Background: The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with the highest maternal mortality ratio estimated at 846 deaths per 100,000 live births. Innovative strategies such as social accountability are needed to improve both health service delivery and utilization. Indeed, social accountability is a form of citizen engagement defined as the 'extent and capability of citizens to hold politicians, policy makers and providers accountable and make them responsive to their needs.' This study explores existing social accountability mechanisms through which women's concerns are expressed and responded to by health providers in local settings. Methods: An exploratory study was conducted in two health zones with purposively sampled respondents including twenty-five women, five men, five health providers, two health zone officers and eleven community stakeholders. Data on women's voice and oversight and health providers' responsiveness were collected using semi-structured interviews and analysed using thematic analysis. Results: In the two health zones, women rarely voiced their concerns and expectations about health services. This reluctance was due to: the absence of procedures to express them, to the lack of knowledge thereof, fear of reprisals, of being misunderstood as well as factors such as age-related power, ethnicity backgrounds, and women's status. The means most often mentioned by women for expressing their concerns were as individuals rather than as a collective. They did not use them instead; instead they looked to intermediaries, mostly, trusted health providers, community health workers and local leaders. Their perceptions of health providers' responsiveness varied. For women, there were no mechanisms for oversight in place. Individual discontent with malpractice was not shown to health providers. In contrast, health providers mentioned community health workers, health committee, and community based organizations as formal oversight mechanisms. All respondents recognized the lack of coalition around maternal health despite the many local associations and groups. Conclusions: Social accountability is relatively inexistent in the maternal health services in the two health zones. For social accountability to be promoted, efforts need to be made to create its mechanisms and to open the local context settings to dialogue, which appears structurally absent.
Mafuta, E. M., Dieleman, M. A., Hogema, L. M., Khomba, P. N., Zioko, F. M., Kayembe, P. K., ... Mambu, T. N. M. (2015). Social accountability for maternal health services in Muanda and Bolenge Health Zones, Democratic Republic of Congo: a situation analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 15, . https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-015-1176-6