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How Is The World Treating People With Disabilities?

Dec 18, 2016

In the ten years since the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by 168 countries, there has been both progress and stubborn obstacles.

Barbara Massaad was watching a TV news program about the plight of Syrian refugees from her apartment in the suburbs of Beirut when she decided to visit a refugee camp herself.

"I just wanted to go and see what was happening," she told me. "So I went and started taking photographs and talking to people about food."

Before my family bought a television set, it was radio that I stayed glued to. I must have been 10 years old, or maybe 9. My grandfather, uncle and I would sit close to a massive analogue radio. One of them delicately held the dial between the thumb and the index finger, fine-tuning, ear close to the speaker, listening carefully for a clear sentence of English amid the sizzle and the crackle of radio signals. A clear signal that lasted for barely a minute put a huge smile on our faces.

Over the last week, South Sudanese authorities expelled two top officials from the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the largest international aid groups working in the country.

"It's hugely concerning ... in part because we truly don't know why," says Joel Charny, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council's U.S. office. "For no reason whatsoever, our country director is detained for nearly 24 hours and then asked to leave. Now an area manager is asked to leave. It's puzzling because we don't know what we've done wrong."

It's a problem around the world: People who need mental health care don't get it.

A new kind of treatment strategy in India — delivered by nonprofessionals — offers a potential solution. And it's one that could be adopted in other countries, including the U.S.

In India, providing mental health care is a special challenge. Many people, especially in rural areas, don't understand much about mental health or mental illness.

Over the past week, we asked our audience to help Goats and Soda come up with one of our first stories of 2017.

We asked: Is there a topic in the field of global health and development that you think we didn't pay enough attention to last year and that will loom large in the year ahead? Is there a small but important trend afoot?

Earlier this month, we received more than 100 questions on everything from deforestation to leprosy to human population. We put three of them up for vote. More than 300 people voted, and this question was the winner:

It sounds like the plot of a movie.

Police discover a body in a warehouse. It's a young man who's been stabbed multiple times. They swab the body — and it tests positive for a deadly infectious disease.

Investigators realize the people who killed him — members of a street gang — may now be spreading the virus without knowing it.

This actually happened in the West African nation of Liberia in 2015. The deadly disease was Ebola.

Aleppo is under attack. Civilians trapped in the siege in Syria — including children from an orphanage — are turning to social media with a message to the world: End the violence.

In the video, a group of about two dozen children in sweaters and knit caps stand in three rows, as if to sing a Christmas carol or recite a poem. Instead, they have a message for "those concerned with human rights and the rights of children."

It's a cold, damp fall day in London. But in a windowless basement laboratory, it feels like the tropics. It's hot and humid. That's to keep the mosquitoes happy.

"In this cage, we have the adult mosquitoes," says Andrew Hammond, a genetic engineer at Imperial College London, as he picks up a container made out of white mosquito netting.

The lab is buzzing with hundreds of mosquitoes. "Everything in this cubicle is genetically modified," Hammond says, pointing to the container of mosquitoes.

Could vaccinating cattle get more girls into high school?

That's the intriguing prospect suggested by a new study of Kenyan cattle herding families in the journal Science Advances. But even more significant than the actual results of the study is the fact the researchers would even think to investigate whether there's a link between cattle vaccination rates and girls' high school attendance.

One big question about the Zika virus has been how big a risk the virus might pose in the United States.

Studies earlier this year suggested that birth defects and other problems were mainly limited to babies born in some parts of Brazil.

A study out Tuesday provides a sense of the effects on women who were exposed while pregnant in other countries and then came to the United States. About 6 percent of those pregnancies resulted in defects in the fetus or baby.

Is Wonder Woman being forced into early retirement?

It's come to light this week that the comic superhero's controversial tenure as the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be coming to a close this Friday.

Great ideas are a dime a dozen. The question is: How do you get 'em to stick?

Breaking The Taboo Of Talking About Periods

Dec 11, 2016

Menstruation is hardly the stuff of poetry. In fact, in India, if periods are talked about at all, it's in whispered code, and never with someone of the opposite gender.

Bacteria are way smarter than we give them credit for.

No, I'm not talking about "brain smarts." Bacteria don't have neurons.

I'm referring to "chemical smarts": the ability to make, break down or gobble up whatever compound they want. Even if they've never been exposed to it before.

Scientists have found a superbug — hidden 1,000 feet underground in a cave — which is resistant to 70 percent of antibiotics and can totally inactivate many of them.

If you live in Kenya there's a jingle you hear on television and radio a lot.

The number of new cancer cases grew worldwide to 17.5 million in 2015 from 13.1 million in 2005. And the fastest growth is in some of the world's poorest countries, according to a report on the global burden of cancer in the Dec. 3 journal JAMA Oncology.

Alsarah was born in Sudan to politically active parents. When she was still a child a coup there forced the family to flee to Yemen. Then, after civil war broke out in Yemen, they had to flee again, this time to Amherst, Massachusetts — all by the time Alsarah was 12. But please, says the singer-songwriter, don't pigeonhole her as some sort of "refugee artist."

The surprise find of smallpox DNA in a child mummy from the 17th century could help scientists start to trace the mysterious history of this notorious virus.

Smallpox currently only exists in secure freezers, after a global vaccination campaign eradicated the virus in the late 1970s. But much about this killer remains unknown, including its origins.

In Bangladesh, a new report finds, impoverished children are working long hours in violation of that country's labor laws. Children under the age of 14 who've given up school for jobs are toiling an average 64 hours a week, according to a British think tank.

In the quest to help the poor, it's difficult to know whose needs are the greatest. Without clear data, it's tough to know who to help first.

The traditional way to look for the poorest of the poor is with household surveys. That's the primary source of data for policy decisions, but it has drawbacks.

It's a policy battle that has been playing out over three decades.

In 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan imposed an anti-abortion rule — known as the "Mexico City policy" after the city where he announced it. The rule blocked federal funding for international family planning charities unless they agreed not to "promote" abortion by, among other actions, providing patients with information about the procedure or referrals to providers who perform it.

It may sound like the plot of a movie: police find a young man dead with stab wounds. Tests quickly show he'd had Ebola.

Officials realize the suspects in the case, men in a local gang, may have picked up and spread Ebola across the slum. These men are reluctant to quarantine themselves and some – including a man nicknamed "Time Bomb" – cannot even be found.

This scenario actually unfolded in the West African nation of Liberia in 2015. And what followed was a truly unconventional effort by epidemiologists to stop a new Ebola outbreak.

The people of southern Madagascar are on the brink of a famine and need immediate humanitarian aid, according to United Nations food agencies. A three-year drought, exacerbated by this year's El Niño, has caused harvests to continue to fail. And people are left with no money and almost nothing to eat.

Pandemic flu, Ebola, Nipah virus. Emmie de Wit has held all of them in her hands (with three layers of gloves in between, of course).

She's a virologist working at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. The 450-person facility, which is part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is nestled in a town of 4,000. It's surrounded by mountains and national forests. Only one road passes through.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

On Nov. 23, a morning talk show on Morocco's state television aired a segment on using makeup to conceal bruises from domestic violence. It was part of a promotional effort for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, coming up two days later.

The reaction was swift and negative. The TV station apologized.

For six years, Haitian activists have demanded that the United Nations accept responsibility for cholera in Haiti.

Yet many seemed almost shocked on Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's apology for the U.N.'s role in the outbreak. Shocked — and pleased.

"I lost more than 80 percent of my university friends," recalls Jagannath Lamichhane.

After silently struggling with depression for two decades, Lamichhane published an essay in Nepal Times about his mental illness. "I could have hid my problem — like millions of people around the world," he says, but "if we hide our mental health, it may remain a problem forever."

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