Malaka Gharib

Malaka Gharib is deputy editor and digital strategist of Goats and Soda, NPR's global health and development blog. She reports on topics such as the humanitarian aid sector, gender equality, and innovation in the developing world.

Before coming to NPR in 2015, Gharib was the digital content manager at Malala Fund, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai's global education charity, and social media and blog editor for ONE, a global anti-poverty advocacy group founded by Bono. Gharib graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and marketing.

Across Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Maria are scrambling to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For many, it has been a stressful and confusing process. Power and phone lines are down, which makes it nearly impossible for residents to fill out the online form or call the FEMA hotline to ask questions or follow up on the status of their application.

Before Hurricane Maria, Brian Gonzalez could sling 500 empanadillas, fried Puerto Rican empanadas, each day to tourists from cruise ships stopping at Old San Juan. On a recent day, he sold less than 50.

It's the story of many street vendors that depend on sightseers and visitors to San Juan's biggest attractions.

Before Hurricane Maria five weeks ago, there were dancers in the square, music in the street and hardly a parking space in sight. Power outages have since turned tourist hotspots like oceanfront Condado and Old San Juan into a dark and empty ghost town.

Before they hand over the cash, Mercy Corps staffers are going door to door to find out: What would people buy?

If Karian Batista had $100, she would buy food. "I don't have enough for the kids," she says.

Just seven months ago, Puerto Rican chef Jose Sanchez opened the restaurant of his dreams: a place where you could feel like you were in Italy one day, and like you were in France the next.

He served up fusion cuisine and called it Pera Maraya. There was deconstructed ratatouille, caprese salad with octopus. The restaurant in Carolina, east of San Juan, was getting rave reviews: five stars on Yelp, Trip Advisor and Facebook. He spent nearly a decade saving up to open this restaurant, and was overjoyed at how quickly it found success.

Why would anyone want to harm an aid worker?

They're just there to help. They don't take sides. They're protected by international humanitarian law. Yet they've repeatedly been the target of some of the worst forms of violence, from kidnapping to gang rape to beheadings. In 2016 alone, 288 aid workers were attacked.

The mid-August monsoon floods in South Asia were the worst in a decade. But for Rajdeep Bora, it's a familiar feeling.

"We suffer two to three floods a year," says the 29-year-old farmer, who lives in Gohpur, Assam, in northeastern India. Last month, his 2-acre rice crop was ruined and he lost two cows — worth about $800.

"The loss of livestock is heartbreaking enough," he says. "But the morning after a flood, there is no clean water to drink. Mobile services and transport shut down. In some parts of Assam, floodwaters don't recede for as many as two months."

With a reported 50 inches of rainfall, flash flooding and high, murky waters, Hurricane Harvey in Houston has gripped America's attention. But halfway around the world, another flood has wreaked havoc on historic levels. Two weeks ago, record monsoon rains hit parts of Bangladesh, India and Nepal, bringing the worst floods the region has seen in years. Over 1,200 people have been killed and 24 million affected.

If a famine occurs, aid groups send food. If there's a war, they set up health clinics.

But what to do in event of a massive cyberattack? A new disease epidemic?

A July report has an alarming message for the aid community: adapt or be left in the dust.

The women used to be so nervous about playing wheelchair basketball in public that they had opaque screens erected to conceal the court.

Now their faces are being splashed across media outlets in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, Afghanistan's national women's wheelchair basketball team won its first championship at the 4th annual Bali Cup International Tournament in Indonesia. It played against women's teams from India, Indonesia and Thailand, beating Thailand 65-25 in the final match.

A 50-cent meningitis vaccine. Kid-friendly malaria drugs. A vaccine to prevent a deadly diarrheal disease.

These U.S.-funded global health innovations have saved millions of lives around the world. But they also come with an added bonus for Americans.

They were teenage brothers. They had big dreams to be doctors. But there was no way it could happen. They were living in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war, studying in classrooms set up in tents.

"We thought we were forgotten," says Kamiar Alaei. But that was a long time ago. He's now 42 and an internationally recognized doctor.

When he was 10, a war injury put him in a wheelchair. His spine was permanently damaged. He was so depressed there were days he refused to get out of bed.

Now Mohammadullah Amiri can't wait to get up in the morning.

It's all because of wheelchair basketball. Since the 36-year-old from Afghanistan discovered it, he has become a changed man, says Jess Markt, his coach.

What we eat and how we cook our food tells a story about who we are, where we've come from and what we care about. Our food also connects us to other people — family and friends with whom we share our meals. That's why our favorite dishes often stir up strong memories of people we love.

Over the next month, NPR's The Salt and Goats and Soda blogs are teaming up to present six short cooking videos. Each video will feature one dish made by one person who shares with us the memories they associate with the dish.

The humanitarian aid system is broken.

That's the message of a new paper by Paul Spiegel, a former senior official at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The piece was part of a special series on health and humanitarian crises published by the British medical journal The Lancet in early June.

In a tragic turn in South Sudan, an effort to protect 15 children ended up killing them.

The children, all under age 5, died of severe sepsis and toxicity due to a botched vaccination campaign, according to a joint statement issued Thursday by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

"Should America Keep Giving Billions Of Dollars To Countries In Need?"

That was the headline of a story NPR published in early May, looking into a former Trump campaign adviser's claim made during an interview on Morning Edition. Stephen Miller said there's "zero evidence" that U.S. foreign aid has had an effect on economic development.

May 25 is Red Nose Day in the United States.

And millions of people are probably going, "huh, what?"

Last week, it was your editors at Goats and Soda who were the curious goats.

We published a story on the huge gap in health care dollars for young and old in the developing world. A study looked at the $36.4 billion allocated by development agencies and nonprofit donors and found that a major share goes to children under 5.

When people find out that Malebogo Malefhe uses a wheelchair because she was shot by her boyfriend, the first question they ask is: "What did you do to him?"

Now Malefhe, who sustained eight bullets from her boyfriend of 10 years, wants to make sure that no woman who has faced domestic abuse is asked this question ever again.

The incident in 2009 nearly cost Malefhe her life. Since then, she has devoted herself to fighting gender-based violence in her native Botswana and teaching women that when men hurt them, it's not their fault.

Last month, Nike released a new digital ad targeted to women in the Arab world. It features different women athletes in the Middle East, including figure skater Zahra Lari from the United Arab Emirates; fencer Inès Boubakri from Tunisia and boxer Arifa Bseiso from Jordan.

International humanitarian aid organizations say the travel restrictions issued by President Donald Trump on Saturday could have a dramatic impact on how they operate.

The Trump executive order temporarily bars all refugees and suspends — for the next 90 days — entry to the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The White House says the order was intended to protect the nation from "foreign terrorist entry."

Aleppo is under attack. Civilians trapped in the siege in Syria — including children from an orphanage — are turning to social media with a message to the world: End the violence.

In the video, a group of about two dozen children in sweaters and knit caps stand in three rows, as if to sing a Christmas carol or recite a poem. Instead, they have a message for "those concerned with human rights and the rights of children."

If I could pick when and where I was born, I'd choose 2016 and Hong Kong, instead of 1986 and the U.S.

That way, I'd have an extra seven years of life — the increase in life expectancy from then until now. As a Hong Konger, I'd have a good chance of living to 84 years old — that society has the highest life expectancy on record. And vaccines for deadly diseases like rotavirus and HPV would have already been invented.

Who will be the World Health Organization's next director-general? In September, the U.N. agency announced the six nominees, four men and two women, ranging from a cardiologist from Pakistan to a former punk rocker from Hungary. Over the next few months, WHO member-states will whittle down the list to one final candidate, who will succeed the current director, Dr.

Finding people's homes in Nigeria is a nightmare.

ZIP codes don't exist. House numbers are random. In poorer areas of the city, there's no such thing as urban planning. Houses are built wherever people can find a plot of land, for example. And many parts of the city aren't mapped out on GPS. Then, of course, there's the traffic.

Just how, exactly, could we wipe out a species of mosquito?

That's the question some of our readers wanted to know after reading our story that pondered the fate of the mosquito that carries the Zika virus, the Aedes aegypti. Would attempting to eliminate them be a good thing, or would it somehow backfire the ways things often do when humans meddle with nature?

Sheryl Sandberg. Hillary Clinton. Malala Yousafzai. Oprah. Even Taylor Swift.

These names pop up when you Google "women changing the world." Depending on your politics and point of view, you may agree that these influencers have broken stereotypes, raised global awareness for critical issues like energy and education, and/or served as role models for girls.