DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Information last updated: May 12, 2020

  • Total population: 84 M
  • Population +65 yo: 3%
  • GDP Per Capita: 1,112 USD
  • Informal employment: 96% (2005)
  • First registered case: 10 March
  • Hospital beds: .8 (per a 1000 people)

Status

  • Level of confinement: Since March 24th, a part of the capital Kinshasa has been under confinement. There are also restrictions between the capital and the rest of the country. All gatherings of people in public spaces are prohibited, and the use of face masks is compulsory (only in Kinshasa). Borders are closed, as well as all education centers. 

Response set up and capacity

The strategic management of the crisis is led by the President, the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health mainly, in cooperation with other ministries. The Government of the  Democratic Republic of Congo has put in place a national health emergency response,  Plan de réponse humanitaire (PRH),  to face COVID-19 with three main administrative hubs:  

  • The Comité multisectoriel de riposte (CMR-COVID-19). The CMR-COVID-19 is under the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the secretariat is administered by the Ministry of Health. 
  • A Technical Secretariat (ST) which reports to the President. It is divided into eight commissions linked to surveillance, clinical management, laboratory, psychological care, infection prevention and control, communication, logistics and security.
Stakeholder Mapping

Entities / Organizations

• President
• Prime Minister
• Ministry of Health

Additional actors

• IMF
• World Bank
• UNICEF and UN (GHPR)
• Aid cooperation agencies (AFD, Belgian Development Agency)
• WHO (SRPR)

The health system in the Democratic Republic of Congo can be considered as among the weakest in Africa. The WHO’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Status classified DRC at level 3 in terms of preparedness (out of 5, 5 being the highest level of preparedness). Furthermore, the country faced and is facing other important health crises; 15.6 million people are estimated in need of humanitarian assistance. Indeed, the important Ebola, measles and cholera pandemics during the last years have seriously affected the public health system. 

The Public Health system was characterized by 0.3 physicians per 1,000 people in 2013, and 0.8 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants in 2006 (World Bank).

Mitigating factors - What is being done?

  • February 1: A public health emergency operation center is created to prepare the response to COVID-19 (COU-SP) .
  • March 18:  National measures are announced, including the prohibition of public gatherings of more than 20 persons in public spaces, the suspension of religious and sports, the closure of schools, universities, restaurants and bars and the closure of borders with affected countries.
  • March 24: The President announces the closure of frontiers (aerial, port and terrestrial access points), the total confinement in Gombe in Kinshasa’s province, makes mandatory the use of face masks in Kinshasa, and puts Lubumbashi, Goma, Beni, Butembo and Bukavu under quarantine. Additionally, a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am is announced in Lualaba province and in the city of Lubumbashi.
  • April 1: Elaboration of a USD 135 million national plan to contain the transmission of COVID and to minimize its sanitary and social impact.
  • April 2: Kinshasa’s Governor orders total confinement of Gombe until April 20.
  • April 11:  A shipment of 63 cubic meters of vital health supplies landed in Kinshasa, co-financed by the EU. 
  • April 12: Prime Minister adopted a three-month VAT exemption on pharmaceutical products and basic goods, and a full tax deductibility of any donations made to the COVID relief fund. 
  • April 20: Creation of a National Solidarity Fund against Coronavirus (FNSCC) which provides protective equipment to population and professionals, and strengthens the National Institute of Biomedical Research.
  • April 22: Approbation of a USD363 million disbursement from the IMF to help the country to face the COVID-19 threat.

Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles

  • In terms of propagation, the numbers of cases and deaths are not so high. However, the trend of cases seems to have increased over the last couple of days. Local authorities are fearing a multiplying effect of contaminations in a country severely affected by other pandemics. Even if the cases are, until now, limited to five regions. Additionally, the Government has classified seven provinces as being at “high level of risk” because of their proximity to the capital and/or affected countries’ borders. Nevertheless, test capacities are limited, and the number of provinces affected may be more important. 
  • Several weaknesses have been identified in the country’s capacity to respond to Covid-19.
      • First, the lack of public infrastructures in a country already affected by pandemics. It also presents the risk to mobilize forces only against COVID-19 and to lead to a resurgence of Ebola or Cholera, for example.  
      • Second, the DRC is characterized by a high poverty rate and a weak human capital index. Indeed, Democratic Republic of Congo ranks 135 (out 157) on the human capital index and 43% of children are malnourished. This makes the population more vulnerable to shocks or diseases. 
      • Third, even though there are no updated indicators, the size of the informal sector in the country is large. The workforce is strongly dependent on a daily wage and would certainly be affected by a potential economic shock. Additionally, the low share of households having access to water (49%) and to sanitation (20%) makes putting in place hygiene measures difficult. 
      • Fourth, the measures taken by the State to confine Kinshasa have appeared as impossible to implement in a city where spatial mobility is important. Further impossibilitating confinement is the risk of violence or riots given the increase in commodities’ prices. However, the Government is used to dealing with pandemics and would benefit from its past experiences to limit the spread of the COVID-19. 
  • To face the pandemic, the Government has implemented a series of measures including VAT suspension for three months and the creation of a national fund to help populations. Other measures like free access to water and electricity for hospitals or the construction of tents to increase the global health capacity have been implemented. International actors have also launched plans to help the country, such as the World Bank, which has pledged to implement “the strategic preparedness and response project”, a USD 47 million plan. Also worth mentioning is UNICEF’s “1 million masks made in DRC initiative”. 
  • The Congolese economy is not very diversified and depends mostly on mining activities. Thus, the risks for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s economy include triggering an economic recession of -2.2% due to weaker exports and lower mining activity, increase consumer prices, particularly for imported goods and reduced fiscal revenue.
  • Additionally, there is an important number of displaced persons due to conflicts. This makes these populations increasingly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Potential actions and demands

The Government first decided to confine the whole city of Kinshasa by cycles of three days. However, Kinshasa’s Governor decided only to confine the municipality of Gombe (seen as a vulnerable place given the number of spaces and people that may have come in contact with foreigners). In a city where social distancing is quasi impossible, the decision was approved by a sizable part of the population extremely dependent on spatial mobility within the city. 

Key resources

Contributor(s): Titouan de Blazy.

The C-19 Global South Observatory is a collaboration between