%, respectively), despite current guidelines disallowing the practice. None of the facilities provided quality EmOC, mainly due to the lack of proper standards and guidelines.

Conclusions: The distribution and quality of EmOC are problematic. The lack of regulation and monitoring appears to be a key contributing factor. We recommend the Ministry of Health go beyond merely granting funds, and also ensure the establishment and monitoring of appropriate standard operating procedures for providers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102
JournalReproductive Health
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Cesarean Section
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery, Obstetric/legislation & jurisprudence
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Emergency Medical Services/standards
  • Female
  • Health Facilities/standards
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services/standards
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Reproductive Health Services/standards

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