Washington — The World Bank has approved new funding that will enable the Republic of the Congo to fully immunize more children and make critical health services available to more pregnant women. This is expected to benefit nearly 1.5 million mothers and children below the age of five.
This new International Development Association (IDA*) credit of US$10 million is complemented by a US$10 million grant from the Health Results Innovation Trust Fund, which is supported by the United Kingdom and Norway. This coordinated support of $20 million adds to the government's own contribution of $100 million, helping the country to work towards universal health coverage using 'performance-based financing' for health centers, an approach that is delivering tangible results in many African countries.
The Health System Strengthening II project will support comprehensive health packages for families in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire, Bouenza, Cuvette, Niari, Pool and Plateaux. Services will include complete immunization and growth monitoring for babies and children, treatment for malnutrition, care for pregnant women and new mothers, HIV tests during pregnancy, medication that prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and modern methods of family planning for those who wish to space their children.
"Congo has made significant progress in reducing child mortality, but high out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare prevents the poorest people from accessing the full range of services that they need," said Eustache Ouayoro, World Bank Country Director for the Republic of the Congo. "Consistent with the World Bank's mission, the new project will help bring quality health services within reach for more people."
The project will introduce fee waivers for poor people as well as offer some services free of cost. In the three areas where the 'performance-based financing' approach has been piloted--Niari, Pool and Plateaux--early results have been very promising. Results from the first year show that the delivery of some services, such as curative consultations, assisted deliveries and anti-tetanus treatment, has risen well over 10 percent between 2011 and 2012. In addition, quality of care has improved substantially.
"Congo's experience with performance-based financing for health centers--essentially, paying these centers based on pre-agreed, measurable, and verifiable services they deliver--has been very positive. We expect that scaling up this approach will make a real difference, especially in the lives of women and children from poor households," said Hadia Samaha, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project.
* The World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world's poorest countries by providing zero-interest loans and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people's lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world's 82 poorest countries, 40 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $16 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.