Family Kits for Improvement in Maternal and Child Health in DRC

Under the banner of A Promise Renewed, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) distributed thousands of ‘family kits’, packages of essential items for maternal and child health, during August and September 2014. Kits were distributed through four critical health zones, located in the Bas-Congo and Kasai Occidental Provinces.

Following the launch of A Promise Renewed (APR) in DRC, UNICEF and other partners have supported the DRC government in its efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, including through the development of a “family kit” approach. After identifying major bottlenecks including lack of commodities, insufficient access to funding and low health staff motivation, the Government piloted a major strategic initiative, seeking to empower families through widespread distribution of kits containing medications and vouchers.

The family kits approach

The family kits approach aims to respond to three main obstacles which hinder the scale-up of health services: availability of inputs, availability of trained, motivated staff and high costs of services. The Family Kits Approach provides households with medications to control diarrhoea and fever, a prenatal consultation (PNC) kit for pregnant women, and a kit containing the essential inputs necessary for deliveries without complications. The approach features strong community participation and service delivery.

The four health zones targeted for the family kit distribution are covered by DRC’s “Health for Poorest Populations” project, a collaboration with Management Sciences for Health (MSH), supported by the governments of Canada and Sweden. The “Health for Poorest Populations” project provides coverage to more than five million people including 200,000 pregnant women and over one million children aged under five.

© UNICEF Democratic of the Congo

To date, a total of 18,365 Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) kits, 4,280 Antenatal (ANC) kits and 4,280 delivery kits have been distributed in the four health zones in the Bas-Congo and Kasai Occidental and Oriental Provinces. At each of the four sites, ceremonies were held to raise awareness around the distribution of the family kits, with participation from local authorities, partners and communities.

During a ceremony in Kandakanda community, volunteers performed an informative skit to show three types of families that exist in this area: one family which follows the advice of community volunteers and receives benefits from health services, another family which continues to doubt the suggestions by community volunteer until the last minute, and one resistant family which still does not accept, resulting in the loss of their children. This strong community participation and advocacy was an essential ingredient for success.

Addressing maternal and child mortality is a major challenge in DRC, but the launch of the family kits distribution programme marks an important milestone in efforts to improve the health of mothers and children, and an important demonstration of DRC’s commitment to eliminating preventable maternal and child deaths, bringing the country one step closer to achieving the A Promise Renewed goals.