The Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Jhpiego, in collaboration with the governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania on March 14 launched the East African Hub of the Challenge Initiative in Nairobi, Kenya. The Challenge Initiative aims to have a dramatic impact on reproductive health for the underserved urban poor population by increasing access to family planning services and supplies.

Access to voluntary family planning – a key component of reproductive health – has been proven to have transformative impact on communities. Women and couples who have the means to space the births of their children can comfortably plan for their future and those of their children. Wanted pregnancies are safer and healthier. Simply put, family planning saves lives.

The Challenge Initiative builds on the success of the Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, which was known in Kenya as the Tupange Project. Tupange contributed to an increased used of contraceptives by more than 13% in Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu between 2011 and 2014. The Initiative’s East Africa hub, led by Jhpiego, will be called Tupange Pamoja and aims to scale up proven innovations to more cities in East Africa.

The Initiative is built around the premise that putting counties/districts in the driver’s seat of a project is essential in ensuring that project succeeds and that its impact lasts beyond the life of the project as it develops into a full- edged program. To this end, the Initiative is taking an innovative, demand-driven approach: rather than being chosen, participating counties/districts will self-select, and will be asked to bring their own resources (cash or in-kind) to the table. Such counties/districts in East Africa will work with the Tupange Pamoja hub to develop proposals for implementing a package of family planning interventions that are cost-effective and customized to their urban needs and circumstances.

Counties/districts with the most promising proposals will receive technical expertise throughout project implementation and will have access to the Challenge Fund, which was seeded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is open to contributions from other interested donors.

“This approach is business unusual, it requires counties/districts to take the lead to improve the health and wellbeing of their population, supported by the Initiative with funding, tools and technical assistance,” says Nelson Keyonzo, the Project Director for Tupange Pamoja.

Family planning is one of the most cost-effective investments a government can make. Each shilling invested in family planning, saves the four shillings and in turn reduces the overall cost of health.

“The Challenge Initiative represents an exciting new approach to providing life-saving reproductive health and family planning information and services to individuals, families and communities. This year is an apt time for the Initiative’s launch, as it is the halfway point to the Family Planning 2020 goal of enabling 120 million more women and girls to access contraceptives by 2020,” says Jose “Oying” Rimon II, Director of the Gates Institute.

Other than cost, the benefits of family planning are plentiful and powerful. If all women had the means to space the births of their children by three years, deaths of children under-five would decrease by 35 percent – saving nearly one million children’s lives.

With Tupange Pamoja, participating districts and counties from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will be able to meet the growing demand for voluntary family planning, particularly among the urban poor, and break the cycle of poverty.

About the Challenge Initiative

The Challenge Initiative is a global urban reproductive health program dedicated to improving access to modern contraceptives among the urban poor in the developing world. The Initiative is led by the Gates Institute at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Initiative’s regional accelerator hubs are led by technical teams of urban reproductive health experts and may be expanded as more countries participate. 

About the Gates Institute

The Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducts and facilitates cutting-edge research in family planning, reproductive health, and population dynamics and translates science into evidence-informed policies, programs, and practice. The Institute works as an innovator, partner, advocate and convener to bridge the gap between knowledge and implementation and promote access to universal reproductive health and family planning for all. 

About Jhpiego

Jhpiego is working to prevent the needless deaths of women, girls and their families by making health services in Kenya the very best they can be. We have formed great partnerships with the government’s Ministry of Health, doctors, community health workers and health systems managers. Together, we implement evidence based health innovations into everyday practice to overcome barriers to high-quality health care for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Media Contacts: Catherine Ndungu, Jhpiego Communications – [email protected] | +254712043583