Paying the price: Pandemic puts DRC’s fragile health system at risk

A depiction of Pacifique Mugisho Mukaba, a youth ambassador working with Cordaid’s Jeune S3 program in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The communities of North and South Kivu provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have reluctantly become accustomed to uncertainty. A drawn-out Ebola epidemic coupled with conflict caused by warring armed groups already complicated the effective delivery of sexual and reproductive health services for women and young people. But COVID-19 further compounded the problems. “When the pandemic arrived, no one was expecting it, and no one knew how to manage it,” Dr. Immaculée Mulamba Amisi said, an expert in sexual and reproductive health for international NGO Cordaid in DRC.

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Learn more about how women, young people, and health workers are dealing with COVID-19 in DRC.

Family planning and sexual health services were cut and health workers urged to focus on preventative measures to fight the coronavirus. Lack of proper equipment and facilities meant health workers quickly became ill and unable to treat patients, and women and young people who needed contraceptives, and sexual health and family planning advice, were caught in a difficult situation.

But health workers and the global health community continue to advocate for the continuation of these services while battling COVID-19. Pacifique Mugisho Mukaba, a youth ambassador with Cordaid’s Jeune S3 program, which educates communities about sexual and reproductive health issues, is determined to keep going.

“[We] still need to build capacities and keep on advocating and doing intergenerational dialogue … so that the community will understand that young people need to make their own informed choice in order not to spoil their lives,” he said.

Before the pandemic hit, Cordaid was working toward universal health coverage with the DRC government and providing assistance to health workers and youth ambassadors. Despite the current situation, achieving UHC is still a priority. “In the long term, it is obviously universal health coverage that is very important in DRC. If we are able to implement universal health coverage, I think that we will respond to many problems,” Amisi said.

Read the visual story and learn more about how women, young people, and health workers are dealing with COVID-19 in DRC.

Visit the Duty of Care series for more coverage on how health systems can function better so that health care workers are supported and protected. You can join the conversation using the hashtag #DutyOfCare.

About the author

  • Sam Mednick

    Sam Mednick is a Devex Contributing Reporter based in Burkina Faso. Over the past 15 years she has reported on conflict, post-conflict, and development stories from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. She recently spent almost three years reporting on the conflict in South Sudan as the Associated Press correspondent. Her work has also appeared in The New Humanitarian, VICE, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, and Al Jazeera, among others.