By Sola Ogundipe
THE Challenge Initiative, TCI, a global programme that addresses the reproductive health needs of people living in poor urban communities, has announced $20.5-million supplemental grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The award will allow TCI to focus more on adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health issues. The grant from the Gates Foundation includes funds from Gates Philanthropy Partners.
The Initiative, led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute on Population and Reproductive Health within the Population, Family and Reproductive Health Department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is now actively implementing its evidence-based urban reproductive health interventions in 52 cities across four regions: East Africa, Francophone West Africa, Nigeria and India.
The supplemental award will allow the Initiative to address the needs of youth, ages 15 to 24 years, with best-practice programming, in addition to its programs already being implemented for women and men living in poor urban communities.
“Globally, many adolescents don’t have access to the sexual and reproductive health information they need to make informed choices and this can keep communities trapped in a cycle of poverty,” says Jose “Oying” Rimon, the Initiative’s Director and Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health Senior Scientist at the Bloomberg School. “We are so grateful that the Gates Foundation has made it possible for The Challenge Initiative to use our ‘business unusual’ approach to really make a difference in the lives of youth.”
The Initiative will now layer adolescent and youth programming onto its already existing portfolio in the cities where it is currently working. Thirty-five of those cities have already formally expressed interest in this new area of focus.
In addition to adolescent and youth programming, the new award provides funding to enhance the Initiative’s monitoring and evaluation efforts, as well as implement a robust new learning agenda.
With this award, the Initiative is now a $59.5-million, five-year (2016 – 2021) program. This investment has also attracted investments from other donors. A private philanthropist and London-based Comic Relief previously contributed $8 million to the original investment. It has also received $6 million from USAID in India and nearly $30 million in cash contributions from 52 cities and local governments worldwide.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this new investment in this important sector,” says Cynthia Minkovitz, MD, chair of the Bloomberg School’s Department of Population, Family, & Reproductive Health and William H. Gates Sr. Professor. “We are confident that its model for scaling up and sustaining family planning programs will succeed.”
Minkovitz cited the Initiative’s model that allows cities to lead and implement their own programme, while allocating their own funds. Implementers also have access to evidence-based toolkits and best practices that they can adapt at scale for their own local context. City implementers can also use the Initiative’s digital-based “university without walls” to learn from proven approaches and, in turn, enrich those leanings from their own experiences.