Community-Based Distributors of Family Planning: “Mother Who Takes Care of Birth Spacing”

 {Photo credit: MSH staff}A community-based distributor provides a couple with information on family planning in Luiza.Photo credit: MSH staff

Carrying a backpack filled with counseling cards and contraceptives samples, Charlotte Kapinga visits households in the health area of Tutante in Luiza, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to raise awareness of the importance of family planning. Kapinga was trained by the USAID-funded Integrated Health Project (IHP), now called IHPplus, which is working to improve the quality of key family health services, including family planning, in 4 DRC provinces and 83 health zones comprising more than 12 million people. Kapinga, married with four children, has been a community-based distributor (CBD) for four years.

IHP depends on Kapinga and others like her to provide family planning information and distribute contraceptives in rural areas that do not have a local health facility. The national modern contraceptive prevalence rate remains low in DRC at 8 percent; it is even lower in rural areas of Kasaï Occidental Province. Many women rely on CBD of contraceptive commodities, such as Kapinga, who is well-recognized in the communities she visits as “Muena ntanta,” which means “Mother who takes care of birth spacing.”

Last year, IHP’s donation of a bicycle enabled Kapinga to extend her outreach. From January to March 2014, she conducted a total of 887 awareness visits, reaching 573 women and 284 men, on the different forms of family planning that are available. During the same period in 2012, Kapinga, unaided by a bicycle, reached 33 women and 5 men.

“My wife and I were made aware of the importance of family planning in educational talks given by CBDs in our neighborhood,” said Pastor Gilbert Muvumba, who was counseled by Kapinga several years ago, and is now a firm supporter of family planning. “We chose cycle beads as our preferred method. This has enabled us to space the births in our home.” Others choose more modern methods, such as condoms, pills, or injectables.

Investing in family planning services is one example of how the US government is supporting DRC’s national commitment to A Promise Renewed, a global campaign to accelerate the reduction of maternal, child, and neonatal mortality.

IHP reinforces a people-centered approach to strengthening the health system in DRC by integrating service delivery. The project is now working in close collaboration with MSH and partners' Evidence to Action Project, increasing use of high-impact practices (HIPs) in family planning, maternal, newborn, and child health (FP/MNCH); nutrition; malaria, tuberculosis (TB); HIV and AIDS; and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). IHP strengthens the health system through improved implementation of policies and support for decision-making, particularly at the provincial levels, supply and logistics management, facilities renovation and equipment, and information systems.

Funded by USAID, IHP/IHPplus is led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), with the International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting.