The status of emergency obstetric and newborn care in post-conflict eastern DRC: a facility-level cross-sectional study

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Background: Pregnancy-related mortality remains persistently higher in post-conflict areas. Part of the blame lies with continued disruption to vital care provision, especially emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC). In such settings, assessment of EmONC is essential for data-driven interventions needed to reduce preventable maternal and neonatal mortality. In the North Kivu Province (NKP), the epicentre of armed conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 2006 and 2013, the post-conflict status of EmONC is unknown. We assessed the availability, use, and quality of EmONC in 3 health zones (HZs) of the NKP to contribute to informed policy and programming in improving maternal and newborn health (MNH) in the region. Method: A cross-sectional survey of all 42 public facilities designated to provide EmONC in 3 purposively selected HZs in the NKP (Goma, Karisimbi, and Rutshuru) was conducted in 2017. Interviews, reviews of maternity ward records, and observations were used to assess the accessibility, use, and quality of EmONC against WHO standards. Results: Only three referral facilities (two faith-based facilities in Goma and the MSF-supported referral hospital of Rutshuru) met the criteria for comprehensive EmONC. None of the health centres qualified as basic EmONC, nor could they offer EmONC services 24 h, 7 days a week (24/7). The number of functioning EmONC per 500,000 population was 1.5. Assisted vaginal delivery was the least performed signal function, followed by parenteral administration of anticonvulsants, mainly due to policy restrictions and lack of demand. The 3 HZs fell short of WHO standards for the use and quality of EmONC. The met need for EmONC was very low and the direct obstetric case fatality rate exceeded the maximum acceptable level. However, the proportion the proportion of births by caesarean section in EmONC facilities was within acceptable range in the HZs of Goma and Rutshuru. Overall, the intrapartum and very early neonatal death rate was 1.5%. Conclusion: This study provides grounds for the development of coordinated and evidence-based programming, involving local and external stakeholders, as part of the post-conflict effort to address maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in the NKP. Particular attention to basic EmONC is required, focusing on strengthening human resources, equipment, supply chains, and referral capacity, on the one hand, and on tackling residual insecurity that might hinder 24/7 staff availability, on the other.




Mizerero, S. A., Wilunda, C., Musumari, P. M., Ono-Kihara, M., Mubungu, G., Kihara, M., & Nakayama, T. (2021). The status of emergency obstetric and newborn care in post-conflict eastern DRC: a facility-level cross-sectional study. Conflict and Health, 15(1).

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