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Abt Assessment Illuminates Private Sector’s Role in DRC Health System

bettina and moh
Abt Sr. Associate/Scientist and SHOPS Plus Francophone Regional Manager, Bettina Brunner, shakes hands with DRC Minister of Health, Oly Ilunga Kalenga. | Credit: Henri Alimasi, DRC Ministry of Health 

Can one assessment change the way a country delivers health care? Abt's new study of the role of the private sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) health system just might.

The World Bank/IFC, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID—through the Abt-led SHOPS Plus project—funded an assessment of the private health sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It identified the challenges the private sector faces, including the costs of providing its services, the availability of commodities, shortages of trained staff and the affordability of private health care.  Minister of Health Oly Ilunga Kalenga worked closely with the Abt team during the assessment, which also identified numerous opportunities for the DRC’s government and donors to better integrate private sector providers and improve health outcomes.

kara adamon and bettina brunner
Kara Adamon, World Bank Group Private Sector Specialist, and Abt’s Bettina Brunner stand next to a banner at the event. | Credit: SHOPS Plus

Using the World Health Organization’s health system pillars as a framework, Abt looked at eight regions that reflect the geographic diversity of the private health sector. Conducted in early 2018, the extensive study identified key challenges and opportunities. Based on those findings, a “Three-Year Road Map for Action” was developed to create a dialog and help clarify the role of the private sector in improving the health system while working alongside the DRC Ministry of Health, World Bank, USAID, donors and other key stakeholders. The assessment is available from the World Bank and SHOPS Plus.

An Assessment for Action
Through SHOPS Plus, Abt shared the assessment’s preliminary findings and recommendations. The Ministry of Health acted on one of those recommendations when it established a unit dedicated to public-private partnerships in May 2018. In September 2018, stakeholders attended an event in Kinshasa led by Deputy Prime Minister José Makila Sumanda and Kalenga.  Kalenga explained that the health needs of the population could not be met by relying solely on the public health sector and that new partnerships should be created to ensure that all players in the health sector come together. Sumanda, attending the event on behalf of the Prime Minister, discussed the government’s plans to better integrate the private sector in its overall health strategy for the country. 

“The main benefit of the new health partnership proposed by the Minister of Health today,” Sumanda said, “is to define the framework in which we all work together to achieve our common goal of providing health coverage to our population.”

The government has since taken action on several other recommendations from the assessment report. These include holding discussions with private healthcare providers and banks regarding access to finance. The Ministry of Health is taking steps to formalize its partnership with the Private Sector Alliance. Finally, the government is exploring a public-private partnership for a national pharmaceutical lab in conjunction with the World Bank and U.S. Pharmacopeia to ensure quality in laboratories.

Read the full report.

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