Learning from maternal death reviews to improve care during pregnancy

Dr. Jean-Claude Kambay, a physician from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was trained to conduct maternal death reviews by MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience to improve care for mothers, newborns and children.

Learning from maternal death reviews to improve care during pregnancy

The maternal mortality rate in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the highest in the world. Nearly 473 maternal deaths are recorded for every 100,000 live births. A quarter of these deaths happen in adolescents and young mothers.  

MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and led by Corus organization IMA World Health, supports the DRC's Ministry of Health in efforts to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths across the country.  

Health care workers are trained to carry out maternal death reviews to improve care for mothers, newborns and children. MOMENTUM targets North Kivu, where recent escalation in protracted conflict and disease outbreaks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a deterioration in health indicators. 

Dr. Jean-Claude Kambay, a physician in a targeted health zone, discusses the project's support in addressing lessons from maternal mortality. 

I work as a medical doctor at the Katwa Referral General Hospital. I am also the secretary of Katwa Health Zone’s maternal and perinatal deaths surveillance and review committee. With MOMENTUM's support, my colleagues and I on the committee are now able to ensure that all maternal deaths that occur are reviewed to understand the immediate causes and other factors associated with those unfortunate incidents.

MOMENTUM provided technical support to health facilities to establish teams trained to review the medical records of all maternal deaths at their facility.  

In the past, it was unheard of for staff at health facilities to gather as a team to understand the factors associated with deaths of women during pregnancy or labor, or after delivery. The few reviews that were conducted were often not documented nor were their findings shared with the health zone coordination office to improve learning across health facilities. With the support of MOMENTUM and the Provincial Health Divisions (DPS), the methods for conducting death reviews in facilities have been harmonized.

Maternal reviews have also enabled health zones to highlight important aspects of maternal health during health worker trainings organized by the Ministry of Health. In June 2023, MOMENTUM began providing similar support to pilot pediatric death reviews in the DRC, focusing on North Kivu.  

Death reviews are strengthening the resilience of health zones by providing valuable information for system-wide improvements in maternal, newborn and child care.