DRC: 30% fewer children are dying before their 5th birthday

We have been impatiently awaiting the preliminary report of the second Demographic and Health Survey (DHS II) 2013/2014 which has finally been published, and contains news which surpasses all our expectations.

The very good news is that the under-five mortality rate has fallen from 148 per 1000 live births in 2007 to 104 per 1000 live births today – a decrease of 30 percent!

This decrease fills us with renewed energy and hope that achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remains possible: MDG 4 has the objective of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015.

© UNICEF RDC/2012/Pudlowski/A mother and child in Democratic Republic of Congo.

An initial glance at the Survey tells us that children’s access to certain life-saving measures has significantly progressed: The use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets was at 6% and 7% among children and women respectively in 2007, and has now risen to 56% and 60% respectively.

Children’s access to vaccinations against measles increased from 63% to 72%, while the number of women who exclusively breastfed their children during the first six months of their lives rose from 36% to 47%.

Another piece of positive news is that 80% of births are now assisted by qualified medical staff, which is the highest rate in Western, Central and Eastern Africa.

Of course, there is still plenty of work to be done in other areas.

The level malnutrition, for example: 24% of children were underweight according to the MICS 2010, while this figure is 23% in DHS II. Debilitating chronic malnutrition has stagnated at 43% at the national level, with significant disparities. The fertility rate is also stagnating: it was 6.3% in 2007 and was reported to be 6.6% by DHS II.

Furthermore, the quality of certain services needs to be reinforced. This is demonstrated by the fact that only 25% of children who receive the first dose of the five-in-one vaccine (against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenzae B) receive their third dose, while this figure is 28% for the third dose of the polio vaccine. Finally, treatment of illnesses among the under-fives remains less than satisfactory: in only 40% of cases of children that suffer from diarrhea, fever or acute respiratory infection, was treatment from a health service/health worker sought out.

©UNICEF RDC/2012/MazrikivaA group of women and children at a health care center in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Survey, which will provide further findings in the coming months, was carried out by the Ministry of Planning and Monitoring Implementation of the Revolution of Modernity in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and with the financial and technical assistance of numerous partners, such as USAID, PEPFARDFID, the World Bank, the Global Fund, UNICEF, UNFPA, PARSS, SANRU, WHO, UCLA and CDC.

The Survey mobilised more than 550 agents on the ground who, in less than four months, collected enough data to represent the entire country as reliably as possible.This is excellent work which everybody involved should be congratulated on!

 Barbara Bentein is the UNICEF Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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All the results of the survey can be downloaded: Rapport preliminaire EDS-RDC II version finale

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Po na Bana, the Blog of the UNICEF team in DR Congo is now available in English! Follow the Po na Bana adventure!

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