The Challenge Initiative’s Francophone West Africa hub hosted its official launch February 14-16 in Dakar, Senegal. In attendance were more than 60 mayors, ministry officials, donors and implementing partners from Senegal, Benin, Mali, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger, Guinea and Central African Republic.

Globally, the Initiative offers a groundbreaking opportunity to have a dramatic impact on reproductive health for underserved urban poor communities. Building off evidence from the Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (URHI) in four countries, the Initiative offers a new paradigm for expanding URHI’s proven solutions to new cities and geographies. In West Africa, the Initiative plans to work with all nine countries in the Ouagadougou Partnership through its regional accelerator hub led by Intrahealth International.

In 2014 alone, IntraHealth’s Senegal URHI (ISSU) delivered family planning services to over 30,000 women and provided more than 67,000 couples years of protection via community-based interventions in poor urban areas.

The goal of the three-day launch was to introduce attendees to the Initiative’s “business unusual” approach in the region and to invite interested cities to formally express interest. On February 14, the Initiative organized study tours to three different regions – Dakar, Rufisque, and Saly (Mbour) – to showcase the successful ISSU program and discuss how the Initiative can be used in their specific cities.

On Feb 15, the team led a series of panel presentations on scaling up urban reproductive health initiatives, with a specific focus on the Initiative and TCI University. Following these presentations, the regional hub worked with each of the country representatives to outline how the Initiative can support their reproductive health efforts. On February 16, the official launch event took place with several key senior ministry officials from several countries in the region speaking about the benefits of family planning and reproductive health.