The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) decriminalized abortion under certain circumstances in 2018 through the Maputo Protocol. However, little is known about the readiness of the country’s health facilities to provide comprehensive abortion care.
Data on 1,380 health facilities from the 2017–2018 DRC Service Provision Assessment (SPA) inventory survey were used to assess readiness to provide abortion care in four domains: termination of pregnancy, basic treatment of postabortion complications, comprehensive treatment of postabortion complications and postabortion contraceptive care. Analyses used a modified application of the emergency obstetric care signal function approach; criteria for readiness were based on World Health Organization guidelines.
Thirty-one percent of DRC facilities met the criteria for readiness to provide abortions. The proportion of facilities classified as ready was higher among urban facilities than rural ones (50% vs. 26%), and among hospitals than health centers or reference health centers (72% vs. 25% and 45%, respectively). Few facilities were ready to provide either basic or comprehensive treatment of postabortion complications (4% and 1%); readiness to provide these services was greatest among hospitals (14% and 11%). Only a third of facilities displayed readiness to provide postabortion contraceptive care. Inadequate supplies of medication (e.g., misoprostol, antibiotics, contraceptives) and equipment were the greatest barrier to readiness.
Most DRC facilities were not ready to provide comprehensive abortion care. Improving supplies of vital health commodities will improve readiness, and has the potential to reduce the prevalence of unplanned pregnancies and future demand for abortions.
Annie L. Glover is a postdoctoral fellow, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA, and School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA. The late Patrick Kayembe was professor and head, and Didine Kaba and Pélagie Babakazo are professors—all in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.