Multilevel Governance and Control of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Learning from the Four First Waves
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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impose a heavy burden on people around the world. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has also been affected. The objective of this study was to explore national policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the DRC and drivers of the response, and to generate lessons for strengthening health systems’ resilience and public health capacity to respond to health security threats. This was a case study with data collected through a literature review and in-depth interviews with key informants. Data analysis was carried out manually using thematic content analysis translated into a logical and descriptive summary of the results. The management of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic reflected multilevel governance. It implied a centralized command and a decentralized implementation. The centralized command at the national level mostly involved state actors organized into ad hoc structures. The decentralized implementation involved state actors at the provincial and peripheral level including two other ad hoc structures. Non-state actors were involved at both levels. These ad hoc structures had problems coordinating the transmission of information to the public as they were operating outside the normative framework of the health system. Conclusions: Lessons that can be learned from this study include the strategic organisation of the response inspired by previous experiences with epidemics; the need to decentralize decision-making power to anticipate or respond quickly and adequately to a threat such as the COVID-19 pandemic; and measures decided, taken, or adapted according to the epidemiological evolution (cases and deaths) of the epidemic and its effects on the socio-economic situation of the population. Other countries can benefit from the DRC experience by adapting it to their own context.