Despite the prominence of informal drug shops as sources of contraceptives in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, evidence on the quality of services they provide is scant. Given efforts to leverage the private sector to increase contraceptive access, evaluating the contraceptive knowledge, attitudes and practices of these providers is warranted.
In April-May 2018, a mystery client study on the provision of emergency contraception (EC) was conducted in 854 informal drug shops in Kinshasa. Twelve mystery clients, presenting as younger or older than 18 and married or unmarried, visited the outlets to request something to “avoid getting pregnant” after unprotected sex, and to purchase the recommended medicine. Frequencies of key outcomes were calculated, and chi-square testing assessed associations between client age and marital status and the methods and counseling received.
Overall, providers recommended EC in 77% of visits, and in 54% of visits, clients left with the method. In 62% of the visits in which providers recommended EC, they specified a time frame for taking the pill; the correct window of efficacy was indicated in 75% of these visits. In 18% of visits, other (noncontraceptive) drugs were provided, and in 7% of visits, providers did not help the client. Regardless of the visit outcome, providers were nearly always deemed respectful (96%).
Leveraging informal outlets to increase contraceptive provision will require identifying quality outlets, strengthening supply chains and advocating for policy changes that recognize them as effective contraceptive providers without decreasing their perceived advantages for women.
Julie H. Hernandez is assistant professor, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, LA, USA. Pierre Akilimalib is assistant professor, Kinshasa School of Public Health, University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Muanda Fidèle Mbadu is director, Programme National de Santé des Adolescents, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.