Through The Challenge Initiative, IntraHealth will Improve Access to Contraception in Cities across West Africa

IntraHealth International is proud to announce its participation in The Challenge Initiative (TCI), a new three-year urban reproductive health program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to the United Nations, 66% of people around the world will be living in urban areas by 2050—2.5 billion more people than today. Ninety percent of this increase will be in cities in Asia and Africa. Despite increasing urbanization, the poorest people living in cities rarely have adequate access to health information and services.

TCI builds on the former Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (URHI), which the Gates Foundation initiated to test a comprehensive approach to improve contraceptive access in cities in India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal.

IntraHealth led the Senegal URHI project, or Initiative Sénégalaise de Santé Urbaine (ISSU), and partnered with international NGOs, local community-based organizations, municipal health teams, and religious leaders to promote the benefits of family planning, dispel myths and rumors about contraceptives, encourage male involvement, and improve the quality of family planning services. ISSU assisted the Government of Senegal to increase access to modern contraception in target cities with greatest improvement seen among the poorest quintiles. From 2012 to 2014, for instance, the national modern contraceptive prevalence rate jumped from 12% to 20%. With such impressive results, the Government of Senegal has renewed its commitment to family planning and set a new contraceptive prevalence goal of 45% by 2020.

As an agent of TCI and member of the TCI Consortium, IntraHealth will act as an “accelerator hub” and serve as a catalyst, advocate, and source for technical expertise to scale up family planning in Francophone West Africa. IntraHealth will again work in Senegal, as well as expand its reach via TCI to the eight other countries of the Ouagadougou Partnership: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Togo.

TCI will scale up the tools and approaches to more cities and geographies, especially in areas where there continues to be a great need for contraceptive information, supplies, and services. Participating cities will self-select, and will be asked to bring their own resources to the table. Such cities will work with accelerator hubs like IntraHealth to develop proposals for implementing a package of family planning interventions that are cost-effective and customized to their urban needs and circumstances. Cities with the most promising proposals will receive technical expertise from the accelerator hubs throughout project implementation and will have access to matching funds from a Challenge Fund seeded by the Gates Foundation and open to contributions from other interested donors.

Participating cities will also benefit from joining the TCI Consortium, a global community of practice which will exchange lessons learned and share best practices in delivering health and family planning services in urban areas. TCI’s approach encourages cities to assume an active role in project design and implementation, while local and global partners take supporting and facilitating roles.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will lead The Challenge Initiative. Two Hopkins-affiliated institutions, Jhpiego and the Center for Communication Programs, and the India office of Population Services International (PSI) will also be in-country accelerator hubs.

IntraHealth houses the coordination unit of the Ouagadougou Partnership, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Hewlett.