Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

In this role, he reports on a range of health issues across the world. He's covered mass circumcision drives in Kenya, abortion in El Salvador, poisonous gold mines in Nigeria, drug-resistant malaria in Myanmar and tuberculosis in Tajikistan. He was part of a team of reporters at NPR that won a Peabody Award in 2015 for their extensive coverage of the West Africa Ebola outbreak. His current beat also examines development issues including why Niger has the highest birth rate in the world, can private schools serve some of the poorest kids on the planet and the links between obesity and economic growth.

Prior to becoming the Global Health and Development Correspondent in 2012, Beaubien spent four years based in Mexico City covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In that role, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war.

For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, Beaubien drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

In 2002, Beaubien joined NPR after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked as a foreign correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. His reporting ranged from poverty on the world's poorest continent, the HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, and the all-night a cappella contests in South Africa, to Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea.

During this time, he covered the famines and wars of Africa, as well as the inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates. Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

Beaubien grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at NPR Member Station KQED in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

Who's in charge of the aid?

That's the question in the hurricane-ravaged southwest of Haiti.

Should politicians hand it out? Or aid groups? Or religious leaders?

Pastor Louis Masil, who lives in the tiny village of Banatte, doesn't think the government should be in control.

"Since the independence of Haiti, the culture was always all governments, all officials only care for themselves," he says. "They only care for stealing the money and not helping the communities."

In Port Salut, the individual signs of the Hurricane Matthew's destruction are everywhere. A giant mango tree with its thick trunk snapped like a wishbone. A cinder block house crumpled on its foundation. But it's only as you continue to drive through this part of the coast that you see the extent of the damage. The devastation goes on and on. Hillsides are swept clean of trees. Neighborhood after neighborhood is in ruin.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Zika wasn't even on Dr. Sankar Swaminathan's mind when he first examined a severely ill 73-year-old man in a Salt Lake City hospital in June. The patient had just returned from a visit to Mexico when he suddenly fell violently ill.

"We were not thinking about Zika at all because Zika usually does not cause severe illness, in fact it almost never does," says Swaminathan, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Utah.

When the phone rang, Rebecca Richards-Kortum thought it was a telemarketer. Instead, it was the MacArthur Foundation calling her at home to tell her she'd just won a grant totaling $625,000. And she hadn't even been aware that she'd been nominated for the prestigious award.

Nigeria has to get rid of polio — again.

Last year, the World Health Organization declared the country to be "polio-free." That milestone meant the disease was gone from the entire continent of Africa, a major triumph in the multibillion-dollar global effort to eradicate the disease.

But that declaration of "polio-free" turned out to be premature.

The Dominican Republic has identified nearly 1,000 pregnant women suspected of being infected with the Zika virus. Haiti, which shares the same island, has identified only 22.

"There's no reason to believe that the mosquito will behave differently here [in Haiti] than in the Dominican Republic," says Dr. Jean Luc Poncelet, the World Health Organization's representative in Port-au-Prince.

It was a tragic turning point.

On July 11, South Sudanese soldiers invaded a hotel in the capital city of Juba and gang-raped foreign aid workers.

"The soldiers just came to the bathroom where all the girls were hiding and they just picked us out of the bathroom one by one," says one of the women who was in the hotel. She asked that her name not be used.

Despite calls for help to the U.N. compound a mile down the road, no one came.

For the first time the United Nations is signaling it may be on the verge of admitting that its peacekeepers introduced cholera into Haiti in 2010. Over the last 6 years that outbreak has claimed sickened nearly a million Haitians and claimed more than 9,000 lives.

Critics of the agency say that the U.N.'s failure to take responsibility for the outbreak has been a public relations nightmare and an insult to the people of Haiti.

The outbreak began in October of 2010. At that time, cholera hadn't been reported in Haiti in more than 100 years.

Health officials in Nigeria are gearing up for a massive emergency polio immunization drive after two children were paralyzed by the disease.

The two new polio cases in Nigeria are the first detected on the African continent in more than 2 years.

Nigerian health officials plan to vaccinate nearly 5 million kids across the northeast of the country in an effort to contain this latest outbreak.

The re-emergence of polio in Nigeria is a major setback for global efforts to eradicate the disease.

Puerto Rico is in the midst of one of the worst Zika outbreaks of any region in the northern hemisphere. The island has been reporting roughly 1,500 new cases of Zika each week. Hundreds of pregnant women are already infected, and public health officials say the outbreak in Puerto Rico probably won't start to subside until September or October.

Yet health officials also say efforts to stop the spread of the virus are being hampered by mistrust, indifference and fatigue among residents, over what some view as just the latest tropical disease to hit the island.

In Puerto Rico the local association of obstetricians and gynecologists has launched a new attack on Zika. Because Zika primarily is a problem for pregnant women, the doctors are trying to reduce the number of pregnant women by offering free contraception across the island to any woman who wants it.

"We have had ... historical barriers to contraception in Puerto Rico for a long long time," says Dr. Nabal Bracero, the driving force behind the initiative and the head of the local chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The Zika outbreak in Puerto Rico is expanding rapidly.

Recently, the island has been reporting more than a thousand new cases of Zika each week.

The situation is expected to get worse before it gets better.

"We are right now probably in the month or 6 weeks of peak transmission," says Tyler Sharp the lead epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Zika operation in Puerto Rico.

"Sometimes they want to keep it secret," she says with a sigh of exasperation.

Dr. Marlen Baroso is talking about the patients she cares for who have HIV.

"I have a case, a woman is taking medication. And her husband is taking medication also." But neither one knows the other is HIV-positive.

"Husband and wife!" she declares. "And this is not the first case."

Every night at 8 p.m., 18-year-old Catherine Msimango takes a pill.

It's the same pill that people with HIV take to fight the virus. Only she doesn't have HIV.

Msimango says the pill gives her power against the virus. She can take it even without her boyfriend knowing.

"It's all about my safety because I don't know what he does when I'm not around," she says. "If he doesn't want to use protection [a condom], I know that I'm safe from the pill."

She's a sex worker. She's clutching a glass of beer. She's drunk and can barely stand up.

She triumphantly declares she's going to sleep with 20 men tonight.

The woman is one of the many sex workers in the city of Beira in Mozambique — and one of the targets of a new pilot program set up by Doctors Without Borders to prevent the spread of HIV. The initiative focuses on sex workers and another group at high risk of infection — truck drivers.

When Cleopas Kapembwa Chisanga in Zambia found out he was HIV positive, he wanted to kill himself.

"Because when you have HIV you have the monster inside you," Chisanga, 24, says in a new video series about the experience of young people grappling with HIV in Africa. "I thought of killing myself because I never wanted to have that monster in me."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Guinea worm is going down. Way down.

From more than 3 million cases of Guinea worm disease a year in the 1980s, the world tally in 2016 stands at just two confirmed cases.

Both are in Chad and are believed to have been contained before they had a chance to spread. (There are also two suspected cases, one in Chad and one in Ethiopia.)

If Guinea worm is pushed into extinction, then Guinea worm disease would be just the second human disease to be eradicated after smallpox.

"Look!" says Stefania Poggi. "They've made inflatable rafts."

Two dozen boys are splashing in a massive, muddy pool surrounded by 30-foot-tall earthen banks. They're jumping on grain sacks that they've filled with plastic bottles to make them float.

Poggi manages the Doctors Without Borders operation in the largest refugee camp in South Sudan.

The 35-year-old Italian is standing on the banks of the drainage ditch, which was bulldozed through the middle of the camp to alleviate flooding.

The head of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, came out swinging at the opening ceremony of the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva on Monday. The meeting of health officials from nearly 200 countries is usually a low-key, bureaucratic affair. Chan, however, opened the assembly by basically saying that the world is facing unprecedented global health challenges right now and is ill-equipped to deal with future threats.

"For infectious diseases, you cannot trust the past when planning for the future," she warned.

The al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, Syria, is the latest health care facility to get blown apart.

The 34-bed hospital was tucked into the lower floors of a five-story building in the Sukkari neighborhood of Aleppo. Sandbags blocked the windows and fortified the entrance. Concrete apartment buildings pressed on either side of it. Late Wednesday night, witnesses say, a low-flying fighter jet unleashed a missile that smashed directly into the hospital.

In the 1990s Chuck Slaughter built the online clothing retailer, TravelSmith, from a startup to a company with sales in excess of $100 million a year. Then he signed up to be an Avon lady.

"[Avon] is the original social network business. In some ways it's better than Twitter and Facebook because Avon figured out how to monetize the social network," Slaughter says over coffee at a café in Oxford, England.

At the Koforidua Regional Hospital in Ghana, Dr. Forster Amponsah is about to start an appendectomy in one of the hospital's four operating theaters. A half-dozen other patients who have been prepped for surgery lie on gurneys in the surgical ward's foyer. Amponsah is planning to do all the surgeries in quick succession — but then the entire wing of the hospital goes dark.

"The general electricity is out and our generator is broken down," Amponsah says.

Monkey malaria is just a few steps away from becoming a major human disease. The big question is whether it will take those steps.

New research shows that Plasmodium knowlesi, a form of malaria common in monkeys in South East Asia, is capable of flourishing in people even though so far it rarely does.

When South Sudan gained independence in 2011, there was great optimism both inside and outside of the country that it was putting its deeply troubled past behind it.

For generations, the South Sudanese had been terrorized by rebel armies and repressive government soldiers. At independence, South Sudan was one of the poorest nations in sub-Saharan Africa but also one of its most oil-rich.

The honeymoon for the world's newest nation didn't last long. Late in 2013 the president and vice president took up arms against each other. And things went downhill fast from there.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Aedes aegypti is the dog of the mosquito world. It acts as if it's man's best friend.

"It's been with us for a long time, probably for at least 5,000 years when we started keeping water next to our homes [ideal for laying eggs] and it's adapted to people," says Marten Edwards, an entomologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. "It loves us. It loves our cities. It loves our blood. It functions very well with us."

There's just one problem. This mosquito makes us sick.

Before Zika swept across most of Latin America and the Caribbean, the largest outbreak ever recorded had been in French Polynesia. Between 2013 and early 2014, researchers estimate nearly 20,000 people on the cluster of islands in the South Pacific were infected with the virus.

French Polynesia's brush with Zika underscores fears that the mosquito-borne virus could cause devastating neurological problems but it also offers insights into the disease — and hope that Zika can be contained.

"If you are a woman who is pregnant living in the U.S., there's one really important thing you need to know: You shouldn't go to a place that has Zika spreading."