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In January, 7-year-old Zainab Amin's parents were on a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia when their relatives back in Pakistan called with the news: Their daughter didn't make it to her evening Quran lesson.

"Stay where you are," the father, Amin Ansari, recalls a relative telling him. "Your prayers are answered there."

Her mother, Nusrat, says she sat in the Prophet Mohammad's mosque in Medina, praying: "Oh God, keep Zainab safe and protected. Oh God, I have come to your door like a beggar. Oh God, please do not send me away empty-handed."

What happens after a cancer diagnosis?

That's the question investigated by a study published by the CONCORD program on cancer survival published on Tuesday in The Lancet. The study looks at patient records for adults and children diagnosed with a variety of cancers in 71 countries. The records are from 2010 to 2014. The goal is to compare five-year survival rates, a number used to assess effectiveness of treatment.

Somaliland looks to be on the verge of enacting a bill that would punish anyone found guilty of a sexual offense.

It's not that rape is legal in Somaliland, a self-declared republic that broke away from Somalia in 1991 but is not recognized internationally. The penal code recognizes some sexual offenses. Yet they're so narrowly defined that critics say women and girls remain unprotected. The current penal code refers to sexual offenses by the words "carnal violence" and "acts of lust."

Hundreds of thousands of Africans aren't able to get the surgery they need. And those who do undergo surgery, despite being younger and having fewer underlying health risks than patients in high-income countries, face a greater risk of dying after surgery.

Africa's big photo show is asking some big questions.

What does it mean to be an artist in Africa? And what does the future hold for the continent?

"The Bamako Encounters," the 11th African Biennale of Photography, explores the heady topics of identity and possibility through the theme of "Afrotopia."

"What I wanted to do with Afrotopia is let the artists describe or analyze or [imagine] what is for them the reality of Africa today," says Marie-Ann Yemsi, curator of the Biennale.

Diphtheria poses one more threat to already beleaguered Rohingya refugees.

The outbreak started in the sprawling camps in Bangladesh in November soon after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya arrived. It appeared to have peaked around New Year's but now there is renewed concern as the potentially fatal disease continues to spread.

Last April, Fredua Agyemang, a musician in Kumasi, Ghana, was performing onstage at a funeral, which in this country is often a festive affair with hundreds of guests. Suddenly, he began to feel dizzy, then lost consciousness and collapsed.

Viral Video From A Somali Comic Conquers The Internet

Jan 26, 2018

Human skin is a cornucopia of fragrances.

The bacteria living on our skin emit more than 200 odor chemicals.

"Many of these molecules smell quite pleasant," says biologist Jeff Riffell at the University of Washington. "They smell grassy or a little bit like mushrooms. Some human scents are the same ones found in flowers."

Other chemicals — well — they aren't so nice. "They're pretty funky," Riffell says, like an overripe Brie cheese or a musty basement.

On Wednesday, an attack on a Save the Children office in eastern Afghanistan left four employees dead and four more injured.

Afghanistan's Tolo news service, said a suicide bomber in a car detonated outside of the Jalalabad office yesterday morning. Then gunmen reportedly entered the building.

Imagine the following experiment: you choose people at random and play snippets of songs they've never heard. A grocery clerk in Illinois listens to an 8th century Berber ballad. A child in Beijing listens to Childish Gambino.

How would listeners react? Would they immediately recognize something universal, say "Oh, this song is clearly for dancing!" Or would the differences in musical style and language leave people confused?

Last summer, Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

The 25-year-old teacher was helping archaeologists excavate an 800-year-old log cabin, high above the Arctic Circle on the northern coast of Alaska.

They had pitched tents right on the beach. Over the course of a month, Peterson watched a gigantic pod of beluga whales swim along the beach, came face-to-face with a hungry polar bear invading their campsite and helped dig out the skull of a rare type of polar bear.

But the most memorable thing happened right at the end of the trip.

What Hugh Masekela Meant To South Africa's Freedom Fighters

Jan 24, 2018

Many people have paid tribute to the musical genius of Hugh Masekela, known as the father of South African jazz. But he was not just known for his musicianship. The artist, who died on Tuesday at age 78, used his public platform to speak out against apartheid and substance abuse.

President Trump will join other world leaders later this week in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. It is a decades-old event that is roundly mocked for hosting the world's richest and most powerful people in fancy chalets while they talk about the problems that affect the world's poor.

It may best be summed up by the sign at this year's event that directs people toward a refugee exhibit and the location of private car pickups.

A short drive north of Fairbanks, Alaska, there's a red shed stuck right up against a hillside. The shed looks unremarkable, except for the door. It looks like a door to a walk-in freezer, with thick insulation and a heavy latch. Whatever is behind that door needs to stay very cold.

"Are you ready to go inside?" asks Dr. Thomas Douglas, a geochemist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Pakistan's latest polio eradication drive got off to a tragic start last week when gunmen killed a mother-daughter vaccination team in the Western city of Quetta. Sakina, 38, and her 16-year-old daughter, Rizwana, were administering immunization drops to children when the assailants sped past on a motorbike and shot each woman in the head. (Like many people in Pakistan, Sakina and Rizwana only went by a first name.)

Updated at 2 p.m. ET on Jan. 22 to cover the postponement of the plan to send refugees back to Myanmar.

This week, Bangladesh had planned to start sending Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. Now the deal has been postponed because of logistical problems.

The refugees themselves have opposed the plan.

"They'll kill us," says Sonah Meah, 30. "If I go, they'll kill me."

It was a highlight of the latest season of the Netflix series The Crown, which chronicles the early years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign: The year is 1961, the Cold War is heating up and the queen (played by Claire Foy), feeling self-conscious after learning that First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour) called her "incurious" at a dinner party, decides to take a more proactive role in dealing with Ghana, a former colony whose new leader, Kwame Nkrumah (Danny Sapani), appears to be getting too cozy with the Soviets.

In the countries that we cover in our blog, we sometimes focus on the problems they face. But the images in the International Drone Photography Contest remind us that every country has many sides — and that a photo taken from above can offer a special perspective.

Here are three drone's eye views of the developing world that were among this year's contest winners.

Serengeti hippos

What Today's Headlines About Famine Get Wrong

Jan 19, 2018

A new book offers a surprising perspective about the hunger crises dominating the news.

It wouldn't make any sense to send a French-speaking refugee to a German-speaking town in Switzerland.

But under Switzerland's current system of placing refugees, that's a situation that can easily happen. This problem isn't unique to Switzerland, and it's not the only kind of mismatch that might happen.

A strange smell had invaded my apartment. It was sour and pungent like rotting meat. Or maybe it was more like old fish. It was kind of like both of those things with a hint of spoiled milk. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, blame the English language. It's not just me; it's very difficult to describe scents in English. It's hard to do in German and Dutch and French, too.

So why aren't Westerners good at naming scents?

For decades, scientists thought perhaps smell was a diminished human sense and less valuable than other senses — like our glorious eyesight.

On the first day as head of the United Nations — January 1, 2017 — Antonio Guterres pledged to make 2017 a year of peace.

But the year didn't turn out as he expected. In an informal address to member states at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Guterres said "peace remains elusive" — and "in fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse."

By now, you've likely heard about President Trump's reported remark last week that the U.S. should bring in more people from Norway instead of from "shithole countries" like El Salvador, Haiti and African nations.

The reaction was swift and loud. Citizens (and allies) of those countries filled social media pages with photos of idyllic beaches, city skylines and shiny structures in so-called "shithole countries."

They also shared impressive lists of personal achievements that ended with: "I'm from a #shithole country."

On Friday, we posed this question to our audience: What do you think of the way poor countries are portrayed by aid groups and the media?

The question came in light of President Donald Trump's reported description of El Salvador, Haiti and nations in Africa as "shithole countries" last week.

In a country with over 28 national languages, Jhoti Prajapati did not speak at all. Her family, who lived in an Indian village in Maharashtra, was worried. When the child turned 3, her mother Rima took her to a doctor and got an explanation for the silence: Jhoti was born deaf.

The diagnosis spurred Rima into action. For two years, she says, she worked diligently to acquire the disability certificate needed for Jhoti's admission to a school for the deaf. There are only 388 such schools in India, and none near her village. So at age 5, Jhoti moved with her mother to Mumbai.

In the small clinic where I work in Boston, it is rare to see a new, middle-aged patient who has yet to see a doctor in this city. Trust me — we are everywhere.

So when I saw an unfamiliar woman's name pop-up on my list for the afternoon, I was surprised to find an otherwise empty medical file. A recent transplant to Boston, I guessed.

In the Thursday meeting in which President Trump complained about "having all these people from shithole countries come here" — and singled out Haiti, El Salvador and Africa as examples — he also added that, "we should have more people from Norway."

In fact there was a time when we did.

From 1870 to 1910 a quarter of Norway's working-age population emigrated, mostly to the United States. You read that right — one-fourth of its workers left the country.

Africa Tech Now, billed as the "No. 1 event showcasing African entrepreneurship," debuted at CES this year. The problem was, when I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to cover it for this blog, no one had heard of it. Not the media desk, the information booth or even the Moroccan and Egyptian aisles, which are obviously African but weren't part of the expo I was looking for.

I guess it's not surprising. Tech innovations from developing countries in Africa aren't exactly making headlines.

It's an idea that is now spreading around on Twitter in the global development community.

Maybe the reason President Trump called El Salvador, Haiti and nations in Africa "shithole countries" is the way the media and aid groups portray poor countries.

The idea was brought up by Owen Barder, the vice president of the Center for Global Development, a think tank on international issues like aid and poverty, in a tweet he posted on Friday:

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