Reducing Maternal and Neonatal Mortality in DRC: Reliable Blood Bank

 {Photo credit: International Rescue Committee}Donors give blood in Uvira.Photo credit: International Rescue Committee

When 20-year-old Christine* gave birth at the health center of Kabinda in Uvira in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she suffered from a ruptured uterus during delivery. The nurse referred her to the Uvira General Referral Hospital (GRH), where health workers confirmed that her life was in danger due to blood loss.

Every day, approximately 800 women die due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth, including postpartum hemorrhaging, infection, hypertension during pregnancy (preeclampsia and eclampsia), and unsafe or untreated abortions. Nearly 99 percent of these deaths happen in developing countries—half in sub-Saharan African.

In the DRC, the maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain high, with 846 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births and 28 neonatal deaths (0-28 days) per 1,000 births.

To help prevent maternal mortality, the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded DRC Integrated Health Project (IHP), in collaboration with the Congolese Ministry of Health at the local level, identified a reliable blood bank and source of donors to treat hemorrhage cases. Led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) with partners the International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd., DRC-IHP is working to improve the basic health conditions of the Congolese people in 78 health zones in four provinces.

In August 2014, DRC-IHP supported the organizing of a three-day blood drive campaign in the health zone of Uvira. Due to the campaign’s success, the Uvira GRH blood bank was able to add to the stock 69 bags of safe blood. (According to DRC Ministry of Health standards, blood is deemed safe when tested and cleared for Hepatitis B and C, HIV, and Syphilis.) During the few weeks that followed the campaign, the number of screened blood bags stocked at Uvira GRH rose from 290 to more than 1,990.

Christine’s mother affirmed: “Our daughter would have died if it was not for the blood drive.” After two surgeries and the transfusion of six bags of blood, Christine was safely out of danger and on her way to recovery.

(Name changed to protect patient’s privacy.)