UNFPA and Philips reach important milestone to benefit 570,000 mothers and newborns in Republic of the Congo

17 January 2020
At the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, the Republic of the Congo committed to ensuring that all pregnant women have an antenatal consultation and deliver their babies with a skilled birth attendant by 2022. © UNFPA Republic of the Congo

UNITED NATIONS/BRAZZAVILLE – UNFPA, Philips and the Government of Republic of the Congo have announced a major partnership to reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates by 50 per cent in the country’s health facilities over the next five years, especially in remote areas.

This is a major milestone of the wider global partnership between Philips and UNFPA, launched in 2019, to improve the health and well-being of 50 million women and girls in countries where health challenges are greatest.

The partners are working together to develop a large-scale Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care programme to improve access to high-quality and affordable maternal, neonatal and child health care for more than 500,000 women and 70,000 newborns in the Republic of the Congo.

UNFPA will support efforts to strengthen the capacities of midwives to deliver emergency obstetric and neonatal care services and thus increase the number of safe births, and Philips will provide the technological know-how. The Government of the Republic of the Congo will pay the salaries of the officials involved in the programme.

As part of the programme, health facilities in remote parts of the country will be fitted with solar power systems and ultra-portable ultrasound and monitoring devices, so midwives and doctors can identify and manage high-risk pregnancies onsite and provide emergency obstetric and newborn care. Community health workers serving remote communities will be equipped with backpack outreach kits with key equipment to assist in childbirth, together with a mobile phone they can use to get remote technical support.  

Despite significant progress since 2005, maternal mortality rates in the Republic of the Congo are still similar to those of other less-developed countries. Women in rural areas face ongoing difficulties, especially in indigenous communities. Further investment in health care infrastructure, services, technology and innovation is therefore crucial to ensure that maternal and newborn mortality rates continue to fall.

“This innovative partnership will help get us closer to achieving our goal of zero maternal deaths in the Republic of the Congo by improving the emergency obstetric and neonatal care that people in rural and hard-to-reach communities receive,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “We are committed to leaving no one behind and hope this model will inspire others who share our goal of making pregnancy and childbirth safe everywhere.

“The Government of the Republic of the Congo is committed to accelerating progress towards reducing maternal and newborn mortality,” said Jacqueline Lydia Mikolo, the Minister of Health, Population, Promotion of Women and Integration of Women into Development. “We are open to fostering collaborations that are dynamic and mutually beneficial, and we foresee great potential in this partnership with Philips and UNFPA.” 

“You cannot achieve prosperity without quality health care, particularly for mothers and children, so we are excited to come on board and contribute effectively to this partnership,” said Henk de Jong, Chief of International Markets at Philips. “Philips is passionate about maternal and child health care, because more than in any other sector, we can make a direct and dramatic positive impact on the quality of people’s lives.”

The partnership will help to transform healthcare in the Republic of the Congo, ensuring that the quality of its services is enhanced, its facilities meet World Health Organization standards, and its ability to reduce maternal and newborn mortality is significantly improved. At the recent Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, the government committed to ensuring that all pregnant women have an antenatal consultation and deliver their babies with a skilled birth attendant by 2022.

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