Nkweleko Fankam F, Ugarte W, Akilimali P, Ewane Etah J, Åkerman E
BMJ Open 13 (9) e072869 [2023-09-07; online 2023-09-07]
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic led to multiple preventive actions as primary interventions to contain the spread of the virus. Globally, countries are facing enormous challenges with consequences for use of social, economic and health services. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was among the African countries implementing strict lockdown at the start of the pandemic, resulting in shortages and decreased access to services. The adverse effects of the pandemic had unpleasant consequences for the country. This study aimed to examine the association between COVID-19 pandemic-related factors, sociodemographic factors, and the need to visit healthcare facilities, including family planning services, among women aged 15-49 years in the DRC. We conducted a secondary analysis of a performance monitoring for action (PMA) cross-sectional COVID-19 phone survey in Kinshasa, DRC, which had a response rate of 74.7%. In total, 1325 randomly selected women aged 15-49 years from the Kinshasa province who had previously participated in the PMA baseline survey participated in the survey. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regressions were used to assess associations. The COVID-19 pandemic and related factors affected 92% of women in the Kinshasa province socioeconomically. A majority were highly economically dependent on their partner or some other sources for their basic needs to be met, and even more worried about the future impact of the pandemic on their household finances. Over 50% of women did not attempt visiting a health service, with some of the top reasons being fear of being infected with COVID-19 and not being able to afford services. We found a significant association between age groups and contraceptive use. The need for and use of contraceptives was higher among women aged 25-34 years than those aged 15-24 or 35-49 years. Effective social/economic support to women and girls during pandemics and in crises is essential as it can have lasting beneficial effects on many domains of their lives, including their ability to access health services and the contraceptives of their choice.