Marc Silver

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!

A woman finds a lump in her breast.

And for a long time, she doesn't tell anybody. Not her family. And not her doctor.

That happens all too often in low- and lower-middle-income countries, says Dr. Ben Anderson, a surgical oncologist who is the director of the Breast Health Global Initiative at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Sustainable, sustainable, sustainable.

Sustainable. Sustainable.

SUSTAINABLE!

Oh, excuse me. I was just counting the number of times the word "sustainable" (and its close cousin, sustainability) appear in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the U.N. will endorse this coming weekend.

I got 75. And I probably missed a few.

The SDGs, as they're called, aim to improve life on earth, especially in poor countries — no more extreme poverty, the eradication of "a wide range of diseases," education and equal rights for all, taking care of the planet.

We're welcoming an unseen guest to our Jewish holiday celebrations this fall: My mother-in-law, Jan Dale, who died in 2005.

Since her passing, I've tried to keep Jan a presence at our festive meals with my attempts to bake some of her favorite recipes. For instance, to mark the start of Yom Kippur Tuesday night, I've made a batch of Jan's crumbly, cinnamon-scented mandelbread — that's Yiddish for "almond bread," a twice-baked cookie that's the Jewish version of biscotti.

But getting here has taken a bit of detective work.

Yes, it's a cliche: "Yoga saved my life."

Google the phrase, and you'll get 12 million matches!

But when Walter Mugbe says it, he really means it. It's not an exaggeration. It's the truth.

The Trevor Noah countdown has begun. The South African stand-up comedian will begin hosting Comedy Central's Daily Show on Sept. 28. And what better way to get ready than ... by doing comedy.

Soda is at the crossroads.

The U.S. is still a world leader in taking the pause that refreshes (and causes weight gain).

But soda drinking is flat or declining in the West. The reasons are many: Health consciousness. Bottled water. Energy drinks.

So the Big Soda companies are spending money to develop new markets in low- and middle-income countries. In some of these places, people are earning a bit more than a few years before, so they have more money for soda.

When an email arrived the other day promoting an "Interfaith Service Focused on Below the Belt Cancers," I was intrigued.

It turns out Thursday, June 18, is the start of the third "Globe-athon to End Women's Cancers." To kickoff this continuing campaign, there will be two days of events in New York City dedicated to making people more aware of the cancers that strike more than 1 million women a year and figuring out the best strategies for diagnosis and treatment.

A new survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that sexual violence against children is a global problem.

Seven countries were surveyed from 2007 to 2013. The first was Swaziland, which wanted to assess and address the problem. The rate of sexual violence against girls was 36.7 percent. Additional countries asked to be surveyed as well. Young people from the age of 13 to 24 were interviewed, with a range of 1,000 to 2,000 for each gender.

In September, the U.N. will vote to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals (aka SDGs). They cover issues like poverty, health and climate change. The idea is to encourage the 192 U.N. member states to establish policies that will make the world a better place over the next 15 years.

At least one SDG is turning out to be a bit controversial.

This particular goal calls for a reduction in "premature mortality" from non-communicable diseases like cancer, stroke and dementia by half in people younger than 50 and by a third among people from 50 to 69.

In just two days, Liberia will celebrate what seemed an impossible dream last summer: the end of its Ebola outbreak.

Saturday, May 9 will mark the 42nd day of no new Ebola cases in the country. A person with Ebola typically shows symptoms within 21 days of exposure. But the World Health Organization adds an extra 21 days for extra caution before declaring that an outbreak has ended. So on Saturday, WHO officials and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will announce that Liberia is Ebola-free.

The interviewer asks the fresh-faced young woman named Irene: "What do you do here in this village?"

"I am a prostitute," she says.

Editor's note: A version of this story ran in April 2014.

Yes, it is true that gardening requires patience.

But face it, we live in an impatient world. And gardeners everywhere were depressed by the brutal and endless winter.

So we are understandably eager to get sowing. And to see results by ... well, if not next Thursday, then maybe mid-May?

A funny thing happened at the 12th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship last week in Oxford, England.

At this global gathering of activists and change-makers, where conversation often centered on poverty, disease and disaster, there was a session called What's So Funny? The Role of Comedy in Social Change.

What do you call someone who runs a successful business that aims to make the world a better place? A CEO with a conscience? A do-good bottom-liner?

At the Skoll World Forum this week in Oxford, England, the preferred term is social entrepreneur. In fact, the conference is completely devoted to the idea — and promoting its rising stars.

Young entrepreneurs are invited to join veterans for workshops, talks and confabs. Awards are given for "social entrepreneurship."

This Easter, you can toast the Bunny with the newest jelly bean flavor from industry giant Jelly Belly: champagne. (Don't get your hopes up — the champagne bean is alcohol-free.)

"An epidemic is one of the few catastrophes that could set the world back drastically in the next few decades," Bill Gates warns in an essay he wrote for the March 18 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

In the article, titled "The Next Epidemic — Lessons From Ebola," he says the Ebola epidemic is a "wake-up call."

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