1st Edition

Fifty Years of Family Planning in the Democratic Republic of the Congo The Dogged Pursuit of Progress

By Jane T. Bertrand Copyright 2024
    334 Pages 39 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book chronicles five decades of struggle to introduce family planning into one of the largest, most complex countries in sub-Saharan Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

    Interweaving details of major political, social, and economic events into the history of family planning in DRC (formerly Zaïre), the book analyses the achievements and setbacks of five decades of programmatic work. President Mobutu’s 1972 discourse on Naissances Désirables (desirable births) opened the door to organized family planning programs, which gained considerable momentum in the 1980s despite societal norms favoring large families. Two pillages and armed conflict paralyzed development work during the decade of the 1990s, and family planning was one of multiple public health programs that struggled to regain lost ground in the 2000s. With new donor funding and implementing agencies, the 2010s witnessed rapid programmatic expansion and improved strategies. By 2018, family planning was operating as a well-oiled machine. But progress is fragile. The book ends by tracing the deleterious effects of the colonial period to contemporary programming and individual contraceptive use. It asks hard questions about donor financing. And it details the six conditions needed to accelerate family planning progress in the DRC, in pursuit of providing millions of Congolese women and men with the means of controlling their own fertility.

    The book will be of interest to development and public health researchers and practitioners, as well as to historians of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Part I The Decades that Shaped the Congo 1. The Congo Free State (1885–1908); 2. The Belgian Congo (1908–60); 3. The First Decade Post-Independence (1960–69); Part II The Fifty Years of Family Planning  4. The 1970s: President Mobutu Authorizes Naissances Désirables; 5. The 1980s: Zaïre Experiences the First Golden Decade for Family Planning; 6. The 1990s: Development Work Paralyzed by Pillages and War; 7. The 2000s: Family Planning – Like the Country – Inches Back to Normalcy; 8. The 2010s: The DRC Experiences the Second Golden Decade of Family Planning; Part III Looking Backward, Pressing Forward 9. The Past, Present, and Future


    Jane T. Bertrand is the Neal A. and Mary Vanselow Professor at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. For over four decades, Bertrand has combined an academic career of classroom teaching and publication with active engagement in family planning programs in Guatemala, Morocco, and Zaïre/DRC. A specialist in Monitoring and Evaluation, she has researched barriers to contraceptive use and assessed program performance. As director of the Center for Communication Programs, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health from 2001 to 2009, Bertrand supported programs worldwide in Social and Behavior Change Communication across multiple public health topics.

    "Jane Bertrand has advanced a compelling narrative of how national policies cannot be implemented in isolation of geopolitical dynamics. DRC, an FP2030 commitment maker, has had a long resolve to provide family planning. The tenacity of key actors to provide skillful leadership has yielded results. Undoubtedly, a lot still needs to be done."

    Dr. Samukeliso Dube, Executive Director FP2030

    "A passionate advocate for women's rights and a keen evaluator of healthcare systems, Dr. Bertrand's meticulous examination of fifty years of family planning policy in the DRC is enlightening. This thought-provoking book unveils the remarkable tenacity of family planning in a challenging environment and highlights the boundless potential of the ongoing contraceptive revolution."

    Dr. Fatimata Sy, Former Director of the Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit

    "Professor Jane T Bertrand has used her passion for Reproductive Health and her profound knowledge of Congolese people to produce a book that will stand as a must read for a wide range of professionals both inside and outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her book has the ability of making the tortuous history of the country in the heart of Africa comprehensible if not attractive, including through inspirational stories."

    Dr. Malonga Miatudila, former World Bank official and co-author of Beyond the Storm

    "A treasure trove for those committed to accelerate progress in family planning in today’s context of decolonization and locally led development. Powerful insights on leadership, stakeholder engagement, courage, and women’s agency – key factors that family planning champions will need to consider for sustaining the gains made in recent decades. A gift to the family planning community."

    Pape Amadou GAYE, Founder and President, Baobab Institute for Health and Development

    "The DRC is facing the development challenges posed by a very young population of nearly 100 million, likely to double in 22 years. How will the reproductive health needs of the Congolese be met? This book offers discerning insights into the prospects of a complicated country with exceptional promise."

    Dr. Amy O. Tsui, Professor Emerita, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health