Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

In this role, he reports on a range of health issues across the world. He's covered mass circumcision drives in Kenya, abortion in El Salvador, poisonous gold mines in Nigeria, drug-resistant malaria in Myanmar and tuberculosis in Tajikistan. He was part of a team of reporters at NPR that won a Peabody Award in 2015 for their extensive coverage of the West Africa Ebola outbreak. His current beat also examines development issues including why Niger has the highest birth rate in the world, can private schools serve some of the poorest kids on the planet and the links between obesity and economic growth.

Prior to becoming the Global Health and Development Correspondent in 2012, Beaubien spent four years based in Mexico City covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In that role, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war.

For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, Beaubien drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

In 2002, Beaubien joined NPR after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked as a foreign correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. His reporting ranged from poverty on the world's poorest continent, the HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, and the all-night a cappella contests in South Africa, to Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea.

During this time, he covered the famines and wars of Africa, as well as the inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates. Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

Beaubien grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at NPR Member Station KQED in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

The development of antibiotics in the middle of the 20th century was one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine. Penicillin and its pharmaceutical cousins saved millions of lives. But like a magic potion given to the world by a stern fairy, antibiotics come with a catch — If you abuse them, you lose them.

For decades, scientists have been warning that antibiotic resistance is on the rise globally because of misuse of the drugs.

But a new report makes it clear that the world is not listening.

It's the worst Lassa fever outbreak ever recorded in Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.

"In January alone there were more cases [203 suspected cases] than during the whole year 2017 combined," says Lorenzo Pomarico, emergency coordinator for the medical group ALIMA, the Alliance for International Medical Action. "This is an extraordinary and unprecedented outbreak in its sheer scale."

Peter Sands took over this month as the new head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. But before he'd even officially taken his seat at the Fund's offices in Geneva, he was under attack for a new partnership with Heineken.

"India is the diabetes capital of the world!"

That was a headline two years ago in the Times of India. And that's not a case of media hype. India has a huge diabetes problem: nearly 70 million people are grappling with the disease.

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.

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.

For a long time, the residents of Acre State in Brazil were lucky.

They lived in the right climate for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries dengue fever. But that mosquito was nowhere to be found, and there were no recorded cases of dengue in the state.

Kevin Canas Quitumbo was 13 years old when shrapnel from a land mine ripped through his left leg, up his torso and all the way to the back of his skull. That was five years ago. His doctors are still working to repair the damage.

"In January and February I have to go back to the hospital," he says. "The doctors are going to put additional metal rods into my foot."

Forty days after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, most of the U.S. territory remains without power.

The world is incredibly close to wiping out polio. This year the number of polio cases has shrunk to fewer than a dozen. And those cases are in just two countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bacquerette woke up early. She made breakfast for her 2-year-old daughter, left the child with her neighbor and started the long walk to the village of Ambohitsara. Bacquerette wanted to make sure she was one of the first people in line for a one-day-only family planning clinic.

She walked almost two hours on footpaths that snake along the sandy bank of the Canal des Pangalanes in eastern Madagascar. And she managed to arrive at the event just after it started.

The 33-year-old single mother had come to get an IUD.

When we wrote about Dr. Forster Amponsah in 2016, he was eager to perform surgery but faced many obstacles. "The general electricity is out and our generator is broken down," he told NPR. Has a year made a difference?

A few years ago in Zambia, hippos were dropping dead by the dozens. Soon after the hippos fell ill, people started getting sick, too.

Between August and September of 2011, at least 85 hippos died in a game management area along the South Luangwa River near the border with Malawi. It turns out the hippos were the victims of anthrax, the same bacteria used in a series of letter attacks that killed five people in the weeks after Sept. 11. The anthrax outbreaks in hippos and humans in Zambia however, weren't part of some sinister terrorist plot. Instead, they were driven by hunger.

For the first time, the number of children paralyzed by mutant strains of the polio vaccine are greater than the number of children paralyzed by polio itself.

So far in 2017, there have been only six cases of "wild" polio reported anywhere in the world. By "wild," public health officials mean the disease caused by polio virus found naturally in the environment.

War-torn Yemen is now being convulsed by cholera.

Over the past six weeks, more than 124,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported. To put this in perspective, there were only 172,000 cases reported globally to the World Health Organization for all of 2015. To be fair, many cholera cases go unreported each year, but by any standard the current outbreak in Yemen is huge.

Health officials from more than 180 countries meeting in Geneva on Tuesday have elected a new leader for the World Health Organization.

A former health minister from Ethiopia takes over an agency that's struggled recently to find the funding and exert the political leadership it needs to tackle the world's health problems.

The White House has nominated Mark Andrew Green to what could be one the toughest jobs in the Trump administration.

The former Republican congressman from Wisconsin has been tapped to run USAID — the U.S. Agency for International Development. If confirmed, the 56-year-old Green will take over USAID at a time when global humanitarian crises are mounting. And he'll have to answer to a president who's been openly hostile to handing out American taxpayer dollars abroad.

Across the development world, Green's nomination has been widely praised.

Cholera can kill a person in a matter of hours.

It's a severe gastrointestinal disease that can trigger so much diarrhea and vomiting that patients can rapidly become dehydrated. They lose so much fluid that their internal organs shut down.

Drug resistant tuberculosis is expected to increase globally over the next two decades.

New research predicts a steady rise in TB cases that can't be cured with conventional, first-line antibiotics in four countries.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecast that these complicated — and potentially deadly — cases of TB will become far more common in Russia, India, the Philippines and South Africa by the year 2040.

Malaria transmission in the United States was eliminated in the early 1950s through the use of insecticides, drainage ditches and the incredible power of window screens.

But the mosquito-borne disease has staged a comeback in American hospitals as travelers return from parts of the world where malaria runs rampant. In the early 1970s there only a couple hundred malaria cases reported in the entire U.S. but that number has steadily increased in recent years.

Anais Martinez is on the hunt in Mexico City's Merced Market, a sprawling covered bazaar brimming with delicacies. "So this is the deep-fried tamale!" she says with delight, as if she'd just found a fine mushroom specimen deep in a forest.

The prized tamales are wrapped in corn husks and piled next to a bubbling cauldron of oil.

Let's say you'd like to go for a run in Mexico City.

Dr. Tonatiuh Barrientos, an epidemiologist with Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, thinks that's a good idea — in theory. An expert on diabetes, he'd like to see more people in the Mexican capital get out and exercise to combat the disease.

But as a runner himself, he knows that Mexico City isn't an easy place to jog. In a metropolis of 22 million, there are only a handful of parks where people can run.

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Mario Alberto Maciel Tinajero looks like a fairly healthy 68-year-old. He has a few extra pounds on his chest but he's relatively fit. Yet he's suffered for the last 20 years from what he calls a "terrible" condition: diabetes.

"I've never gotten used to this disease," he says. Maciel runs a stall in the Lagunilla market in downtown Mexico City. This market is famous for its custom-made quinceañera dresses and hand-tailored suits.

Bangladesh has done a great job of getting more toilets to more people. Now it needs to figure out how to empty them.

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.

The first sign of trouble was the monkeys dropping dead in the forest. Then people started getting sick and dying, too.

Brazil is in the midst of its worst yellow fever outbreak since the 1940s, when the country started mass vaccination and mosquito eradication campaigns to thwart the virus.

If you get malaria somewhere in the tropics and end up in a British hospital, the treatment is pretty simple.

Or at least it used to be.

One of the big questions about extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis is whether this severe form of the disease is on the rise due to a failure of medications or if it's spreading through the air.

A new study of more than 400 patients in South Africa finds, unfortunately, that the answer appears to be the latter. Airborne transmission is the driving force behind a spike in extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) in South Africa, according to a report just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Jamaica is facing a crisis as specialized nurses leave the island to take jobs in North America and Europe.

The exodus has forced Jamaican hospitals to reschedule some complex surgeries because of a lack of nursing staff on their wards.

James Moss-Solomon, the chairman of the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, says the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are, in his words, "poaching" Jamaica's most critical nurses.

"Specialist nurses is the problem. We have tons of regular nurses," he says.

"This year there's been one big home run and a lot of scratch singles." That's how Red Sox fan and editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, sums up the year-that-was in public health.

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