Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo doubles its funding for vaccines

Despite the progress made in recent years, the DRC has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world.

23 June 2020
Un nouveau né se faisant vacciner
UNICEF DRC Mrazikova

KINSHASA, 23 June 2020 - The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has just disbursed US$16.4 million for the purchase of vaccines, double the amount invested in 2019, in line with the commitment made at the National Forum on Immunization and Polio Eradication in July 2019.

To ensure that all children can be vaccinated and to avoid the risk of emerging epidemics, technical and financial partners including Gavi, UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank, IMF, CDC, Rotary, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, DFID and USAID have supported the Congolese Government in its efforts. They have led to the effective state funding of traditional vaccines against tuberculosis or measles, for example, and the co-financing of new vaccines such as those against rotavirus diarrhoea or pneumococcal pneumonia.

The Government of the DRC has thus successively released US$ 3.5 million, US$ 3.1 million and US$ 9.8 million between 1 April and 31 May 2020. The DRC has also just fulfilled its commitments to co-finance vaccines supported by Gavi for 2019 and 2020.

"I would like to congratulate the Government of the DRC for its efforts," said Thabani Maphosa, Gavi's Director General of Programmes. "The availability of vaccines is an essential condition for increasing immunization coverage, saving lives and protecting Congolese children against vaccine-preventable diseases. »

"The IMF welcomes the efforts of the DRC Government to meet its financial commitments to immunization and it will be important that this routine expenditure is now fully integrated into the state budget," said Philippe Egoumé, IMF Resident Representative in the DRC.

According to the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) 2018-2019, only 35% of children aged 12 to 23 months are fully vaccinated in the DRC, 45% are incompletely vaccinated and 20% have not received any vaccine. An analysis conducted in 2018 by the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) reveals that the major cause of this situation is the low availability of vaccines throughout the country, due in particular to delays in financing them.

"Faced with the risk of vaccine shortages, UNICEF had committed its own funds to pre-finance the purchase of vaccines for the 3rd quarter of 2019 in the amount of US$ 3 million and the 1st quarter of 2020 with US$ 4.1 million, which made it possible to secure the availability of vaccines during this period," said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in DRC.

Despite the progress made in recent years, DRC is one of the countries with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, at 70 per 1,000 live births, with 1.8 million children not receiving a full course of vaccines each year.

In recent years, the country has experienced major epidemics of measles, polio, cholera and yellow fever - all vaccine-preventable diseases. From January 2020 to date, the country has had 62,057 suspected cases of measles, including 828 deaths (lethality: 1.33%). In addition, the country is also facing a new outbreak of Ebola.

The funds provided by the Government of the DRC for the purchase of vaccines will make it possible to consolidate the results of the emergency plan put in place by the authorities to strengthen routine immunization. The Mashako Plan - officially the Emergency Plan for the Re-launch of Routine Immunization in DRC - was launched in October 2018 to address low immunization coverage. By 2019, it has already led to a 50% increase in the number of immunization sessions carried out in areas with low immunization rates.

"With the Mashako Plan, the DRC is demonstrating that strong national leadership can improve immunization coverage," said Dr. Amédée Prosper Djiguimdé, head of the World Health Organization's office in the DRC. "Increasing the national contribution for vaccine procurement is a key step to sustain recent progress.

"The World Bank welcomes the efforts of the Government of the DRC because the good health of the Congolese population is fundamental to contribute to the country's economic growth," said Jean Christophe Carret, Director of Operations for the World Bank in the DRC. "We stand by the DRC to save lives and support the government. »

While the country faces declining immunization rates, the coronavirus pandemic could worsen the situation, according to data from WHO, UNICEF and Gavi. As a result, health workers providing routine immunizations do not always have access to adequate equipment to protect themselves. In addition, parents are reluctant to attend immunization sessions for fear of exposing their children.

It is therefore important to launch catch-up campaigns and intensify immunization activities throughout the country as soon as the situation allows, in order to reach all children.

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