Mother and Child Survival Project Showing Success in the Democratic Republic of Congo

An effort to save the lives of mothers and children in the DR Congo, where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world, is showing signs of success.

New Windsor, MD, August 30, 2008 --( A project launched by Maryland-based IMA World Health is making progress in its goals to save the lives of women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These are the findings in a new report from IMA World Health to Abbott and the Abbott Fund, the philanthropic fund of global health care company Abbott. The project launched in 2007 in six health zones with a combined population of more than 870,000.

Maternal and infant mortality rates in the DRC are among the highest in the world. According to World Health Organization data, 990 of every 100,000 pregnant women die in the DRC, compared to 17 deaths per 100,000 in the United States. In the DRC, 129 of every 1,000 newborns die, compared with 6 deaths per 100,000 in the United States.

Working in cooperation with national and regional health ministries, IMA hired experts in health care and logistics and set up a headquarters in Gemena. This district capital is near an airstrip and has periodic electricity, a distinct advantage in a nation with no electricity infrastructure. The headquarters has been equipped with a vehicle to navigate the region's typically unpaved (and often impassable) roads, as well as cell phones to coordinate activities among more than 120 rural clinics.

In addition to supervising the training of 132 primary health care workers in maternal and child health, program staff are assessing the needs of each clinic and coordinating the distribution of basic diagnostic and laboratory equipment, medications, and clean and sterile birthing supplies. A massive effort is also underway to improve water quality -- vital to basic health care -- through training of community volunteers in the six zones.

“Already, the Mother and Child Survival Project is paving a path to a better life by providing vital health care to mothers and the most vulnerable population of all – their children,” notes Yvette Mulongo, project manager and author of the report for IMA World Health.

While it is too early to determine the project’s impact on maternal and infant mortality rates, results to date are encouraging: Antenatal care in three of the six health zones has surpassed the project’s goal of reaching 95 percent of those targeted, while two zones have attained rates of 90 and 84 percent, according to the report. As antenatal care is sustained, mortality rates will be impacted.

Only one of the health zones is substantially below goals, at 54 percent, but this is due primarily to transportation challenges within that health zone. Systems are already being put into place to significantly improve results in that zone.

“We expect to see an improvement each quarter with better delivery and supply of antenatal drugs,” notes Mulongo. Expectant mothers in the most remote areas are given “Safe Motherhood Kits” supplied by IMA World Health, containing essential elements for safe delivery of newborns, including sterile and clean supplies.

Water quality for more than 30,000 residents of the health zones has also been improved through the Mother and Child Survival Project. Waterborne illness poses serious health threats, especially to children, and the scarcity of water in these health zones had driven many residents to using polluted sources of water. The project's water improvement programs have included repairing wells and pumps and capping natural springs.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done over the next several years to strengthen the underlying health care systems. Though each zone’s health care workers are being trained in data collection and management, the training is only a first step. Upgrading skills like these through training is critical for monitoring the continued progress of this project, as well as standardizing health care record keeping in the six health zones.

About IMA World Health
IMA World Health helps provide essential health care services and supplies, without bias, to people in need in developing countries. They accomplish this through direct provision to hospitals, clinics, programs, and other health care providers, and by strengthening health care systems through training, education, and oversight. Faith-based health care networks are key partners in our work. They have consistently received top ratings from independent watchdog agencies including Charity Navigator.

About Abbott and the Abbott Fund
Abbott Fund is a philanthropic foundation established by Abbott in 1951. Abbott Fund's mission is to create healthier global communities by investing in creative ideas that promote science, expand access to health care and strengthen communities worldwide. For more information, visit

Abbott is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics. The company employs more than 68,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries.

IMA World Health
Lynne Hammar