This story provides an illustration of:
- Mapping the landscape
- Analysing the gaps
- Developing an A&C Strategy
- Building political commitment
- The power of partnerships
- Monitoring progress
Fostering advocacy and communications partnerships to strengthen immunisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo
In 2012 under-five mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was ranked fifth highest in the world. Since 2002, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has been supporting the DRC to reduce the child mortality and morbidity through immunisation. Despite this valuable support from Gavi, alongside the increasing efforts of the Congolese government and its partners, vaccine coverage rates in many regions remain low and the number of unreached children remains very high.
Analysing the gaps
Many factors are involved, including deficiencies in logistics, management, and financial contributions for vaccines and immunisation at all levels. To overcome these difficulties, Gavi, in partnership with the DRC Government and its partners adopted a country tailored approach (CTA) for DRC to increase access to available vaccines and strengthening health systems.
The objectives of the DRC CTA include strengthening the provision of immunisation services, improving the supply chain and vaccine management system, strengthening data quality in order to improve decision-making, and strengthening sustainable immunisation financing.
Building political commitment
Advocacy and communication (A&C) play a critical role for mobilising the resources needed and for increasing decision-makers’ political commitment to achieve these goals and objectives. In addition to funding the Government for vaccines and health system strengthening, Gavi is supporting the country by providing technical assistance through the Vaccine Implementation Technical Assistance Consortium (VITAC)’s partner, PATH. By leveraging PATH/VITAC’s technical expertise, Gavi’s support aims to help improve A&C for immunisation in the DRC in partnership with in-country stakeholders.
Mapping the landscape
A landscape analysis and stakeholder mapping at the national level and in two targeted provinces was conducted to identify immunisation-related challenges and bottlenecks and define priorities for advocacy and communications efforts. This analysis revealed that many players were involved in A&C-related activities but working independently rather than in a coordinated way – thus limiting their impact and consistency.
Developing an A&C strategy in partnership
As a result, PATH/VITAC suggested that the EPI take the lead and convene a stakeholder consultation to develop an annual joint A&C strategy and implementation plan. This consultation led to the establishment of a “Communications Taskforce” led by the Ministry of Health/EPI involving all key A&C stakeholders, including WHO, UNICEF, civil society organisations (CSOs), Sabin Vaccine Institute, PATH, as well as the Gavi CSO Constituency platform.
Working in partnership, assessing progress
This has enabled the MoH/EPI to coordinate and include all A&C-related activities held by different stakeholders in DRC’s operational action plan, thus enabling to better plan and maximise the use of available resources for A&C. The EPI Communications’ Taskforce has also helped strengthen linkages and collaboration between stakeholders, as they now meet regularly to consult each other, plan activities, share experiences, and monitor and evaluate progress made and challenges to overcome. To help track A&C activities’ completion, progress made and results achieved, a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework was developed, including specific well-defined indicators. This joint M&E framework has proven to be particularly useful for collecting data and assessing the situation prior to EPI reviews.
The power of partnership for advocacy
This Taskforce has helped build a new win-win partnership between the government and its partners, including with Gavi-funded CSOs engaged in immunisation-related A&C activities in DRC. Building on the success of the EPI Communications Taskforce set up in Kinshasa, similar structures have been created or “revitalised” at provincial level. In short, establishing strong and sustainable partnerships have shown to be critical for conducting strong advocacy efforts in support of immunisation and health systems strengthening in the DRC.