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Saving Congolese Children's lives with family Kits

14 June 2018

1 out of 20 children who die before they reach the age of five are Congolese. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the third highest child mortality rate worldwide. The most deadly diseases in the DRC are malnutrition (45%), neonatal diseases, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. The country also faces difficulties in access to health care with excessive prices for health care services and medication. 

UNICEF’s Family Kits project aims to fight child mortality and women’s mortality while giving birth by distributing Family Kits. There are two different kits. One is designed to manage childhood illnesses and the other is a pregnancy and delivery kit. Both kits also include a voucher for access to a health care centre nearby.

The country is divided into health zones, which are then divided into health areas. Each health area has a unit of locals designated to coordinate and evaluate the activities, to raise awareness and educate the population, and to distribute the Family Kits. The kits are distributed to each household with at least one child under the age of five or to pregnant women. 

For this project, UNICEF collaborates with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Ministry of Public Health and other organisations that provide logistic support. Cigna Global Health Benefits has been sponsoring this project since 2005. So far, we helped provide Family Kits and health services to 30,000 pregnant women and to 130,000 children under five.

Fabienne Kabeya, Cigna’s Communication Officer in the DRC visited the Nsele health zone (75 km from Kinshasa). 

On The road with UNICEF

After a short briefing with Sylvie, the Communications Officer at UNICEF, we leave to Nsele. Dr Devos, the Medical Director, is waiting for us at the Central Office of the Health Zone. He explains that Nsele has around 465,000 inhabitants and that the health zone is subdivided into 15 local health areas. He also explains the current challenges of cholera epidemics and difficulties to access certain zones during the rainy season. This makes the kits even more necessary.

In the village we meet the Community Support Network. Maman Christine, the president, is responsible for around 40 families and visits five families each week. The Community Support Network not only distributes the kits and gives instructions on how to use the medicine, they also teach families about the importance of birth registration and education. Due to the current cholera epidemic, they’re also raising awareness on the disease and how to prevent it.

We follow the team to the different houses under a bright Congolese sun and we spend some time speaking with the mothers.

Maman Christine explains the success of the family kits and how they have reduced child and maternal mortality rates. The Nsele zone is one of the leading sites for the reduction of mortality and illness for children under five years old (around 15%). Since the start of the programme in Nsele in 2016, more than 79,000 households have benefitted from the health care kits.

Special thanks to: Sylvie Sona (Communications Officer Unicef), Dr Devos Kabemba Kalenga (Medical Director of Nsele Health Zone), Maman Christine (President of the Community Animation Cell), Papa Jean-Marie Beya (Community Animator), Papa Willy (Community Relay), Papa Raphael (Community Relay). And to all the lovely mothers: Maman Bibi Godi, Maman Patricia Elenga,  Maman Angèle Mbembo and  Maman Fifi Kakesa.