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No One's Quite Sure Why Lassa Fever Is On The Rise

Feb 23, 2018

Nigeria is tough on diseases.

With help from a few partners, it stopped Ebola's spread. It wrestled guinea-worm disease into a headlock, with no new cases since 2013. And it's nearly eradicated the transmission of polio.

But now a disease that usually just lurks in the background has roared into headlines. Since the beginning of the year, there's been a particularly large outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria's southern provinces.

The blind have descended in droves on the Bisidimo Hospital in Eastern Ethiopia.

The Himalayan Cataract Project is hosting a mass cataract surgery campaign at the medical compound that used to be a leper colony. For one week a team from the nonprofit has set up seven operating tables in four operating rooms and they're offering free cataract surgery to anyone who needs it.

On the first day of the campaign it's clear that the need is great.

Donald Trump Jr. says he was impressed by the poor people of India.

During a visit to promote his family's luxury apartments, Trump Jr. had this to say in a television interview with the Indian channel CNBC-TV 18.

Measles is highly contagious, but easily preventable with a vaccine.

However, the numbers of measles cases jumped sharply in Europe in 2017, according to new data released by the World Health Organization.

In 2017, the disease affected 21,315 people, compared with 5,273 in 2016. Last year, 35 people died in Europe because of measles.

The number of new HIV cases reported in the Philippines has surged over the last few years, according the country's health agency. In 2007, fewer than 400 new cases were reported; in 2017, more than 11,000 new cases were identified.

There was no red carpet, but there were drums, dancing, and general mayhem.

In late January, NPR global health correspondent Jason Beaubien went to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh for a series of radio and web reports. It was the week that a plan to send the refugees back to Myanmar was supposed to start. But that program was put on hold because of logistics.

We interviewed Beaubien about his trip.

In the brave new world of synthetic biology, scientists can now brew up viruses from scratch using the tools of DNA technology.

The latest such feat, published last month, involves horsepox, a cousin of the feared virus that causes smallpox in people. Critics charge that making horsepox in the lab has endangered the public by basically revealing the recipe for how any lab could manufacture smallpox to use as a bioweapon.

Earlier this week, we shared the remarkable story of Abby Beckley — and her run-in with eye worms.

When this young woman felt something crawling around in her eyes, she had the presence to remove said worm and then, over the course of a few weeks, not one, not two nor three ... but 14 nematodes came out from her eye.

At first doctors didn't believe her. Then they saw one squiggle across her eyeball.

Under the Geneva Conventions, warring parties are responsible for providing medical care to civilians in the territory they control.

But what happens if the warring parties don't have the will or the capacity to treat the civilian casualties? Or if they could not care less about the civilians?

That's a question that erupted in Iraq late in 2016, when the Iraqi military launched a massive military offensive to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIS had seized control of Mosul two years earlier.

It's a story that has stunned the public.

Last week, a report by The Times of London found that in 2011, the national director for Oxfam in Haiti and senior aid workers hired local sex workers while working in the country. After an internal investigation, the Times reported, Oxfam accepted the resignations of three men and fired four for gross misconduct.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in October and has been republished with updates following the shooting Wednesday in Florida.

It was the deadliest school shooting since a gunman took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. On Wednesday, a shooter killed at least 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

There's no Xbox or PlayStation for most of the kids in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. But there are kites.

In the late afternoon, a steady wind blows over the hills of the Hakimpara refugee camp. Young boys race to a ridge at the top of the settlement to fly homemade kites. Some of the "kites" are little more than a plastic bag flapping on a string. But some are more sophisticated with long tails and frilly tassels. "This is a new kite and I'm very happy with it," says 7-year-old Mohammed Arfat as he reels out string to a silvery kite 30 or 40 feet above him.

This year, Bill and Melinda Gates are doing something a little different with their annual letter. They are answering what they call some of the "toughest questions" from their foundation's critics.

On the list: Is it fair that you have the influence you do? Why don't you give more to the United States? Why do you give your money away?

Since its inception, the Gates Foundation has given $41.3 billion in grants, including a grant to NPR.

Oh my lordy! This story gets creepier and crazier the more you learn about it.

Back in the summer of 2016, Abby Beckley had been living on an inactive cattle ranch in southern Oregon. "There was just one cow," says the 28-year-old college student.

A few weeks later, she started to have the sensation that something was in her eye. "You know how it feels when you have an eyelash in your eye?" Beckley says. "That's exactly how it felt, but when I looked in the mirror, I couldn't see anything."

When Jubilanté Cutting was 17, she watched some Trinidadian teens present an idea for an animated computer game featuring doubles, a popular street food that consists of fried flat bread filled with curried chickpeas.

"I saw investors in the room say, 'Hey we love your idea," she says. "Meet us afterward so we can discuss how we can give you the funds.' "

There's a glaring hole in President Trump's budget proposal for 2019, global health researchers say. A U.S. program to help other countries beef up their ability to detect pathogens around the world will lose a significant portion of its funding.

The ambitious program, called Global Health Security Agenda, was launched in early 2014, aiming to set up an early-warning system for infectious diseases across the world.

It's hard to imagine that a blue dye sold in pet food stores in the U.S. to fight fungal infections in tropical fish could be a potent weapon against malaria.

It sounds like the ultimate white savior movie.

Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson plays a young scientist who has created a new fast-growing super-rice. She comes to India to convince villagers to switch to this grain. There's Bollywood-style singing, dancing — and in one scene she even rides a white horse!

Reuters has published an extensive report into the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar in September, pulling from photographs and eyewitness accounts to describe how villagers and paramilitary forces killed the men execution-style and buried them in one grave.

The investigation made headlines long before it was published.

Sanura Begum misses her family's farm back in Myanmar.

She's 20, with rich brown eyes. In August, she joined the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing their homeland.

The Man Who Inspired A Menstrual Pad Movie

Feb 8, 2018

Today, everyone respects Arunachalam Muruganantham, 52, a social entrepreneur who lives in the city of Coimbatore in South India. But there was a time, he says, when his neighbors were convinced he had lost his mind. Some even believed that he was a vampire.

"It all started because I wanted to create a good sanitary napkin for my wife," he laughs.

The Trump administration has released its first assessment of the impact of the president's decision to reinstate the "Mexico City policy," which cuts off U.S. aid to international groups unless they promise not to provide or promote abortion, even with non-U.S. funding sources.

The review finds that so far practically all grantees have agreed to those conditions. But opponents of the policy caution that the administration's statistics offer too incomplete a picture to draw conclusions about the policy's impact.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have built makeshift shelters on steep, sandy hills in Bangladesh. They've fled what the U.N. has called ethnic cleansing in neighboring Myanmar.

Now they face a new danger in the unplanned camps that sprawl over 3,000 acres: The monsoon season is expected to start in April.

Our blog often features stories about efforts to improve life for this planet's 7 billion inhabitants: how to make sure everyone has access to clean water and power, medical care to stay healthy, enough income to feed their kids, education for the children so they can fulfill their potential.

Chris Junior Anaekwe had an idea. In his home state of Anambra in southeastern Nigeria, there was a filthy gutter full of bottles and cans and trash, all covered in black gunk.

And he thought it would be a good idea to convince the local kids — local teenagers who contributed to the mess — to clean it up.

Good luck with that!

Cape Town Copes With Water Crisis

Feb 4, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Well before the minibus pulls in, a crowd of 100 women has gathered, many toting children. More continue to arrive by bike, on foot. Soon they spill out from under the shelter of two tents that constitute a makeshift waiting area. Some cluster among trees. Others lean against the village maternity building, a five-room structure that many have never set foot in because they gave birth at home.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the Liberian elbow bump.

When Ebola overtook the West African country in 2014, many people were afraid to shake hands and embrace in the customary way. That's understandable, because Ebola is spread by the exchange of bodily fluids during body-to-body contact.

So Liberians came up with a less touchy-feely greeting. They bumped elbows.

Filthy, stinky, scarce and hard to find. Toilet paper, soap, hot water and hand dryers are too much to ask. Consider yourself lucky if the person before you aimed correctly and remembered to flush. That's what many Chinese public bathrooms are like.

According to the authorities, some 4.3 billion domestic and overseas visitors are subjected to these embarrassing conditions at China's tourist spots each year. So in April 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a "toilet revolution" — an all-out war on unhygienic bathroom conditions at tourist attractions.

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