Marc Silver

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.

With a string of devastating natural disasters and record numbers of refugees, 2017 has been a cruel year.

So it's a year when, more than ever, we need World Kindness Day.

The November 13 holiday was made up in 1998. So it doesn't have deep roots in human society.

Oct. 11 is the "International Day of the Girl" – proclaimed by the U.N. as a time to look at the challenges girls face and to promote their "empowerment" and human rights.

What kind of year has it been for girls? We looked at the stories we've done over the past year, and the headlines alone captured both the tragedies and the triumphs. In many ways a horrible year for girls. But even at the bleakest moments, there are stories of hope and triumph.

Here is a sampling of our stories about the world's girls:

The Sprague Fire that's burning in Glacier National Park reached the historic Sperry Chalet hotel building and "rapidly engulfed" it, according to the website for this historic building.

"We are saddened to inform you that Sperry Chalet has been lost," the website now reads.

Sperry Chalet.

I hadn't thought about it for years.

Back in 2000, my family spent the night, and all the memories – the miserable ones and the fantastic ones – came rushing back.

Before "Goats and Soda" was born, I wrote a story for our sister blog, "The Salt" about the world's largest tree fruit. The jackfruit can grow as big as 100 pounds. It's a good source of protein, potassium, vitamin B and fiber. Plus: It's easy to grow in tropical climes. There was even a symposium devoted to revving up production and marketing. So how's that going?

I knew it was time to do a follow-up story on jackfruit when I went shopping in Trader Joe's and saw 20-ounce cans of "Trader Joe's Green Jackfruit In Brine." For only $1.99!

Shhh, we just can't talk about that.

Omigosh: We. Just. Don't. Do. That.

If you haven't guessed, we're talking about taboos.

Taboos are part of every culture, every family, every circle of friends.

We're planning to explore taboos in an upcoming series of stories. We'd like to hear from our audience about taboos they've encountered in the world of global health and development.

So tell us: What global taboos should we consider? Share your ideas in the tool below.

Goats and Soda is NPR's global health and development blog. We tell stories of life in our changing world, focusing on low- and middle-income countries. And we keep in mind that we're all neighbors in this global village.

It sounds like a fairy tale. A benefactor gives you a million dollars to make a wish come true.

Only it can't be a selfish wish. The TED annual award goes each year to an "exceptional individual with a creative and bold vision to solve a timely, pressing problem." (TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "ideas worth spreading" and sponsors the TED talks aired on NPR's TED Radio Hour.)

"Water was the biggest thing," says journalist Tim McDonnell of the scene at the refugee settlement of Palorinya in northern Uganda. Since December, 146,000 South Sudanese have crossed the border, fleeing the violence of the civil war. And without enough water to drink, they would quite literally die.

In truth, there is no way to come with a 100 percent accurate count of all the health workers who have died since the conflict in Syria that began six years ago this month.

That's because it takes a lot of checking to verify a death — Physicians for Human Rights, for example, wants to know the victim's name, job, the location and date of death and the cause of death. And they want three sources who can back up the account.

It started with a poster he made at Kinko's and displayed at his wedding in May 2007: Would guests donate to help start a new kind of health care program in Liberia?

He got $6,000.

Now he's won a million dollar prize for his efforts.

Do you know any global health stories that should be getting coverage — but are overlooked by the media?

Paul Farmer has spent a lot of time in Haiti over the last three decades. But what he saw on his visit this past week left him "surprised and upset and humbled."

On Sunday, aid worker Jeremiah Young couldn't tell if he was hearing thunderclaps or bombs.

That's the scene in Juba, capital of South Sudan. Rainy season has begun. And intense fighting broke out on Thursday — a new round of fighting between supporters of the vice president and troops backing the president. Heavy gunfire was exchanged, along with mortar and grenade explosions.

Did you know the United Kingdom is one of the most generous countries in the world when it comes to aid for global health and development?

The amount given in 2015 was the equivalent of $18.7 billion in U.S. dollars. That's second only to the $31.08 billion from the United States. It's an impressive total given the comparative size of the two countries and their economies.

In the United States, if a hospital didn't have running water even for one day, it'd be a crisis.

But in some parts of the world, that's business as usual.

At first it seems like a typical music video.

A big, calm-looking bearded man sits in a posh armchair and sings in an emotion-choked baritone, "I'm running, I'm running, I'm running."

He's Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter.

A little bit into the song, a rapper joins in: "I fight through the night just to find a stronger day."

For five days and five nights in February, NPR reporters Jason Beaubien and Kelly McEvers were "embedded" with Doctors Without Borders in the middle of nowhere. They were inside a massive United Nation's compound framed by earthen walls topped with razor wire. It's known as the POC — Protection of Civilians site. Heavily-armed U.N. peacekeepers patrol the perimeter of the compound; more than 120,000 civilians live there, seeking a safe haven in a war-torn country.

What's the best way to help out someone in need? Just give money? Or try to make sure they'll spend the money effectively?

That's a dilemma that's faced anyone confronted by someone begging on the street. And it's an international problem as well. When rich countries give aid to poor countries, how do they know the money will go to good use?

The Millennium Challenge Corporation has come up with one strategy. MCC, as it's called, is a U.S. government foreign aid agency created by Congress in 2004 to fight global poverty.

"My cheeks are sore from smiling," says Loyce Maturu.

The 24-year-old, who lives in Harare, Zimbabwe, is posing for a photo at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. She's come to be interviewed about her activism. She's a champion for people with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (she has been diagnosed with both). So really, the pain of smiling is nothing compared to what she has been through.

And she's joking, of course, about how hard it is to pose for a photo. She even takes off her glasses because she wants to show off her eyes.

A Key Lesson From Ebola: You Can't Forget About Politics

The Ebola virus marks a milestone this month. It has been two years since the first case was confirmed in West Africa, the start of a devastating epidemic that claimed more than 11,000 lives. The anniversary is making health workers think about what the world has — and hasn't — learned from the experience.

This post was updated on March 14.

She walked through the valley of death and never lost her faith. Garmai Sumo, a 29-year-old nurse in Liberia, was a member of Body Team 12, one of the teams that collected the bodies of Ebola victims for cremation.

Don't get pregnant.

That's the advice given to women by the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador in light of a possible link between the Zika virus, which is spreading in those countries, and a birth defect called microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small head and possible brain damage. Brazil has reported thousands of cases of microcephaly since the outbreak began there last spring; researchers are trying to determine whether the virus is the cause.

Do you know any global health stories that should be getting coverage — but are overlooked by the media?

The Zika virus has gone from an obscure disease to an international public health emergency.

Editor's note: The original version of this post contained a map illustration intended to represent the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which poll respondents identified as the region presenting the greatest risk to travelers and expatriates in 2016. The map had a number of errors. The countries of Cyprus, Israel and Turkey were either not shown or not labeled; the label for "Palestine" should have read "Palestinian territories"; and Afghanistan and Pakistan were mistakenly included. NPR apologizes for these errors.

When the Nobel for Medicine goes to two scientists who discovered a drug used to fight a variety of neglected diseases, how do you tell the story?

He's the cop who gets shot by Jennifer Lopez.

Namala Mkopi always wanted to be a pediatrician. He doesn't know exactly who or what inspired him. He just wanted "to treat kids."

And nothing would stand in his way, not even biology. "It wasn't my thing," he admits. "I never really liked biology."

One thing we've learned here at Goats and Soda is that the world of global health and development is swimming in abbreviations/initialisms. We try not to use them in the blog because let's face it, dear readers, if you saw a story about NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) trying to improve BHS (basic health services), you'd probably click over to a video of RCC (really cute cats).

Global health and development abbreviations do have their defenders. They are a convenient shorthand for people who work in the field.

Although not everyone is a fan.

We launched this blog in the summer of 2014. We've covered global health and development (and our namesake goats as well). So you've been hearing from us. Now we'd like to hear from you.

Take the survey.

Tell us how you think we're doing. All it will take is a few minutes to fill out our survey. Thanks!

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