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Health

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No matter how you slice it, outbreaks are becoming more common. Overseas, there's been Ebola, Zika and yellow fever. And here at home, we're seeing a surge in tick-borne diseases, with Lyme leading the way.

For the past month, NPR has been looking at why this is the case. Deforestation lets animal viruses jump into people. Factory farming amplifies the problem. And then international tourism spreads the new diseases around the globe.

But throughout our series, there's been something else on people's minds.

Forget basketball.

March Mammal Madness may be more thrill-packed than the NCAA's version of March Madness.

Sure, basketball players can jump. But can they jump like the giant pouched rat, which leaps 5 feet in the air? Not only that, the mega-rodent, weighing in at around 3 pounds, can sniff out land mines and identify TB in sputum samples.

In the introduction to his proposed federal budget, President Donald Trump states clearly that he plans to spend far less abroad and on international issues than did previous administrations.

One of the five bullet points in the introduction to the document "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again" states that the fiscal plan "puts America first by keeping more of America's hard-earned tax dollars here at home."

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.

"I'm alone in this world," sobs the woman, tears smudging her black eyeliner as she clutches a handbag with medicine inside — antiretroviral pills for HIV.

Wearing a hijab that covers her long hair, a traditional Arabic dress with roses and wedge heels, she sits in the office of a community group that offers support to LGBT sex workers, trying to regain her composure. "Princess Shadya," as she is known to friends, is transgender and identifies as a woman. And she lives in Tanzania, where LGBT people are increasingly coming under attack from the government.

Things are spiraling downward in South Sudan, one of four nations where, according to the U.N., the greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945 is unfolding.

And in the case of South Sudan, it's not drought or climate change that's causing the catastrophe. It's civil war.

Last month the U.N. declared a famine in two parts of the country and warned that nearly half the population is in urgent need of food assistance.

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.

One hundred seeds: That's the number Minara Begum needs to plant in her Detroit backyard in order to grow enough vegetables such as squash, taro root and amaranth greens to feed her family for the year.

She learned to cook and garden at a young age in Bangladesh. In the two years since she moved to the U.S., she's grown traditional South Asian crops to feed her family — and whoever visits — on any given day. There's always a pot, or several, on the stove.

Trekking season begins this month in the Himalayas, and visitors are sure to experience a common — if jaw-dropping — sight: local porters carrying towering loads on their backs, often supported by a strap over their foreheads.

Their packs are sometimes heavier than their bodies, says Norman Heglund, a muscle physiologist of Belgium's University de Louvain. Think: a 150-plus pound pack on a 125-pound man.

And the porters carry their cargo up and down mountains, day after day, year after year.

An award-winning film made in India about the lives of four Indian women has been banned in India.

The buses line up at the Invepi refugee camp in northern Uganda.

One after the other they drop off dozens of South Sudanese seeking refuge on this side of the border.

They come off carrying whatever possessions they still have: sometimes that means empty plastic jugs, sometimes it means chickens that provide food along the way. Many of the refugees are barefoot. When they've finished with their registration and vaccinations, some just sit there, staring into space.

Somaliland can't catch a break. Its arranged marriage to Somalia fell apart more than a quarter century ago, yet the world refuses to recognize the divorce.

Now Somalilanders find themselves temporarily barred from the United States under President Trump's new travel ban, and they're not happy about it.

"Somaliland should not be mixed with Somalia. We are two different states," says Saad Ali Shire, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland.

Like so many countries from the former Soviet bloc, Mongolia faced a terrible economic upheaval at the end of the Soviet Union. In the first few years, inflation went up over 250 percent; employment went down.

Giving Power To Women In Ghana

Mar 8, 2017

Evelyn Sewodey, 25, used to sell fried yams in her village of Tanyigbe, a job that really wasn't going anywhere. Two years ago she heard about a new free program that taught electrical and solar energy skills to disadvantaged young women (and a few men as well).

She didn't really think she'd be interested in electrical engineering. Nonetheless, she went to an open house at the Lady Volta Vocational Center for Electricity and Solar Power in Ho, around 7 miles from her home.

Women won't be coming to work. That's what Americans may think that International Women's Day means this year.

The event, which has been celebrated for 106 years, has no single organizer or agenda. That's what makes it so effective, says Terry McGovern, professor and chair of population and family health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "There's not an imposed agenda. It allows women to define what the day means for them, and what needs to happen for them to achieve equality."

According to two new World Health Organization reports, about 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die each year because of environmental hazards. It's the first such estimate of the child death toll from environmental causes.

In recent winters, severe smog has blanketed northern China with a grim regularity, triggering emergency measures in scores of cities. What has been changing in recent years is how some ordinary Chinese citizens, particularly those in the growing middle class — who have the means to take action — have chosen to respond to the pollution.

In a pink-painted village clinic converted into a field hospital a few miles from the Mosul front lines, there is no emergency care facility, so wounded Iraqi troops are just wheeled into the foyer for treatment.

Over the crackle of walkie-talkies, one of two men arriving with shrapnel wounds from a car bomb calls out, "Mohammad Jassim, my brother, where is he?"

A comic book about menstruation ... aimed at boys?

That's what Indonesia has created.

It started when a UNICEF team there looked at what happens when a girl gets her period.

In a survey of over 1,100 girls, the team found lots of concerns about the cruel remarks boys would make. They'd point at a girl's stained skirt and say, "Hey, it's leaking."

At a conference in Brussels on Thursday, more than a dozen nations and private funders pledged a combined total of $190 million for international family planning charities that stand to lose their U.S. support as a result of President Trump's Jan. 23 executive action to block U.S. foreign aid funding of groups linked to abortion.

When James Harris rushed his wife, Salome Karwah, to a hospital at the edge of Monrovia on the night of February 19, he expected that she'd be treated as a priority case. Salome was a prominent Ebola survivor and ex-Doctors Without Borders employee who'd graced the cover of Time magazine in 2014 as one of the "Ebola Fighters" named persons of the year.

Just How Much Pee Is In That Pool?

Mar 1, 2017

You know that sharp odor of chlorine from the swimming pool you can recall from earliest childhood? It turns out it's not just chlorine, but a potent brew of chemicals that form when chlorine meets sweat, body oils, and urine.

The World Health Organization for the first time has issued a list of the top 12 "priority pathogens." They're disease-causing bacteria that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics, says WHO. Yet the development of new antibiotics to treat them has slowed to a crawl.

"We are fast running out of treatment options," says Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO's assistant director-general for Health Systems, in a statement.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In 1890, Sir Thomas Lipton arrived on the island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to purchase a plot of land that would become the first tea estate in his global tea empire. These days, in the Ambadandegama Valley located just a few miles from Lipton's original estate, another experiment in tea production is unfolding.

What Makes Mira Rai Run?

Feb 26, 2017

Mira Rai is perched on the edge of a couch in Kathmandu in a bright yellow Salomon windbreaker and track pants. The 29-year-old is recovering from knee surgery but looks as if she needs to jump off the couch and burn energy on a mountain trail.

Trail running is, in fact, what the Nepali athlete is known for — along with her unlikely journey from school dropout in a remote Nepali village to Maoist child soldier to national sports hero featured in children's books and depicted in murals.

It was a balmy Sunday evening in early 1999, and Dr. Kaw Bing Chua hadn't had lunch or dinner.

There wasn't time to eat. Chua was chasing a killer. And he thought maybe he had finally tracked it down.

He slid the slide under the microscope lens, turned on the scope's light and looked inside. "A chill went down my spine," Chua says. "The slide lit up bright green, like bright green lanterns."

Readers asked: "When a humanitarian group has helped a community become self-sustaining, how can the group create a good 'exit strategy.'"

Our sources answered: Create the exit strategy from the get-go.

This week United Nations officials declared that a famine in South Sudan is growing — fueled by a deadly combination of drought and conflict. They estimate that nearly 4 million people are already struggling to get enough food. And officials expect the famine will spread to more areas in the coming months affecting an additional 1 million people.

Meanwhile the threat of famine is looming over three other countries: Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, putting a total of 1.4 million children at risk of death this year.

To Test Zika Vaccines, Scientists Need A New Outbreak

Feb 23, 2017

Researchers are eager to test promising vaccines against Zika, the virus that sparked a global health emergency last year.

But uncertainty over whether the Zika epidemic will continue affects researchers' ability to finish testing vaccines. They need locations with an active viral outbreak to conduct large-scale human trials and make sure the vaccine actually protects against disease.

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