Objective: In this evaluation of COVID-19 preventative response programs in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), we aimed to explore community understandings of COVID-19, assess operational successes and challenges of COVID response activities, and identify barriers to practicing COVID-19 preventative behaviors. Methods: Thirty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted from April to September 2021 in South Kivu, DRC, with community members (n = 16) and programmatic stakeholders (n = 15) (healthcare providers, government officials, and developmental and NGO staff engaged in COVID-19 response). Findings: Most community members were aware of COVID-19 and its global burden, but few were aware of local transmission in their area. Some community members attributed COVID-19 to actions of malevolent neighbors, miasma (“bad air”), or spirits. Awareness of COVID-19 preventative measures was widespread, largely because of radio and TV health promotion programs. Community members and programmatic stakeholders both said community-level non-compliance to COVID-19 preventative measures was high despite high awareness of preventative methods. Community members expressed concern that face masks distributed as part of preventative programs contained the COVID-19 virus. Programmatic stakeholders emphasized the need for broader health system strengthening with improved coordination, provision of resources to health facilities at the provincial level, and prioritization of research. Lessons learned from addressing Ebola were leveraged for COVID-19 health promotion, rapid training of healthcare personnel, and surveillance. Conclusions: Community-informed approaches are needed for effective COVID-19 preventative response programs in South Kivu, DRC. Our study identified successes and challenges in COVID-19 response activities. Future research should assess the effectiveness of integrating preventive programs with COVID-19 vaccination efforts.